Lessons from RWA14: Help for Slow Writers

by Jami Gold on August 7, 2014

in Writing Stuff

Snail crawling against black background with text: Help for Slow Writers

I want to continue sharing some of the tips and advice I picked up from the RWA Annual Conference (partially because it helps me remember them too *grin*). So far I’ve covered Sylvia Day’s insights on failure, RWA’s new stance on self-publishing, and Liliana Hart’s publishing technique.

I’ve been a fangirl of Courtney Milan since before her debut, so one of the workshops I most looked forward to was her “Slow Writer’s Guide to Making a Living” presentation. The workshop was in one of the biggest session breakout rooms in the hotel (maybe the biggest), and it was packed.

I’ve often called myself a slow writer, and I know I’m not alone. Judging by the crowd, a lot of writers struggle with the pressure to write faster and worry that our slowness will prevent us from reaching our goals.

What Is a “Fast Writer”?

Courtney defined a “fast writer” as an author with a new release every 90 days (or less). Those new releases don’t have to be full novels (novellas sometimes count too), but authors who release something new at least every 90 days tend to find success more easily.

Obviously by extension, a “slow writer” would be anyone with a slower-than-90-day release schedule (i.e., us mere mortals). She then discussed two approaches for dealing with that situation. We could tackle one, the other, or both approaches to improve our chances for success.

Approach A: Take Advantage of the Elements that Make Fast Writers Successful—Any Way We Can

She identified three main reasons fast writers succeed more easily:

  1. Amazon’s 30-day and 90-day algorithms for its New Releases pages offer high visibility.
  2. Fast writers build backlist more quickly (and as we discussed last time, backlist is hugely important for reaching a tipping point of sales), which allows for more income streams.
  3. The frequency of exposure keeps authors at “top of mind” and prevents readers from forgetting about the author or the story.

By being aware of those elements, we can try to incorporate them into our situation, no matter how fast or slow we write. Courtney’s suggestions included:

  • High Visibility: Do something every 90 days to increase visibility, such as putting a story on sale or making one free.
  • More Income Streams: Maximize the income for our completed stories by releasing onto more platforms (Kobo, Apple, etc.) or by adding more versions (print, audio, etc.).
  • Top of Mind: Use author newsletters to make readers remember us and why they enjoyed our stories, as well as to promote our upcoming stories.

Approach B: Make the Most of Our Writing Time

Many of us struggle with limited writing time. We might have day jobs or family obligations that prevent us from writing as much as we want. But we also might not use the time we do have as efficiently as possible. *raises hand*

How many of us spend too much of our writing time catching up with social media or blogs? Or maybe we start researching and get distracted by interesting tangents. Or maybe we spend far too much time reinventing the wheel on a writing problem instead of asking for help.

Courtney confessed that, like many writers, she didn’t always use the writing time she had very efficiently. So she shared a few tips for writing faster—which sometimes simply comes down to using our writing time to get words on the page instead of filling it with non-writing activities:

  • She recommended the book 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron for helping her increase her word count. I haven’t read this book yet, but it’s on my list.
  • Track time spent on non-writing activities, such as accounting or ebook formatting, and ask ourselves if it would be better (more economical in the long run) to outsource those activities—especially if we’re not good at or hate the activities.
  • Pay attention to habits that trigger non-work (distraction) activities, and change the habits.

Our Habits Can Help Us or Hurt Us

I want to focus on that last bullet point because this one spoke to me the loudest. Courtney went so far as to hire a Productivity Consultant to help her identify her habits and triggers, and she shared the gist of what she learned so we all can benefit.

When we find ourselves distracted,
figure out what habit “triggered” the distraction
and avoid that habit in the future.

For example, Courtney found that much of her writing time was taken up by research tangents (she writes historical romance and needs to look up historical details). Once she interrupted her writing to go online, she’d often get distracted by non-relevant historical tidbits or by checking social media, etc.

Now, Courtney makes of a note of any historical research she needs to do and saves that for the last half hour of her writing session. Ta-da! She enjoys solid writing time and still completes her research, but at a time when accidental tangents and distractions will interrupt less.

