By good words, I’m assuming you mean words I’m not going to delete or rewrite during the evening or final edit. I usually write an average of 15-20K per day, but of those I usually overhaul or lose 3-5K during the edits, so about 12-15K.
Comments from professional writers on my old LJ included:
Dear God… I have, on three days in my whole life, managed to do 12,000 words in a day. And it nearly killed me.
Holy. F###ing. S##t. … I can do 4,000 on a good day. A very good day… She’s not human.
Speed, of course, does not equate to quality. However it does not equate to lack of quality either.
Most of what slows an author down has nothing to do with the final product:
- Slow typing – Learn to touch type, doofus!
- Micro-editing as you go – Nothing is finalized until the end, so this is a waste of time.
- Lack of rhythm – It’s possible to write good prose out of the box, but only if you have a rhythm.
- Distractions – Angst/Social Media/Resistance/Ninja Attack/Game addiction/Etc
- Investing time in dead ends – We often abandon possible plots because they are unfinishable rather than just substandard.
- Mishandled research – Either too much upfront, or too little (which bogs the drafting down with excursions to reference works)
Typing at the speed you can think, leaving off fiddling until the draft is complete, writing serviceable – and thus easily enhancable – prose the first time, planning to avoid false starts, doing the right kind of research at the right time… none of these are going to make the novel worse.
Meanwhile, there are good reasons to aspire to speedy drafting:
- When you type at the Speed of Thought, a feedback loop kicks in and you hit a kind of creative overdrive.
- Rapid writing is more fun, which carries over to the content.
- You get to complete more books in a year or a lifetime. Bills aside, my brain is crammed with novels trying to claw their way out through my scalp – it would be nice to ease the pressure.
So, to an extent – with editing as a backstop – writing faster means writing more, better.
My approach, like that of Rachel Aaron’s (2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love), is to deal with each aspect of the book at the appropriate level, but to be prepared to let the levels shape each other, much like the way a family evolves together in an web of feedback loops.
The first step is to research and brainstorm – I”ve been using the new Scapple Beta for Windows for doing mindmappy stuff – and come out with a rough pub – as in drinking house – narrative. This pub narrative pretty much reads like how you’d tell it to a friend:
There’s this retired mercenary and he’s blown his money on buying an inn. However, the local baron takes a fancy to the merc’s young French wife. One day…
At this stage, the novel doesn’t have themes or a shape. The next stage is to fill out the following table:
If this seems mechanistic, it’s not. It’s just my way of capturing how I already think. (I suppose it would be more arty to show you a scanned page from a moleskin notebook with lots of arcs and little sketches drawn in colored pencil, but (a) I’m a geek and (b) I can’t draw or read my own handwriting.)
It’s also a way of laying out the Five Act Structure which is arguably implicit in the Human Story Telling, or at least according to the writer who turned around Holby City (Into The Woods: A Five Act Journey Into Story).
So that’s my job for today. Enjoy yours. Mine will be full of angsty pacing the flat in my smoking jacket, then time rocking quietly to myself in the corner of a coffee shop…
(Project C Status: 1 day, 8 hrs – First Pub outline complete.)