Last month I declared 2015 the year of writing dangerously, fast that is. I was inspired by a blog post from Dean Wesley Smith about pulp speed writing. Smith defines pulp speed one as a million words of writing in a year. I decided to use that as a challenge and see how close I can get.
A short defense of pulp speed
Some writers have a negative reaction to the whole idea of writing at pulp speed. Most of the time this is directly related to a common myth about pulp speed writing — namely that we are actually writing faster.
The misconception is that I am sitting at my keyboard, typing madly with little regard for the quality of the story I am telling or the rules of grammar I am breaking. Just write, damn it! This is the same misconception that many people have about Nanowrimo.
The truth is that writers write at a certain speed. It varies slightly from writer to writer, but for that writer, it’s pretty stable. There are times when I know what I want to say, stick my fingers on the keyboard and go for hours. There are times when I pace my writing room. But when I have my fingers on the keyboard, my pace is pretty much the same.
The only way to consistently increase your writing speed is to write longer. That is what the pulp speed challenge really comes down to. It’s not about writing fast and sloppy, it’s about spending more time in the chair writing.
How am I doing?
I thought I was really good about writing regularly. I write almost every day. I write a lot. I spend nearly forty hours a week on writing related stuff. I count editing, critiquing, reading about the craft of writing, blogging and marketing in that mix, but the majority of that time is writing.
In the month of January I wrote 71,824 new words. To reach my goal of a million new words I should average 83,300 words a month, so I am a little behind. That’s about 3,000 new words a day.
My average pace is around a thousand words an hour, so that puts me in the writing chair at least three hours a day. It’s doable, especially on days when I don’t have my other job. Actually on days when I don’t work my other job, it’s almost cushy. Get up, drink some coffee, have breakfast, write. Two to three hours later, take a break. Come back and edit some, check in online and do some marketing. Have another long writing session, knock off for the day. I could live like that, easy.
But… There’s the day job, which in my case is a night job. There’s kids, family obligations, car trouble, dental visits, whatever. Life gets busy and it’s hard to be so devoted every day. 3,000 words a day isn’t as tough as you might think but the days that you miss your goal, even by a few words, pile up fast. It’s a month in and I am more than ten thousand words behind. That’s not a short sprint from catching up.
In my case, I don’t think it matters that much. I am writing more. I am producing enough material to keep up my publishing pace, which is at least four new books a year. If I don’t hit the million word mark by New Years 2016, I won’t cry over it.
For now, I am continuing to push on. I am still tracking my word counts daily and shooting for a million words this year. We will see if I get there. In the meantime I will post updates as the year goes along.