She also blocks access to the internet during her writing sessions, the better to avoid the temptation of distractions. Popular programs include Freedom, Cold Turkey, Focus Me, Anti-Social, Self-Control, LeechBlock, and StayFocused. Some are free, some aren’t, some are for Mac only, and some are for specific internet browsers—this post compares most of those productivity programs.

Do Your Habits Help or Hurt Your Writing?

For me, I have a hard time writing first thing in the morning. I live in the western end of the U.S., and I’m not a morning person, so everyone is awake before I am. Because of that, I first want to check my email in case of issues. But once I start down the path of email, replying to comments, checking Twitter and Facebook, etc., it’s hard to know when (or how) to stop.

In other words, that’s a horrible habit for my productivity. Luckily, once I’m serious about writing, I know how to reduce distractions (I minimize non-writing windows and start my “writing music”), but I need to learn how to get into serious mode without arm-wrestling myself. (I’m open to suggestions for that trick. *grin*)

My point is that just as Courtney said, if we notice we’re getting distracted, we can stop and mentally rewind our actions until we figure out what the trigger was. If we then change our habits to avoid that trigger, we’ll automatically (and relatively painlessly) prevent many of our distractions from ever occurring.

Hopefully something in Courtney’s advice can help us. I’m not in the position to worry about sales yet, but if others are anything like me, there’s always something we can do to maximize using our writing time to actually, you know, write. *smile*

Are you a fast writer or slow writer by Courtney’s definition? Do you worry that being a slow writer might affect your career? Could any of her Approach A tips for adapting “success elements” apply to your situation? What about her Approach B tips for making our writing time more efficient? Do you have bad habits that sabotage your writing time? Do you use internet-blocking programs or have other tips to share?

Pin It
50 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Lara Gallin August 7, 2014 at 6:15 am

I’m an incredibly slow writer but then this is the first time I’ve written anything for years as well as being the longest thing I’ve ever written. I’m easily distracted but I don’t want to push it as I know it also doesn’t take much for me to drop a project. I figure that if I write as and when I feel like it I’m far more likely to complete it than if I put myself under pressure. Slowly, slowly, catchee monkey. It’s still frustrating though that eight months into the year I’m still only up to the fifth chapter but it’s better than abandoning it.

I’m hoping that as I go along I’ll pick up more speed. In a world where some people have a high output, I’ll be left trailing if I can’t keep up.

Reply

Jami Gold August 7, 2014 at 9:28 am

Hi Lara,

That’s a tricky balance as well. Studies show that pressure can make us less likely to succeed, but if we want to write as a career (not everyone does, and that’s okay), we can’t wait for the mood to strike.

There are definitely phases to my drafting, where the story and characters interest me more than others. Usually in those low-interest areas, I ask myself if the scene/goal/conflict itself is boring and should be changed. That’s the other side of the “if the author cries while writing a scene, the reader will cry when reading it” coin–if we’re less interested, will the reader be less interested too?

In other words, for our first project–where we have the humongous learning curve–there’s nothing wrong with forcing ourselves to finish “just because.” We’ll benefit from the learning experience and the knowledge that we can complete a project. However, in later projects (once we supposedly know more about what we’re doing 😉 ), a lack of interest might be a red flag. Not always, to be sure, but sometimes.

All that said, the more I’ve learned, the faster I draft, so maybe that will be of comfort to some. LOL! It doesn’t necessarily get “easier” per se, but when things go wrong, we usually have a better idea of why and how to fix it. 🙂

Anyway, none of that may apply to your situation, but I wanted to share just in case others might be in a similar boat and want to know more. 🙂 Good luck and thanks for the comment!

Reply

Lara Gallin August 8, 2014 at 3:42 am

It’s definitely something I want to do as a career but there are some things that make writing a little more difficult than perhaps a lot of people. When I was 17 I was diagnosed with a chronic neurological condition and ever since have had to take strong medication. I went from writing being as easy as breathing to having a brain like mush. Writing became laborious and frustrating rather than something I loved doing. At the time there was so much going on so it no longer being part of my life wasn’t that hard. I did write a lot with my favourite job but that was in insurance claims and was predominantly technical letters. I was a lot slower than every one else, what someone might spent 15 minutes on, I would spend 2 hours on but I wrote some magnificent letters. I’m not one for blowing my own trumpet but they really were better than everyone else’s. I ended up having more success because of it so taking more time worked out pretty well in that job. Other employers were not as appreciative of my attention to detail!

