SPEED KILLS...OR DOES IT? How to Write Fast(er) without Going Bonkers

by Ruth Harris

As the Romans said (and the Olympics borrowed for its motto): Citius, Altius, Fortius. Or, as we say: "Faster, Higher, Stronger."

Sometimes publishing seems to be an Olympic event or at least it feels that way.

Vroom. Vroom. Everyone wants to write faster. To publish more books. To keep up with/get ahead of the competition. To be a Jackie Stewart of the keyboard. A Dale Earnhardt of word count.

But, hang on, you might say. It's not a sprint. It's a marathon and marathons take time.

Or, you might have other objections:

1) I care about my work and I care about my readers. I want to share my best possible efforts and "the best" doesn't come easily or quickly.

You're right, but what we're talking about here is getting a draft written fast, not about the finished product.

2) I don't want to publish any book before it's ready and editing and revising take time.

See above.

3) I've taken part in NaNoWriMo so I can show you proof positive that anything I write fast is garbage.

So what? No one except you ever has to see it. Ever hear of that amazing process known as "fixing it later?"

4) If I write fast, won't I add to the "tsunami of crap?"
Yes, of course, you certainly can, but "crap," like beauty, lies in the eye of the beholder. Lots of people who write what you or I or Maxwell Perkins might consider crap are enjoying writing it, publishing it, making readers happy and making money in the process.

In addition, allow me to remind you that writing slowly and agonizingly can also result in crap. Pretentious crap. Boring crap. Unreadable crap.

Besides, there are all the obvious upsides to writing fast.

Before we get into (sane) ways to increase your speed, it's important to understand why you aren't writing as productively as you'd like to.

1) Are you really slow or are you yourself putting the brakes on? 

Are you slowing yourself down by listening to the no voices in your head? That prune-faced seventh grade teacher? That parent for whom nothing was ever good enough?

Psychologist Leslie Becker-Phelps offers a practical approach to deflecting self-criticism based on cognitive behavioral therapy. She tells how to turn self-criticism into compassionate self-awareness that will help free you from the trap you create for yourself.

2) Do you allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good?

Do you plod along, spending hours searching for the "perfect" word or trying to write the "perfect" sentence, paragraph, first sentence, last sentence? Are you getting nowhere? And not fast?

This thorough guide explains the roots of perfectionism and lays out a concrete guide toward taming the runaway perfectionist that's getting in your way.

Just remember: your book has to be good. It doesn't have to be perfect. In fact, it can’t be perfect because nothing is perfect or even can be. Fact of life, just like the birds and bees, (but not as much fun).

3) ID your working style: steady, spurt, sprint.

Once you ID your working style, you will have an idea of how many words/how much speed you should realistically expect from yourself but, before you start, you need to have some idea of what you're going to write.

4) Face to face with the “O” word.

No way to escape it, but if you want to write fast you have to Do It. You know exactly what I mean, it’s the writer's version of The Big O. Outline.

In order to write fast, even pantsers need a road map. An outline does not have to be that godawful clunker from grade school with Roman numerals and tiered indents.

An outline can be as simple as a hand-written list or a scribbled synopsis. Or it can be a version of any one or more of the following ways of getting your ideas down and wrangling them into some kind of usable shape:

Now that you're feeling inspired and have prepared yourself to write, it’s time to start.

In your new world of Writing Fast, there are a number of possible outcomes:

Now that you are writing fast(er) and at a speed that feels sane to you, stand up and take a bow.

As the Romans used to say: Accipe rosas, relinque spinas.

Accept the roses, leave the thorns.

What about you Scriveners? Are you a fast writer like Ruth, or are you a sloooooow writer like me (Anne)? Ruth wrote this post partly to help me with my sluggish writing skills. Do you find you can write faster with an outline of sorts? Or are you like me and write a careful outline and then completely ignore it? Have you tried any of these tips to get you up to speed?  


We have two FREE books to offer you this week!

Ruth Harris's New York Times bestseller Love and Money is FREE!

Amazon US, Amazon UK,
 Nook, Kobo, iBooksGoogle Play.

"Richly plotted and racing to a shocking climax, this glittering novel is first-class entertainment." --New York Times 

"Sophisticated and entertaining. I couldn't stop reading." --Rona Jaffe, author of The Best Of Everything

Also FREE: Michael Harris's Gripping Memoir

Kindle | Nook | Kobo | iBooks | GooglePlay

Catch-22 with radiation! Area 51 meets Dr. Strangelove!

"A gripping memoir leavened by humor, loyalty and pride of accomplishment. A tribute to the resilience, courage and patriotism of the American soldier." —Henry Kissinger


BARTLEBY SNOPES CONTEST   $10 FOR UNLIMITED ENTRIES. Compose a short story entirely of dialogue. Must be under 2,000 words. Your entry cannot use any narration (this includes tag lines such as he said, she said, etc.). These are the only rules. 5 finalists will also appear in Issue 15 of the magazine. Last year they awarded $2,380 in prize money. Deadline September 15.

Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers  Entry Fee $15. A prize of $1,500, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of the prize issue is given quarterly for a short story by a writer whose fiction has not been published in a print publication with a circulation over 5,000. Using the online submission system, submit a story of 1,200 to 12,000 words. Deadline August 31. 

Creative Nonfiction magazine is seeking new essays for an upcoming issue dedicated to MARRIAGE. TRUE STORIES about marriage from any POV: happy spouses, ex-fiancees, wedding planners, divorce attorneys, whoever. Up to 4000 words. $20 Entry fee. $1000 first prize. Deadline: August 31. 

CRAZYHORSE SHORT-SHORT FICTION AWARD $15 Entry fee.  $1,000 and publication. Three runners-up. All entries considered for publication. Submit one to three short-shorts of up to 500 words each. Deadline July 31.

DIABOLICAL PLOTS  NO FEE. A new online journal that publishes original fiction, one story per month. Genres: science fiction, fantasy, horror (everything must have speculative element, even horror). 2000 word limit. Pays .06 cents/word. Deadline July 31.

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