Sunday, March 3, 2013

Full Steam Ahead

No, I don’t mean steampunk, though I find I rather like a good amount of the more imaginative fiction in that particular subgenre. What I mean in this case is in regard to the subject of the week, how to write a warp speed.

I’ve probably been over this here before, or if not, I will likely go over it again because I’m repetitive like that. I’m prolific. When it comes to writing at a high output, I’m up there. There are faster, to be sure, but I do what I can with a full time day job.

On a good day I clock in around 5,000 words. That used to be an average day but let’s be honest here, I’m older. Also, I slowed down a bit when I decided that a clean manuscript was my friend. At my very fastest, the words were a bit choppier, the grammar was not the tightest, and I felt I had all the time in the world to do rewrites and edits.

My fastest manuscript to date was right about 178,000 words in three weeks. That was with each chapter edited three times (at least) and while I was working a full time job. To be fair, I hired someone to edit with me and that poor woman earned every penny, but she was a speed-reader and very good at keeping me on track. Still, I did the actual writing and input all the edits.

My speed for a single day was 11,700 words in just under eight hours. After that one I took a few days off, because I HURT myself. As Jeffe pointed out, it’s rather like running a marathon. I can do it, but it’s not something you can do every day and constantly.

Want to know what’s slowed me down more than anything else over the last few years? The BUSINESS of writing. See, writing is fun. I can do that all day. But there’s also line edits, outlines, proposals, rewrites, synopsis, emails and correspondences, writing for this blog and my website, my other blogs, and doing what I can to help a few other writers with all of the above. In a couple of weeks I’m going to be at the Coral Springs Festival of the Arts in Coral Springs, Florida and I’ll working on a seminar that will last roughly 90 minutes. A good ten hours of work will go into that 90 minutes in an effort to not look like a complete ass while I’m up there, and I’m driving there, so that’s a day of my life gone. And I’m glad to do it. I’m genuinely looking forward to it, but my point is, that’s part of the business of writing. It takes away from the writing time part of my writing. So I’m prolific, but there are days you can’t see it. That’s part of the job.

It isn’t how fast you can write, folks. It’s time management. Regardless of what happens on the average day, I still spend at least two hours every day writing. Not handling the business, not blogging or spending time on Facebook or reading or doing research, but actually writing. And if I can, I spend longer. And while I’m writing, I average around one thousand words an hour.

And then I spend a wee bit of time cleaning up that writing. Because that’s part of the job too.

That’s really it. That’s the secret as far as I’m concerned. Write every day. Dedicate a certain amount of time to it. And that’s especially true if this is what you want to do for a living. I have a powerful suspicion that if you could pin every one of the Word-Whores down in one spot and ask for a few comments, they’d all agree with me on at least this one: I’ve had at least a dozen people tell me that they’d like to write a novel someday.

Know what I’ve said to each and every one of them?

“What’s stopping you?” And universally the immediate answer is, “Well, I just don’t have the time.”

Yeah. Neither do I. I make the time. Sometimes that means I skip going out with friends. Sometimes I forget about that movie I want to catch. Sometimes I go with five hours of sleep instead of eight. It all depends on how badly you want it. Or how badly you need it. There’s some truth to the old saying that even if I weren’t getting paid for it, I’d still be a writer. The advantage I have is that I AM paid for it, and that’s great motivation for me to find the time. And no, it didn’t happen overnight.

And no, when I started I couldn’t put out 1,000 words in an hour. Like an athlete or a musician or an artist, there’s a lot of practice that goes into it. A lot. Practice, practice, practice. And then, just for kicks, practice some more. That’s how you get faster. Oh, and of course, by making the time.

That’s it for now; I have a novel to write.

On the other side of this, I have been informed that my novel SEVEN FORGES, my first fantasy novel, actually, will be out this October from Angry Robot Books. I’m delighted. The second novel in the series is due to the publisher in September. I have another novel due before that happens, and once I’m working on besides. The one in the middle has to be approved first and then I’ll have around eight weeks to do the first draft and get it cleaned up properly. So, yes, being prolific is going to come in handy in the very near future.

Keep smiling,

James A. Moore


  1. Congrats on the fantasy sale! And yeah... the bloody BUSINESS seems to creep out and wrap tentacles around everything sometimes... ~whips out machete~

  2. It isn’t how fast you can write, folks. It’s time management.

    Yep. That one.

    Also? Congrats on the upcoming release from Angy Robot!!

  3. Jeffe, somehow I keep cutting into your sunday nights Dreadfully sorry I don't mean to. Yeah, honestly, it's the business part that can be a killer I used to wonder why anyone would need a secretary. Then again I sued to wonder why anyone wouldn't look forward to, you know, wisdom comes with a price. Truly delighted by the Angry Robot deal. The books should be a hoot.