I have made attempts on starting a novel in the past but could never get past the first page because every time I went to work on it, I would rewrite what I’d previously written. The frustration of being slow and never making progress is the main reason I abandoned those attempts. This time I’ve managed to get past that bad habit as well as not sticking to writing in order. I’ve finally taken on what my teachers always said about exams, answer the questions you can first and then come back to the rest. I think what has driven me to change my attitude is that I love this story more than any of the others I’ve attempted, I REALLY want to tell this story. Some days I write 2000 words, others 250. If it’s a day where it’s just not happening, I walk away from it to avoid the frustration that could add this WIP to the abandoned pile and years of regret. Although I’m not writing as much as I would like to, I’m still going over things in my head and the times I’ve been watching television and it’s given me the answer to something I’ve been stuck on is crazy! Last weekend I was watching How the Universe Works and it handed me the answer to something I’ve been stuck on for months! I love it when that happens 😀

I believe I’ll get faster, not just out of practice, but this is the first in series and there are seeds that need to be sown. I need to have the stories straight for the follow ups which are actually prequels. It’s a bit of a drain time wise for this book but in theory it should make writing the others easier as I won’t have the same considerations.

Reply

Jami Gold August 8, 2014 at 7:37 am

Hi Lara,

Wow! Kudos to you! 🙂

A good writer friend of mine had brain surgery and talks about the struggle to write around “the hole in her head.” So I can only imagine the difficulties you face.

As a tangent (since you mentioned writing out of order), do you use the Scrivener (Windows and Mac) writing program? I write linearly and use it for drafting, but I’ve seen how it would be so helpful to those who write non-linearly. It allows you to write each scene as a separate “file,” so it’s easy to skip around. Just figured I’d mention that. 😉

It sounds like you’re being smart about knowing your frustration points and triggers. As you said, it’s far better to avoid frustration than to reach the point of abandoning the story. And like you mentioned, we writers never really stop thinking about our story anyway. LOL! We’re “pre-writing” all the time in our head, even while watching TV. 😉

You’re also being smart about recognizing the necessity of slowness for your series. Here’s hoping the others will be easier for you! 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Jordan McCollum August 7, 2014 at 11:12 am

I’m actually a pretty fast writer—I’ve written novels in two to three weeks—but I wouldn’t dream of publishing that quickly! While my first drafts are decent, like all first drafts, they often fall short of my ultimate vision, and I add 20-30% in the revision, editing and polishing process. Getting a full-length novel through my critique group, beta readers and editor takes three months, at the bare minimum! I won’t release something unless it’s the absolute best I can make it, with the best help I can find.

Since I started using Leechblock, I’ve noticed my distraction triggers: whenever I don’t know what comes next, even the next line, I pull up Twitter or Facebook. It had become such a habit I didn’t realize I was doing it until I blocked them. I have two levels of blocking: first, I limit Twitter & Facebook to ten minutes per hour. I’ve found that’s plenty of time to get what I “need to” done. Second, when I’m really having trouble focusing or just doing the work, I turn on a filter that blocks everything but a couple dictionaries, thesauri and a few quick research sites. Now my laptop’s broken (waaaaah), and I miss it!

Reply

Jami Gold August 7, 2014 at 11:23 am

Hi Jordan,

I understand the need to revise to high quality (not to mention the time needed to let work sit for a bit). My goal–whether I ever reach this point remains to be seen (LOL!)–is to rotate through 3 stories in succession. While I’m drafting story C, story B is “sitting,” and story A is with beta readers or editor. Then while C sits, I revise B and then send out to beta readers/editor, and then finish up A, and so on.

That process would definitely take more than 90 days, but it’s more important to me to ensure the quality is the best it can be. We’ll see… 😉

Oh! Good to have feedback on how Leechblock worked for you and helped you discover those habits. I hope your laptop comes back to life. I know how hard it is when our routine and habits that work for us are disrupted. :/ Thanks for sharing your insights and thanks for the comment!

Reply

Serena Yung August 7, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Wow something new every 90 days…that’s madness! :O So I’m definitely a slow writer, lol. I’m not even sure if I can finish this novel by the end of this year, sigh.

