Don't answer yet. There's a trick in the question.
It isn't asking how fast you can write the story down on the page. You can get up to a blinding speed typing with your own fingertips. You can dictate your story faster than almost anybody can type it out.
That's the easy kind of speed.
Let's look at the question from a different angle.
How long does it take you to come up with an idea to write about? How long does it take you to develop the idea in your mind? How long does it take you to go from "idea" to completed story?
That's harder to answer, isn't it?
If you're like most writers, you tell yourself that it's hard to get ideas. It's hard to come up with anything to write about. Then you have to write it out. You feel blocked. You're tempted by all the distractions on your phone. You want to do anything BUT write.
Then you've got to rewrite it all once you've got it on the page. Edit, rewrite, get feedback from first readers, beta readers, reader groups, let the book doctor take a pass over it...
Forget eating the elephant. It feels like eating a whole buffet of elephants.
Then there's Dean Wesley Smith.
While he's doing that, he's going to write a non-fiction book about writing four novels in a month.
Crazy? Impossible? No way?
Don't be so hasty. This isn't a soft brag by a rank beginner. Dean's got the track record to prove it.
How does he write books at a pace that would kill a thoroughred?
He does it by following Heinlein's Rules:
- You must write.
- You must finish what you start.
- You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.
- You must put it on the market.
- You must keep it on the market until sold.
Write, finish, forget the endless rewriting, and ship it.
But writing's supposed to be hard.
Who told you that, anyway?
Why did you trust that person?
Is it because you sit down at the keyboard and draw a blank? Because you can't ever come up with "a good idea"? Is it because you tell yourself your writing isn't very good?
You think writing is hard because you've been told it's hard.
You think that you can't do it because you've been told that it can't be done without the angst of the tortured Romantic artist.
You've been told that your books have to be sanded, filed, polished, and chiseled down to meet the standards of literary agents and New York editors.
Who sets those standards, anyway?
Ask yourself this question:
Does any of that mess matter unless you decide it matters?
The pulp writers of the old days turned out novels by the bushel. We remember many of them, their stories and their characters, than almost any of the serious artistes.
We write to entertain the readers.
Not to please the gatekeepers on the NYC cocktail circuit.
Not to get good marks from the failed English majors who appoint themselves grammar police on review sites.
All writers are involved in a craft.
You're learning. Always.
The best way to learn anything is to immerse yourself in the practice.
Make an ugly bird feeder. Aim to make the next one a little better. Repeat that pattern with patience and consistency and before long you'll be making nice looking woodwork.
So you wrote an ugly story. So what?
Throw the sucker on Amazon and see if anybody likes it.
Then go on to the next story.
Hemingway hated me. I sold 200 million books, and he didn't. Of course most of mine sold for 25 cents, but still... you look at all this stuff with a grain of salt.
– Mickey Spillane
This is a total mindset-flip.
It was for me, anyway. I bought into all that dogma. I treated the stories in my head as if they were special precious beauties that had to be treated with kid gloves.
These weren't just stories. They were special. They had to be treated with care.
Which meant I was staring down a year-long process just to get one book into shape.
I don't mind the work... but with that kind of climb in front of you, and no certain rewards behind it, that's enough to demoralize anybody.
Which is why those stories stayed in my head.
If you want to write, see yourself as a writer.
That means you show up to work. You practice. You aim to improve your technical skill.
You finish the work and you ship the work.
It's just a story.
If your readers like it, great. If they don't, you learn your lesson. Then move on to the next story.
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