An experiment in speed writing

Came back Friday night from a short holiday in British Columbia, where lakes were swum in, and hot springs soaked in, and beaches lain upon, and peaches picked and gourmandized. The Beloved Other and I were both much refreshed upon our return.

Today, I began a brief experiment in writing at top speed, to see if I can break myself of some of the perfectionist habits that have so impeded my productivity. I am reminding myself (truthfully, I hope) that there are those who enjoy my writing just as it is; I do not have to make it utterly bulletproof so that a Traditional Publisher will find no excuse to reject it, as I was once warned that I had to do. (Traditional Publishers were quite willing to reject my work without an excuse, because they saw no benefit in admitting me to the Cool Kids’ Club; but that is a rant for another time.)

So, having all but finished the opening episode of Where Angels Die, I am trying to write a rough draft of the second episode in three days. This episode is called ‘The Little Charter’, and it is designed to stand somewhat independently as a story, whilst fitting into the overall arc of the serial: the technique of episodic television. I expect it to weigh in at about 12,000 words when finished.

Four thousand words a day is a biggish output for me, but I often write essais of that length or more in a single sitting. The idea here is to keep myself from niggling unnecessarily, and teach myself to write fiction with roughly the same facility. If I can do that, I may yet manage to pay my bills at this dodge. Fiction is where the money is, but hitherto I have been too slow and sporadic to build an audience with it.

Today I did a chapter-level outline, and wrote about 2,600 words of draft copy. I will have to improve on that pace to meet my goal, but it should be feasible now that the prior planning is quite finished.

Time is not on my side in this venture. Wish me luck!


  1. My sympathies – but do realize it takes time to do quality work. It took me fifteen years to finish and publish my novel Pride’s Children. I then hoped Book 2 of the trilogy would go a bit faster – since I assumed I’d learned to write, and that would carry over, and the characters were all set up.

    I took the necessary time to get the outline in good shape before proceeding, and then was dismayed when the beginning – started back in April – went like slogging through mud.

    At which point, I despaired. But kept at it.

    Then I just realized I was missing a significant skill, which wasn’t necessary for Book 1, namely, starting a second book. It is not the same thing as continuing. Readers mostly likely will have a gap between reading the two. Some misguided souls may start with Book 2, though I wouldn’t recommend it.

    But bringing continuing, returning, and new readers up to speed is a unique task. It has resulted in some very nice pieces, but it was not at all easy until I started listing the things that had to be accomplished – and there were an awful lot of them (maybe it’ll make starting Book 3 easier – one can hope).

    I’m almost over that hump, four months later, and I’m again hoping to get some speed on the remaining scenes that don’t have as daunting a list of necessary goals.

    But it takes what it takes.


  2. May God speed you and prosper you on this new journey.

  3. I’m wishing you luck! And I think your goal is entirely reasonable. While I’ve never had a 4,000-word day, I have managed 3,600 from time to time, when the scene is unrolling in my head like a movie and the words are flowing effortlessly. Writing a lot in a day need not mean writing sloppily. Just use the skill and the knowledge you possess to get it right without niggling. My more usual word count is 1,200 – 1,600 words per day, 5 – 6 days per week. Go to it!

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