The tips I have for myself:

–Set a daily quota of writing for myself, i.e. at least 2000 Chinese characters per day. Of course, when I get busier (more activities or get a job), I’ll have to reduce that quota, but there will always be a quota. So when you set such a minimum, this forces you to figure out a way to meet this minimum everyday, so you automatically find ways to avoid distractions and get things done!

–I write on my phone, not my computer, so I could turn off my Wi-Fi. But this isn’t very helpful because often I need to check the online dictionaries because there are words I’m not sure of (Chinese isn’t my first language, after all!) What distracts me most are when my friends message me on Facebook or Whatsapp and then we chat nonstop. So when I see a message come in from the FB messenger, I drag it away to the cross to put it away. And I avoid checking Whatsapp, FB, and my emails.
Every morning, I edit and factfile what I wrote the day before, so I make sure I finish this editing and factfiling in the morning before I let myself do anything else. Afterwards, I just need to make sure I finish that 2000 Chinese character minimum for the day! In which I am almost always successful, thankfully.

—-This is not really a tip, but it is helpful to me, and also a bit…uh…you’ll see: People all tell me that I’m more disciplined and productive than the average person, so I’m motivated to maintain this social reputation. Friends also praise me and are inspired by me when they see that I’ve written a lot (600+ pages now) and am a productive writer (2000 characters a day). Thus, all this praise, admiration, and reputation for my “productivity” and “self-discipline”, are quite a strong driving force for me to STAY such a “productive and disciplined” person in my friends’ eyes, and thus it helps me write more efficiently. So…you can see why I went “Uh…” for this tip. XDD

Reply

Jami Gold August 7, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Hi Serena,

LOL! Yeah, count me in as a mere mortal who doesn’t get anywhere close to that 90 days. 🙂

Great tips! I’ve written on a tablet before, but not my phone. Typing on my phone is SO slow–it drives me crazy. I want to get a new tablet so I can get back into that option, but the tablet I want is really expensive, so…waiting. :-/

Ooo, I understand what you mean about your “uh” tip. Something similar to that drives me to push myself with my blog. I try to use re-run posts very infrequently–like in case of emergency only. I don’t want to let people down with a lame or repeated post. So yep, that makes total sense. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Carradee August 7, 2014 at 5:37 pm

*grins* One of the many reasons I like Wattpad: It forces me to focus on a specific WiP until it’s drafted, plus gives me a regular kick in the pants of “Get this finished and released, already! Folks are wanting it!”

I also find that getting immediate feedback on a WiP (such as I’m getting on Wattpad) helps prevent writer’s block, for me. Folks comment with what they’re pulling from the stories, with their reactions, and it’s so gratifying and reassuring to see readers who are getting EXACTLY what I was aiming for out of my main series being posted…even though books 3 and now the in-progress 4 are first drafts. (I’m getting a fair number of “WOW” comments based on that detail alone.)

The Wattpad folks are also proving great at catching oopsies, inconsistencies, problematic typos, and being bewildered when I screw up a transition or use a word I didn’t realize was on the archaic side. (I grew up reading the Bible and a lot of classic literature, which my mother apparently assumed was necessarily child-friendly. That sometimes shows in both some of my vocabulary and how I use words.)

In fact, I’ve had a few folks volunteer to do an “oops” check on book #3 for me, and one already sent it back in to me. She’s caught such charming details as a time I call a woman a guy’s “husband”. (Um, oops.) Some of her changes seemed to make the text more formal, and I nearly rejected them…then realized she’d actually fixed some cadence issues. So…nice experience, thus far. 🙂

Reply

Jami Gold August 7, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Hi Carradee,

Fascinating! And you bring up a good option that all authors have now: serial novels. Serial novels (in case any comment readers don’t know) are a single story released in chunks–maybe a chapter a week or 3 chapters a month.

Serial novels are extremely similar to a common release schedule on Wattpad or a fan fiction site. Author Roni Loren ran a serial novel last summer and Meljean Brooks just finished one as well. They’re not for every author–or every reader (personally, I don’t buy them, as I want completed stories)–but they’re a possibility for keeping our name out there and in the New Release section more frequently.

Thanks for sharing your experience and bringing up that option! 🙂 (And I’m glad Wattpad is working well for you so far!)

