Accelerate to Pulp Speed!

I’m currently on the road, so replies may be slow.

Oops, started another one!

One of the big re-discoveries since the rise of both e-books and Amazon made indie genre-fiction “a thing,” is that fast and good can equal higher sales. I add “good” because while there are a few sub-sub-genres with fans so starved for content that they’ll buy almost anything, since e-books and indie really got going in the last ten years, readers have become more selective and less tolerant of poor writing. They’ve got a lot more to choose from, so they can be pickier. You can’t just toss something on-line that you personally think is The One True Novel!!! and expect to retire on the income. [Yes, I’m thinking of the book you are thinking of, the one that Shall Not Be Named because the author still seems rather protective of the work.]

However. 1. Not everyone writes fast, and not all readers demand a book every six weeks or two months. If you don’t write fast, or have too many life things to churn out words, there is absolutely nothing wrong. Readers will still like you. This is why controlling backlist and the “long tail of sales” is so important. I didn’t plan on writing any fiction this spring, because of Day Job activities. Surprise!

2. If you do like me, and can write fast and decently well, you might have an advantage. Maybe.

We fast writers can produce more words, faster, and get them to market sooner, while interest in our previous release is still relatively high. Since indie and small press writers are no longer bound to the release slot system that restricted traditionally published (trad pub) works for so long, we can kick things out the door as soon as they are ready for the public. Our wallets are happy, our readers are happy, and we can get on with the next book (our muses are happy). Or do those things around the house that need to be done last week, and still get a book out every two months or so.

Case in point. I started the draft of Horribly Familiar in mid May. I finished the draft on Tuesday of this past week, averaging 4,000 words/day. I’m 5,800 words into Intensely Familiar at the moment. Since these are series books, I didn’t have to stop and do a mental reset between titles. That’s coming, because I really need to shift gears and finish White Gold and Empire.

1. Don’t sacrifice quality for speed. When I write at white heat, I miss a lot of things. Description, plot threads, verbs . . . Yes, I’ve been known to drop indirect objects and verbs. Don’t do that. I also get repetitions, as I’ve mentioned before. That’s a known tic. Things get omitted, sometimes really important things.

2. Keep your series guide open where you can glance at it, if you are writing in a series. Nicknames and descriptions can get blurred, and you need to either use place holders for [name] so you can go back and fill in that detail you mentioned in a previous book, or [military post in Kansas] look up something if you need to. This applies to everyone, but I seem to need it more.

3. Description. In my case, when I’m going pulp speed, I literally see what is happening in my mind as my fingers put the words on the screen. I forget that readers won’t be doing this, and I tend to leave out both description and dialogue tags.

4. Missing plot elements. Writing at speed can cause dropped plot threads to lie on the floor, unobserved and unresolved. This was hammered home with the first book I wrote for NaNoWriMo, Miners and Empire. I’d never written a novel that fast before. My alpha readers pounded me hard on it, enough so that at one point I had to step away from the critiques, take a long mental breath, and then come back and finish reading. They had very, very good points, and I made three major changes that turned an OK book into a much better one. The most recent release wasn’t as bad, but two of the readers pointed out some things that really did need to be addressed/repaired/tidied up/ or at least nodded to in passing.

5. Cover art. This might or might not be a problem. I’ve had books ready for release that got delayed up to two months because the cover artist had difficulties. Or because I didn’t ask, “When do you think you will be able to slot my cover into your schedule?” The Familiars series have pre-made covers from one place, so that’s not as much of a problem. I can find two or three that will work, grab them, and have them on hand for when the books are ready [see the thumbnail at the top of the article]. If you know title and stuff in advance, you can talk with your artist and get them started on the work before you start writing, or before you are too far in.

6. Short fallow. This might just be me. I need to set the book aside for at least a week, not looking at it. Longer is better, but a week at minimum. Then I can see some problems, quirks, typoos, and “Wait, who said what on this page? Oops” sorts of things. The longer the book can “rest,” the better it is (within limits.)

Not everyone writes fast. That’s fine. There is no one best way, as long as you are putting words onto paper or screen. In some genres, fast writers who produce consistently good work are rewarded. In other genres, one or two releases per year is ideal. Literary fiction is far more understanding of the slower writer than is steamy romance. And really good writing, plus a little marketing, will sell. Perhaps not as well as one might dream, but it sells.

Now, go forth, write at whatever speed your muse and Life permit, and write the best you can.



  1. Speed writing doesn’t work for me as a writer, nor as a reader. I barely write anything anymore.

    I don’t read fast enough anymore, either. I have thousands of eBooks, but will probably only get through several hundred in my lifetime. I have a bunch of the classics as something to reference should situations come up. And I’ve picked up the rest of various series that I like, but who knows when I’ll get around to them. I barely read one book a month now.

  2. I need to get better at working on different tasks for different books at the same time. It took me two-and-a-half years to get the first book from first word to publication…but in that time, I also managed to draft seven other books. A book a month is probably more than I could handle, even when I get the kid into school, but if I get the pipeline running properly, three or four a year wouldn’t be unreasonable.

    1. There’s a place, actually several places in a book, where my brain starts to balk at the story. That’s a really good time for me to look at something else for a while, be it edits or cover art. Hunting for covers also works on days when I’m drained from writing but still feel the need to do something useful.

  3. My first book took since about 1994 from inception to finally pulling the trigger and publishing it in January this year. Most of it was written in two years, after somebody I know told me to hurry up and finish it.

    The next one, looking at my notes, was started five years ago and “finished” except for the publishing in roughly a year or so. Things seem to have sped up, my current WIP is “Coffee With Kali the Destroyer” and that’s been going since about April 2019. Really, five finished books since ~2014, one published and four waiting on covers. Corona has put a kink in my production, worrying if I was going to die slowed me somewhat.

    In my defense, these are -large- books. Coffee with Kali is just shy of 100,000 words right now, and its got a ways to go yet.

    Currently working on Coffee with Kali and getting a cover pulled together for Book 2, Angels Inc.

    There’s also a fun samurai “short” story that is mostly finished, the last of it is dangling because I don’t quite understand the sneaky palace intrigue that is driving the action. I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually. ~:D

  4. Thank you for this. I love the Familiars books and was wondering how you got them out so fast. I am trying to emulate this to a degree. You made me see it is possible.

    1. Since there’s a very large, overarching story, it’s relatively easy to write them quickly. Also, the language is colloquial. When I shift to the Merchant or other series, the greater formality and slightly archaic language forces me to go slower, although slower is relative. I also need a lot fewer distractions.

  5. One thing that can help with fallow is working on things in parallel. Though it does have other problems, such as needing to ensure you keep circling back.

      1. Definitely. I had something in the third book that contradicted something in the second book…and in retrospect, the way I did it in the third book was the better way. The fact that Book 2 hadn’t been published when I wrote Book 3 means that I can go back and fix that rather than being stuck with the way I initially wrote it.

  6. I can’t write a book a month, but I can save them up a bit and do runs of four or five things at three or four week intervals, that lift sales nicely.

    Right now I’ve got two novels in the polish-and-cover stage, one half written, a collection of shorts that needs one or two more stories (both underway), and a short story for an anthology that’s almost done.

    Then I just need to pick a start date and go for it.

    1. Having “books-in-waiting” is really good. I keep trying that, and this year? Nope. Write, edit, kick out the door. Apparently the Great Editor wants me to really get a back-list built up. I hope that doesn’t mean that the next academic year is going to be as interesting as this past one!

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