Reply

Carradee August 7, 2014 at 9:20 pm

Online serialization on Wattpad on stuff isn’t exactly the same as a serialized novel, but I guess it’s no surprise that one of my WiPs will be designed as a serial, with cliffhangers and all. (It was originally meant to be 1 novel; I recently found a start to another novel that would be a great prequel, so I’m suspecting it’ll be a trilogy. Urban fantasy thriller.)

Note: I feel very slow. I’m releasing about a novel or two per year, plus a variety of shorts, at fairly erratic schedules. I try to have SOMETHING every 90 days, and I write fast enough for it if I can focus, but the problem is the focusing. (I’m not ADD. I just have a bunch of other crap going on.)

Reply

Jami Gold August 7, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Hi Carradee,

Very true! Not all release schedules on Wattpad or the like are similar to serial novels (nor do they necessarily have the same goals, such as cliffhangers at the end of each chunk). You just mentioned Wattpad, and my thoughts jumped to the similarities between some of the aspects–which then brought up serial novels in general as another option for frequent releases. Sorry I didn’t label those shifts in my train of thought very well. LOL!

It sounds like you have a plan–here’s hoping it all comes together for you! 😀 Thanks for the comment!

Reply

T. Powell Coltrin August 7, 2014 at 6:37 pm

There is so much good information in your post. I know that I waste time on the internet so I’ve had to put rules in place. I love sitting for long periods of time writing, starting at 5:30 am. Yes you heard me right. That’s what happens when you get older.

Reply

Jami Gold August 7, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Hi T. Powell,

LOL! I don’t know about the getting older thing–I’m not young. I’m usually awake by 5:30am…HAWAII time. 😉 That’s it! I just have a Hawaii time body clock. That explains everything. 😀

I’m glad you’ve found what works for you. Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Sharla Rae August 7, 2014 at 6:42 pm

I’m a slow writer so when I saw this topic clicked over FAST. 🙂 I too live on the west coast and it the e-mails in the morning. I do set a quota on time to comment on blogs etc. and I try to esp. visit those who visit our WITS blogs. It’s a matter of courtesy to at least tweet. 🙂

Still, I spend too much time on media. I’m thinking of setting a timer, allowing one hour in the morning, 15 minutes at lunch and 1 hour after dinner. Anybody else to this? I wonder if it works.

Reply

Jami Gold August 7, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Hi Sharla Rae,

I’ve thought about the timer thing too. I need to go buy a bunch of timers so I never have an excuse for not having one around. 😉

As you said, I’d probably allow myself an hour in the morning, then some time at lunch and in the evening. I get most of my good writing time in at night, so I’d want to not allow anything after dinner. That should be my serious time. 🙂

Thanks for getting me to think this through! Let me know if you try it and it works for you, and thanks for the comment!

Reply

Carole Beckham August 7, 2014 at 8:01 pm

I just bought the Kindle version of Rachel Aaron’s book — for 99 cents! — and it is good. I used a little of her technique by doing detailed outlines. That way, I always knew what I’d be writing about the next day. I’d start the process by listing things within the scene itself that I wanted the scene to cover, and then delete each item on the list as I covered it.
Then I had a family tragedy and am only now getting back into my fiction, and wondering if I can really do it again. Thanks for the recommendation. I always read your newsletters, Jami; they are always good, the best, in fact.
Cheers!
Carole

Reply

Jami Gold August 7, 2014 at 8:31 pm

Hi Carole,

Aww, thank you! And I’ll be rooting for you to get back into the swing of fiction writing. 🙂

As I mentioned on Facebook (somewhere… 😉 ), I think I’ve heard that her book is geared more to plotters than those who write by the seat of their pants (like me). But back with my fast-drafting posts, I also noted that I wrote faster when I spent at least a minute or two thinking about the scene before starting the draft. As a pantser, I wouldn’t necessarily plan out the scene, but I can think about what I want to accomplish with that scene. Just that little bit of grounding and context can help.

So, that’s not quite as detailed as your outlines and lists, but it’s along similar lines of having a goal for the scene. The important point is figuring out what works for us. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Deborah Makarios August 7, 2014 at 11:40 pm

Ninety days! I keel over just thinking about writing a first draft in that time (and I don’t even have a day job).
I have found that rearranging my schedule to have two longer blocks of writing time instead of snippets here and there has helped. (It takes me a while to get into the swing of things.) Not something everyone has the luxury of doing, I know…
Hoping to have the first draft of the WIP finished this month! Fingers crossed! – or more accurately cramped 🙂

Reply

Jami Gold August 8, 2014 at 7:08 am

Hi Deborah,

LOL! I understand. And that’s why I wanted to share insights from Courtney’s workshop–so we’d know we had options and didn’t need to despair. 🙂

That’s great that you discovered you work better with longer blocks. That’s probably true in my case too. Back when I had a tablet to take with me so I could write anywhere, it was a rare day if I wrote more than 3 paragraphs. So that accessibility didn’t help me much. :-/

I’ll cross my fingers for you that you finish your WIP and continue to be able to create those longer blocks. 🙂 Good luck and thanks for the comment!

Reply

DMac August 8, 2014 at 9:45 am

I’m glacially slow ;-p I have all sorts of good intentions and schedules and all that, but then I find myself editing every sentence after I write it. So I have to resort to NaNoWriMo-style word sprints — set the timer, write like the wind for 10 min, pause to catch breath, repeat. Also I force myself to leave my comfortable home office and easy Internet access, and go to a nearby cafe with my laptop but WITHOUT my power cord — b/c then I can’t go on-line b/c it drains the power too quickly.

Reply

Jami Gold August 8, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Hi DMac,

Yes, that method of editing while we write often leads to problems–good idea to avoid that. 🙂 Ooo, and I love your idea of leaving your power cord behind to avoid going online. That’s almost sneaky. LOL! Thanks for sharing and thanks for the comment!

Reply

chemistken August 8, 2014 at 10:07 am

Wow! According to Courtney’s definition, my writing speed would have to be considered “sluglike.” If I wrote one novel a year, I’d feel as though I were speedwriting. My problem isn’t so much about distractions, although the job and family life does take its share of time, as it is about me just writing slowly. Even when I know what happens in a scene, getting those words down on paper is just a real struggle for me, and I have to keep banging away at words before it finally comes together.

Reply

Jami Gold August 8, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Hi ChemistKen,

LOL! I understand slug-like. What helps me get more words down during a scene is immersing myself into the mental movie and taking dictation of what I see and witness. I know that doesn’t work for everyone (it doesn’t always work for me either–sometimes getting words down is like pulling teeth), but I just wanted to mention it. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Kirsten August 8, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Oh, wow! I thought I was a fast writer, since I’ve won NaNo every year since I started doing it. But then there’s revision … so a book, or even a short story, every ninety days would be impossible for me. I can see why this presentation was packed.
Strangely though, I don’t have trouble with distractions. NaNo was great for learning to get into the zone pretty much anywhere anytime, and as long as I have my playlists to write with I can get words on the page. Once I get going it’s pretty hard for me to tear myself away. 🙂
I just read a great post at Janet Reid’s blog last week about how writers need to have some down time just to day dream. She maintains that all this blogging and tweeting and researching might take its toll on our creativity. I was so relieved to read that! I think as writers, deep down we really do want to disappear into the stories, but all the distractions are just a way to avoid facing that first bump of awkwardness that is the beginning of a writing session.

Great topic! It sounds like you had a very productive time at the RWA Conference.

Reply

Jami Gold August 10, 2014 at 11:41 pm

Hi Kirsten,

Congratulations on your NaNo wins! Yes, revision can take as long as (or longer) than drafting, so like you, that’s what would keep me from being fast, even if my drafting becomes more efficient.

I agree about the need for downtime. I’ve written posts on my blog here about how not all distractions are bad and how we do need to refill our creative well. So I would never be one who would argue for all efficiency all the time. In fact, I think that life balance issue is the main reason I have no interest in becoming a fast writer. 😀

Once again, that proves how it’s all about our goals and finding what works for us. 😉 Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Julie Musil August 8, 2014 at 8:22 pm

I’m definitely NOT a fast writer! Every 90 days? Sheesh! I’m learning to be more focused with my writing time, which does help me finish projects faster.

Reply

Jami Gold August 10, 2014 at 11:42 pm

Hi Julie,

Yes, I’m good with the goal of not wasting time, but I don’t think I’ll ever be a fast writer. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Christina Hawthorne August 9, 2014 at 8:44 am

Excellent post, Jami. I’d have responded yesterday, but I was at the fair/rodeo. I couldn’t help but notice that we have the same problem. I’m not a morning person and when I’ve forced the issue I’ve written some superb gibberish. On the other hand, plodding through mail requires far less mental effort. My problem, like yours, is that it drags on. On thing leads to another leads to another and so on. Too, my overactive curiosity carries me off on tangents. Next thing I know it’s early afternoon. I’m finally putting my foot down…I think. Last week I tracked how I spend my time and was appalled. Still, armed with awareness, I improved towards week’s end. I almost have too much time available and need to schedule blocks for certain tasks like mail and research (research is enemy #1 because it’s a slippery slope to idle curiosity).

Reply

Jami Gold August 10, 2014 at 11:45 pm

Hi Christina,

LOL! Yes, when I first wake up, I need something mindless. 🙂

Ooo, good point too about having too much time. I’m definitely more efficient when I have a deadline (i.e., limited time). 😉 Thanks for the comment and good luck with keeping that foot down!

Reply

Stephanie Scott August 13, 2014 at 8:40 am

Thanks for the post! I think it’s helpful to keep in mind these 90 day releases are most likely romance fiction and in genre markets like New Adult, erotica, category romances, etc. Though I think some big single title authors have multiple book releases per year, but the biggies I can think of it’s more like 2-3 and not 4. All that to say, IMHO I think this 90 day release schedule relates to a smaller segment of writers than yo would think. I could be TOTALLY wrong on that, but that’s just my experience what what I’ve seen/heard with RWA circles as compared to what I see/hear outside of RWA.

I’ve listened to several workshops from past RWA conferences about fast drafting books (Candace Havens has workshops through her website). I think it’s a cool idea, though newer writers should take more time with their books if they are still learning the ropes. Even if you draft a book in 2 weeks or a month, you still have revision and other drafts and I just don’t see how those can get done in a month with enough time for release. A 90 schedule seems likely for category or novellas for writers who are experienced, who already have a relationship with an editor they trust, and they are business savvy.

All that to say, I hope no one gets discouraged by thinking taking 6 months or longer to write a book is slow, or therefore “bad.” It’s not.

Though the productivity thing is so true. I have a hard time with making notes for research and not looking up right then, but I get far more done when I do just that. 🙂

Reply

Jami Gold August 13, 2014 at 9:19 am

Hi Stephanie,

You’re right that 90-day releases are more common in those genres. However, the Amazon algorithm aspect for New Releases stays the same regardless of genre. On the other hand, some genres have a slower release schedule for everyone (fewer releases in general), so it might not be as difficult to gain visibility.

That said, I agree that the vast majority of authors (of any genre) are not following this 90-day release schedule. As Courtney defined it, the strategy is not the “norm.” Rather, it’s simply a cut-off point for the definition of fast vs. slow based on the algorithms and the inherent visibility gained because of those.

I also agree that newbie writers would drive themselves crazy to try to stick with any sort of schedule like this–or in many cases, to attempt to fast draft at all. Our first book is often our “learning curve” book, and it might take a long time, as we learn all the things we need to know and apply all the things we’ve learned. New writers need to give themselves that time. Once we’re experienced and past the hump of that curve…then we can look into ways to speed up our process. 🙂

Thanks for pointing that out so newer writers know not to be discouraged or shortchange the learning process. It’s definitely not “bad” for anyone to take longer–especially not those still on the learning curve. Thanks for sharing your insights!

Reply

Patricia Lynne August 13, 2014 at 2:37 pm

I am a slow writer. Think glacial slow. The other day I managed to get a good writing session in. What really helped was closing Twitter. I turned off the app even That really helped, so future writing sessions are going to start with turning Twitter off..

Reply

Jami Gold August 13, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Hi Patricia,

LOL! I understand, and I’ve been known to do the same. (If I leave it open and I hear the chirp for a new DM or mention, I’m too curious to not check it out. 😉 ) Thanks for sharing!

Reply

Kate Warren September 13, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Hi, my name is Kate, and I’m a slow writer. It started several years ago and I haven’t been able to kick the habit. I have some things in my life that are genuine challenges (four kids, three on the autism spectrum) to finding writing time, but I am also guilty of doing things like going on Pinterest (in fact, that’s how I ended up here, so maybe that’s not too bad?).

Thanks for this post, Jami. It’s given me some things to think about, and reminded me that there ARE things I can do to be more productive.

Reply

Jami Gold September 13, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Hi Kate,

LOL! Welcome, Kate! 🙂

Yes, those are definite challenges, so I wouldn’t want you to beat yourself up for not being faster. Instead, as you said, there are usually things we can do to make our writing time more effective, and we can all focus on those. Thanks for stopping by and good luck! 🙂

Reply

Kathleen S. Allen (@kathleea) September 16, 2014 at 10:44 am

I’m a fast writer. I can write a novel in two weeks to 30 days depending. I’d love to do this 90 day thing and I have put up stories on Wattpad and published novellas to keep my name out there. I’m going to try and do this from this point forward once I get an agent (my current goal). I do have quite a few self-published books and a couple of novellas/short stories on Kindle. A friend of mine once told me she wanted to have 25 things “out there” so she could supplement her income with nice royalty checks and that’s my goal too.

Reply

Jami Gold September 16, 2014 at 11:30 am

Hi Kathleen,

Wow! They do exist! 😉

I’m glad this gave you some ideas for how to approach your publication career. 🙂 Good luck and thanks for the comment!

Reply

Ella May 7, 2015 at 8:02 am

The 2k to 10k a day thing really does work, at least for me. Once I get an outline in my head – and then type it up in Scrivener 🙂 – I go through and split it into sections that will work for one scene, paste the sections into separate Scrivener files, and just start typing. In March, I had some time off from work, and I did a 20k novella in four days. Since I have a series going, I have a formula for the scenes (can you tell I work in a scientific industry?) – start with the mc, then my secondary mc who always has to have a subplot (although I may switch that around in a book), then maybe a character who is just going to be in that book. I went through and wrote all of one character’s scenes, then the next, then the next, and made sure the whole thing tied up at the end (although the two MCs don’t get together).

That didn’t include editing, obviously. But still. After that I added 25k to a novel I started last summer. I thought it was done, but I was wrong. I realized that it needs more scenes in a certain time period. Ah well. It’s halfway through the series, anyway. But what I did get written was done using the 2k to 10k.

It definitely wouldn’t work for a pantser. I don’t think I make a good pantser. I pantsed my NaNo last year. I finished it, but I have been terrified to go back and edit it. That’s bad, since it’s book #4!

Reply

Jami Gold May 7, 2015 at 9:38 am

Hi Ella,

Interesting! Yes, when the words are flowing, I can write that fast as well. So the key for me is to get those words flowing more easily. 🙂

Unfortunately for me, I haven’t been successful at writing scenes out of order (maybe because I’m a pantser?), so when I’m stuck on a scene, it’s hard to move forward. Thanks for sharing your experience!

Reply

Ella May 7, 2015 at 8:06 am

Sentence only writers understand:

“I pantsed my NaNo.”

Reply

Jami Gold May 7, 2015 at 9:38 am

Hi Ella,

LOL! Very true! 😀

Reply

Julie August 2, 2015 at 9:35 pm

I think Stephen King, King of the Pantsers, has a great method for getting more stuff out there. He writes novellas or short stories between his Brick sized novels. They’re also sold as book collections and as individual items on Amazon.

As for me, I was the LA Municipal Liaison in California for a couple of years around 2006. Won NaNo three times, I think? And then crashed and burned and only *just* got back into writing. What I found was the Fast Writing method was like magic, the type described by you and others here on your blog. Things clicked within the draft that I hadn’t even thought of. BUT I hit a wall afterward because I was clueless about *revision* actually meant!

I’m looking forward to your next Take off Your Pants class, because just like you, if I write too much down, I feel locked into the ink on the outline. Just can’t do it.

Reply

Jami Gold August 2, 2015 at 10:12 pm

Hi Julie,

Good point! I’d noticed he released a variety of lengths, but you’re right that he probably does that on purpose. 🙂

I’ll be announcing my next class soon, so I’ll be in touch. 🙂 I very much relate to that “locked in ink” feeling. Good luck with your rewriting reboot, and thanks for the comment!

Reply

What do you think?

50 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Previous post:

Next post: