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Write It Slow?

23 June 2015

From Bookview Café:

Ursula K. Le Guin recently blogged right here on Book View Café about how the marketing practices of Amazon.com results in disposable, interchangeable world-pablum instead of thoughtful, well-crafted literature. She wrote:

If you want to sell cheap and fast, as Amazon does, you have to sell big. Books written to be best sellers can be written fast, sold cheap, dumped fast: the perfect commodity for growth capitalism.

The readability of many best sellers is much like the edibility of junk food. Agribusiness and the food packagers sell us sweetened fat to live on, so we come to think that’s what food is. Amazon uses the BS Machine to sell us sweetened fat to live on, so we begin to think that’s what literature is.

. . . .

I know successful authors who write more than one novel a year (it takes me one to two years at this point to finish a novel to my own satisfaction). They are dedicated craftspeople, and some of their work is very good. It’s not that one way of working is better than another, it’s that I got into trouble by comparing mine to someone else’s.

I know romance writers who support themselves with their writing. They sell on proposal with very detailed outlines. They know exactly how many pages each section of the outline will require and by what date they must finish them to meet deadline. They do this every 3 months. By and large, their readers expect a particular experience and the writers deliver it consistently. It’s a 9-to-5 job, but one they love.

Sometimes when I as a reader pick up a book, that’s what I want. Not challenging literature but a predictable, engaging read. Fast food For The Mind, as it were. It could be escape reading, or comfort, or perfect for a time or situation rife with distractions, when subtle writing would get lost. (Think: on the bus, during your kid’s karate class, in the dentist’s office.)

. . . .

As a writer, I try to work at the pace that allows me to reflect and dig deep into my stories instead of dashing off the first things that come to mind.

Link to the rest at Bookview Café and thanks to  for the tip.

The Business of Writing

121 Comments to “Write It Slow?”

  1. Thanks PG…I had yet to vomit in my mouth this year. All that food talk. I should have known better than to read anything by ULG after eating.

    • Maybe it was just a bad oyster, Steven. 🙂

      • I’ll have to go back through the menu…no, it was definitely ULG’s vomit inducing, anti-Amazon rant that did it.

        • If you are talking about the blog entry “Write it Slow” – the author of the entry is not ULG, it is Deborah Ross (with an appeal to authority by mentioning ULG). Or were you talking about the link in the first paragraph of the entry Write it Slow?

  2. Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in nine days. The hack.

    Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises in six weeks. The fake.

    • Exactly!

      Digging deep and writing well doesn’t necessarily require a slow pace. I am so weary of the “fast=bad, slow=good” meme. No, it’s not so. Sometimes fast and good go together just fine. Feh!

      (And, yes, I realize that’s a straight line for some bawdy repartée, but I’m leaving it in anyway. 😀 )

    • right on James Scott Bell

    • Bradbury wrote ‘The Fireman’ in nine days. He took another nine days to expand it into Fahrenheit 451. Let’s not exaggerate.

    • Hemingway, what an amateur. Now that I know one of my favorite novels was written in a matter of weeks, it must be garbage. Great Books are not cranked out in that short a time.

    • Meh. These guys were slow.

      How about Michael Moorcock, writing four sixty thousand word novels in twelve days (The Hawkmoon series), which is a leisurely sustained rate of twenty thousand words a day.


    • Did he go from a blank page to his final edited draft in that time? Because it’s never clear when people talk about the speed of writing a book, whether they mean the first draft only or the finished book.

  3. And the NYT ‘best seller list has nothing but culture in it?

    If you remove the word ‘Amazon’, you might think it was about the big publishers — pot and kettle time again?

    (I would still love to see Amazon ‘take note’ and publicly offer to de-list those ‘cultured’ books which shouldn’t have to been seen side-by-side with ‘fast food’ books. Or maybe offer to place them on their own little page under ‘nurtured/cultured/(overpriced/whinny) books that everyone should have but nobody wants to read’ section … 😉 )

  4. Ugh. Yes, let’s pick on romance YET AGAIN. Because entertaining books can’t possibly have any substance or change someone’s life.

    And by the way, I know the secret to writing faster and I’ll tell it to you for free:

    Spend. More. Time. Writing.

  5. Every time I see the phrase ‘BS Machine’, best-seller is NOT the thing that comes to mind. It’s not even the second thing to come to mind.

    What is he on about anyways? Books written quickly are predictable and mind-numbing, while books worth the brain-power are written slowly? Color me confused.

    • Publishers prefer slow brained writers. They don’t come out with books too fast and they’re ‘slow’ enough to think those ‘life plus forever’ contracts are okay.

  6. I find that I write at the same speed whether I’m working five hours a day or fifteen minutes a day. And the quality of my writing is the same in either case.

    But when I’m able to write five hours a day, I’m able to produce a 90,000 word novel in 3 weeks.

    On the other hand, when I write for 15 minutes, then ponder over what I wrote for 4 hours and 45 minutes, it takes me a year to produce that same novel. Only by then I’m bored to death with it and it reads that way.

    But I’m just a hack who’s trying to make a buck so what do I know?

    Incidentally, my latest novel, “One and Done,” is now available on Amazon. And next month, “Access Denied” will also be available. Woo-hoo!

  7. this sounds like the MFA vs. non-MFA argument approached from a different angle. “Important books are the ones written over years! You people are savages!”

    • Well you know, only the Unwashed Masses read books written by Hack, Self-Published ‘novelists.’ Somehow, they are read and enjoyed. The horror, the horror!

      Great Literature that is Art is created by sitting in a workshop writing to please your professors an peers who have never been published. Don’t you Philistines get it, selling ‘quality’ indie books to readers who enjoy them is not Art.

  8. She writes fantasy, sometimes with a romantic element, so I don’t think she’s trying to slam the genre (yes, I read the original post).

    It seems like this post wanted it both ways. She doesn’t want to criticize fast writers. Some of her best reads were by fast writers. She just doesn’t want to be seen with them.

    This reads more like “I have a blog at this site and I need to write something by today.”

  9. I don’t care what anyone but readers think of my books. If they’re fast food, then put me in braids and call me Wendy, because writing a book every year or two would be about the equivalent of not writing anything.

    Being successful in a genre market is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s probably harder because there’s more competition.

    Whatever. I have books to write.

  10. When asked about a food analogy for his books – were they prime rib or filet mignon? – Stephen King said they’re the equivalent of a big mac and fries. Then he laughed and said: Two billion sold, baby!

    • Awesome answer! Love it!

    • Stephen King has always been self-deprecating. He doesn’t even remember writing a few of his novels (Cujo and Tommyknockers come immediately to mind). But he definitely cares about craft. I don’t know how quickly or slowly he writes, but when you look at his oeuvre, some of his books definitely stand out. His early stuff, like Different Seasons and The Shining. A lot of his Castle Rock. The Dark Tower series? The final few feel way more rushed than everything up to Wizard and Glass.

      I’ve always wondered if he just doesn’t care too much about his writing, and if saying they’re a Big Mac and fries is his way of saying that before critics can. King, like the aforementioned Bradbury and the oft-mentioned Chandler, is one of those writers who’s managed to elevate what would, in less skillful hands, be simply straight-up genre work (not that there’s anything wrong with that) into something more than that — even, dare I say it, literature. I’d put “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” up beside The Old Man and the Sea in terms of sheer mastery of prose, craft, style, and execution any day.

      “You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair–the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.” ~ Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

  11. …about how the marketing practices of Amazon.com results in disposable, interchangeable world-pablum instead of thoughtful, well-crafted literature.

    What in the deity of your choice’s holy name does the role of Amazon as a retailer of books have to do with what kind of fiction PUBLISHERS choose to upload to it? It’s bad enough that a prominent author doesn’t recognize publishing practices she’s undoubtedly known about for the past 50 years and is only now bitching about when she can attach “Amazon” to her complaints, but now Deborah Ross is gathering clicks from compounding that ignorance.

    Ross’s post is actually about needing to read “chewy” books as well as “fast food” books, which is condescending enough in itself, but first she has to quote Le Guin on how Amazon is what’s wrong with publishing. Because reasons.

    And so the misinformation spreads.

    • Maybe she’s complaining that Amazon is not a good gatekeeper and let’s anyone sell any book. I think she should call the Good-lit-gate-keeper-police.

  12. So when i finally pub the current WIP (which has been the most agonizing book i’ve yet written and currently at almost 4 years in the making), can i market it as “a romance written at literary speed”? Will readers care? Will the pace of creation excuse its flaws? (ha ha what flaws, after this long the mo-fo will be a perfect diamond of scintillating brilliance!)

    Sigh. I just get tired of seeing romance always – ALWAYS – looked to as the example of write-fast/write-widgets style creation. Even if some of it is, just as much (more?) of the genre is not. The attitude gets old.

    • Oh, come on.

      If that’s the measure of success, I’m not the slowest here, but Pride’s Children was started in 2000, and I’m barely getting ready to put up the first book of 3.

      I win.

      Silly to measure worth that way. Almost as silly, measuring the life that happens AROUND the books and seriously affects writing speed – writers have lives to live, too.

      I forget: How long did Tolkien take?

      • No! You’ve got five years on mine! Dang you to heck! 😛

        (yes, I steal from Dilbert too … 😉 )

        • I have a piece of literature too! I started what I thought was just a romantic suspense in Jan 2010, but kept putting it on hold, only working a little bit at a time until I finally finished it in 2014. Gotta go change the cover and take off, “A Romantic Suspense” and put, “A novel” instead. 😉

      • When I started “Let’s Do Lunch” in 1999. I wanted to write a ‘chewy’ book — and a reviewer compared it to an egg-salad sandwich.

        Ah – well. Watch what you wish for, ’cause you might just get it.


        Trade Publishing and Indie Publishing are apples and oranges. Each writer has to find what works for them.

        George R. R. Martin takes MUCH longer than a year to write his books. No one doubts the quality of his work.

        Then there’s Harlan Ellison. Again, no one doubts the quality of his work.

        LeGuin is a fabulous stylist. Her works and those of Andre Norton are atmospheric, moody, immersive and have a level of craftswomanship that I despair to obtain.

        • Oh yes, a lot of people doubt the quality of GGRM’s work & writing now…
          How do you call it when you spend five years writing padding material ?

          • Nothing wrong I can see with letting authors write their own books their way and letting the readers sort out what they like. I don’t know who “a lot of people” are besides some noisy Internet folks, but George’s books are doing okay in the market, and he probably doesn’t give a rat’s how you write yours.

            • Of course I know that he does well in the market.
              “A lot of people”, in GRRM’s case, is many if not most of the early fans. ALL early fans I (personnally) know are VERY disappointed nowadays, and not only with the long waits. Is it so blasphemous to say that the last two installments are way below the standard of quality of craft and storytelling that he established himself with his first three volumes of Ice & Fire ?
              I was just contesting the “No one doubts the quality of his work”. Even if I were alone in thinking what I think about ADWD, this sentence would be false. And I am FAR from alone.

  13. It is “BookCafé”, so maybe article writers are required to use food references in their submissions.

  14. “If you want to sell cheap and fast, as Amazon does, you have to sell big. Books written to be best sellers can be written fast, sold cheap, dumped fast: the perfect commodity for growth capitalism.”

    ADS is strong in this one, Obi-Wan…

  15. Woot! You cannot make good wine out of sour grapes. You can let sour grapes ferment, feed the must to your chickens, write a short, funny tale about drunk chickens who lay eggs that taste like a wonderfully aged bordeaux that you fried and fed to your uptight, fire and brimstone father-in-law, who suddenly laughed for the first time in twenty years. Other than that, I don’t see a single useful thing in blogs such as the above. I see your mouth drawing up to the size of a pea. Who cares? Hey! I once wrote a book in 30 days, sold it four days later, made some nice $$$ on it. Got my rights back. Indie published it last year and it’s making more nice $$$. Yep. And some fool with a day job and one book had the nerve to call me an old lady living in a trailer who herds feral cats and plays Bingo. Guilty! I extreme coupon, too. Not to mention in 35 years, I’ve sold every single thing I ever wrote. Still do. I luuuv this business. And mind my own. Y’all have a good one.
    No Pefect Fate

    • So, it’s all about the money is it? That makes E. L. James the greatest writer ever.

      • Suburbanbanshee

        If writers aren’t interested in being read, why would they put anything out there? And if they have put something out there for money, why wouldn’t they be interested in money?

        Contrariwise, if someone is the greatest writer in the world but never puts his book out to the world, why should I care about his hobby? How can I? If someone doesn’t want my money or attention, why would that make him superior to more accessible writers?

  16. Is it so difficult for some people here to admit that if you’re writing a story as fast as you can type that you’re maybe not giving it as much thought as you could if you slowed down?

    Of course you can’t make a hard and fast rule that a book that takes two years to write is better than one that took three months.

    But the author does have a point. Amazon does push/sell/rely on very this kind of “product”. If you only read Amazon’s top 100 thrillers regularly, I’m telling you you’d soon get tired of reading stories about a young girl going missing down a shady lane.

    • Is it so difficult for some people here to admit that if you’re writing a story as fast as you can type that you’re maybe not giving it as much thought as you could if you slowed down?

      Dificult? Not at all. I admit it. One can do more thinking in five years than in six weeks. What is the proper amount of thought? How do we know when the standard has been met?

      • What is the proper amount of thought?

        Every author must answer this question for themselves. Some hold themselves to higher standards than others. But we all have different goals and different measures of success, so maybe that’s not a bad thing.

        Readers might not care either way, but perhaps we should.

        • Readers might not care either way, but perhaps we should.

          Sure. Every producer has to decide when to cut off resources devoted to a product. He makes a decision not to make any more incremental improvements.

          Some producers define the resource levels before production begins. Others choose to stop at some point.

          Allocating resources is one of the most important things a producer does.

          Nobody produces the best product they possibly can. The best they can produce is constrained by resources.

      • One can do more thinking in five years than in six weeks.

        Sometimes the story written in six weeks (or nine days) draws on all the thinking done over the past five years. Or twenty years. Or a lifetime.

        • Aaaaaand J.M.’s comment wins the internet today!

        • there you go, being timeless with your insights again JM

        • “Sometimes the story written in six weeks (or nine days) draws on all the thinking done over the past five years. Or twenty years. Or a lifetime.”

          Unlikely if you’re churning out four novels a year. More likely to be the thought you had between raising a finger from the keyboard to lowering it again. And probably based on some tired old trope because that’s even quicker.

          • Maybe not for you, but for me, in my head, there’s is always at least six to ten stories that want my attention; and I write two novels per year and a handful of short stories while having a day job.

            Just because something is true for you (and maybe your friends), you shouldn’t assume that that applies to the rest of us, especially not to the individuals with a vivid imagination like mine. I could write twenty stories per year, and with the way ideas about stories like to pop into my head, it would still be too slow to write all the stories that occupy my mind.

            • I have a friend with a gift for dialogue: she can sit at the keyboard and spin out the most delightful verbal duels in minutes, page after page. Plotting, themes, world-building, research, character backstories… that takes her months to work out and diagram. Mostly in her head.

              At any time she has a dozen or more ongoing projects.

              So yes, when she sits down to write a story she can type it out in a few weeks… after months and years of “legwork”.

              People who deride genre obviously know beans about what it takes to write genre and would run screaming back to their ivory tower if their life depended on writing good genre. The time spent actually writing a story is meaningless; it can be days or years, depending on the favor of the muses. In genre what really matters is the talent and acquired (genre) expertise behind the story; when it comes to genre, generic writing skill alone won’t hack it.

              As they say, “ignorance is bold”.

          • How does today’s writing speed affect thoughts over the last twenty years? How does that work?

        • SPOT ON!

          I’m sick of this slow v. fast debate. It’s perennial and used as a truncheon against each other.

          Writers are strange folk. We ruminate on characters and stories and plots and dialogue all the time — at least, the writers I know do, and so do I. That means that by the time I sit down and do an outline, I’ve already been cogitating on my story and characters for a while. I have always been a daydreamer and all my life I have been spinning tales in my mind when I’m bored with whatever is taking place in the real world around me.

          Ergo, when I sit down to write, I rarely have to think. I put my fingers on the keyboard and get into the scene and let it flow. Sometimes, I can write 3,000 words in an hour, sometimes 1,000 but when I sit down to write, I can write very fast because I have been thinking about my story and characters for the rest of the day that I am not writing. When i set out to write a new book, I can write it in 6 weeks.

          If you sit down without any plan or any thought beforehand, I could see how it might take a long time to write a story because you will be thinking it up as you go along, maybe stopping to do research, and the like. Also, a lot of writers suffer from what is called “Inner-Editor-Itis” in which their perfectionism prevents them from writing freely. They angst over every word or phrase and revise the same passage over and over again. They should read The Artist’s Way and get over themselves.


    • I wonder what bookselling would be like if books were priced based on the amount of time it took to write them.

      • To actually write? As in hours actually putting words on a pad or screen?

        Or are we talking from idea to rough draft to writing to editing to publisher finally getting around to having it printed?

        Some would like you to think they spend far longer ‘making it happen’ than it really needed to take.

      • As in how long it took to write the words down? A lot of writers suffer from writer’s block and go for long periods without writing a word. Will you count that as part of the time it took to write a book and value that book based on these gaps?

        What matters is whether you are pleasing your intended readers, and of course, yourself. Preferably both. And preferably a lot of readers. You know, so you can make a living at writing. Because that rules.

    • Are we writing as fast as we can type? Or telling other people to write as fast as they can type?

      Other than short bursts here and there, I’m not typing as fast as I can. I’m thinking as I write, imagining the story. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about the book. It’s always sitting in the back of my mind being fussed at by my subconscious.

      When I do NaNoWriMo, I write at a faster speed than usual, but what that means is that I spend more time per day writing. Double the time or more. My words per minute is about the same.

      But then again I’m not trying to write the Great American Novel. I want to write good stories that entertain people.

      • The process of writing is more than just the time spent tippy-tapping your fingers on the keyboard. Staring our the window thinking about your writing project is also part of writing. Having a sudden thought while drifting off to sleep is also writing. Observing something and figuring out how to use it is also part of writing.

        It’s the whole enchilada — prep time, cooking time, presentation on the plate — not just the time spent chewing and swallowing it.

      • …but what that means is that I spend more time per day writing. Double the time or more. My words per minute is about the same.

        Exactly. Many of the more prolific writers simply spend more hours of the day writing. They’re not engaging in some ersatz “speed thinking” and “speed typing.” They are thinking and typing at their usual speed, often a speed shared by many writers, but they are sitting at their keyboards for more hours. There is nothing magical or slipshod about it.

  17. P.G.

    Russell Blake writes like an express train-but it ain’t crap. Not by a long chalk.

    ULG is just flat wrong.


  18. Amazon’s publishing model pretty much demands that you publish at least four novels a year or you lose traction.

    So what happens is a lot of indies write at the speed of light and say, “Hey, don’t say my books aren’t as good as they could be.” Of course, they couldn’t admit that themselves because they might lose readers. But deep down they know.

    As somebody else said, being successful in a genre is nothing to be ashamed of.

    But showing your insecurity about it by tearing into people who dare to suggest that some authors could take the time to put a bit more thought into their books is a little sad.

    • It’s also a little sad for people who take 2-3 years writing a book to imply that a book written in 3-4 months is drivel.

      Each writer needs to find what works best for what he/she wants to accomplish. Trashing each other for how we approach the business of writing is petty.

      • What Merrill said.

        Pretty much what everyone says, because more time spent actually writing does equal “faster writing”. Practice also increases speed.

        Not to forget, you can have stories simmering in the background while writing one that’s done simmering.

      • Each writer needs to find what works best for what he/she wants to accomplish. Trashing each other for how we approach the business of writing is petty.

        I came really close to completely agreeing with you. I’d argue that writing is a craft (and, when done well, an art) but publishing is a business.

        But I also think that the more practice one has, and the more time one dedicates to learning craft, the faster one can produce a publish-ready draft.

        Personally: my first drafts used to be awful, and require multiple rewrites. I could write a draft in a couple weeks and then revise for a couple of years. Now a draft takes a little longer, but it’s better faster.

        I’ll extend Scath’s comment: Practice increases both speed and quality. Keep practicing. Keep getting better. Keep writing.

    • Perhaps, but painting all ‘quick’ writers in the same brush doesn’t help her case.

      Case in point, I have a piece I’ve been ‘working’ on for almost ten years now. Which by her definition means that when I sell it, it should be better than anything else written in a mere week/month/year.

      Don’t agree with that statement? Then why do you agree with her? There are writers out there that can write quick and good. There are others that take forever, and then needs editing and tons of nurturing to get the same quality book out. (funny how one type is always whining about the other so much! 😉 )

    • Amazon’s publishing model pretty much demands that you publish at least four novels a year or you lose traction.

      Say what?

      How the eff does what some people (and only some people) have gone to as a publishing strategy have to do with Amazon’s publishing model? You do understand that Amazon publishes books under its own imprints, and that these imprints have exactly nothing to do with independently-published books, right?

      You do understand that each independent author-publisher is his or her own business with its own business model subject to change from book to book or day to day? You do, don’t you?

      Or do you think somehow “Amazon”–whatever you think that entity is when it’s at home–is somehow forcing a publishing model on every single independent publisher. Or perhaps you don’t pay attention to the missing information in what you write.

      • I was going to question this statement, but you beat me to it.

        If by “losing traction” he means your book slips down the list, well, so do the books on any best-seller list.

    • So what happens is a lot of indies write at the speed of light and say, “Hey, don’t say my books aren’t as good as they could be.”

      A book that takes five years to write isn’t as good as it can be.

      A book that takes ten years isn’t as good as it can be.

      But how about those slow writers? Do they say, “My book is so special. I spent so much time on it, it can’t possibly be any better?”

    • Amazon’s publishing model pretty much demands that you publish at least four novels a year or you lose traction.

      A common misconception, John. Amazon is not a publisher, they’re a store. When you sell something via Kindle Direct Publishing, YOU are the publisher, not Amazon, and YOU are doing the publishing, not Amazon. You retain the rights, and the payments from Amazon are not royalties, they are proceeds from sales.

      The complaint here is that Amazon does not try to tell people what they should buy. Mass market booksellers (Amazon, and large physical sales outlets) are dynamic and prone to churn. They sell whatever CAN be sold, and report on sales activity without regard to taste. (See: the current travesty called ‘Grey’) A curated bookstore experience is more likely to strive to keep ‘good’ books in the public eye a bit longer that 4 months, and that is what ULG wishes for, and dings Amazon for not being.

      The problem is that the public is rejecting the curated purchasing experience and instead is shopping for reading material via mass market booksellers. They may miss out on being advised what to read, but conversely they also miss out on being TOLD what to read, particularly by advisers who may not fully share or understand the purchaser’s unique tastes (or pocketbook.)

      On the other side of the coin, many writers are rejecting the curated publishing experience and writing what they want. They may miss out on being advised on what to write, but they don’t seem too chuffed by that, and the whole “keep your rights and more of the money” thing seems to have it’s own appeal.

      That’s the current situation. You have to find some way to adjust to it.

      • I think amazon is both: publisher and distributors. They have several imprints. In text on paper and in ebooks, I think

        • The griping isn’t about Amazon Publishing or even Amazon the online pbook store. It is about Amazon the enabler of indie publishing.

          It is the old tsunami argument which, as always, resolves into: “readers are too stupid to buy good books” argument.

          • I wonder in a world of near 7 billion, what miniscule number of people want to make sure others read what they want them to read. Oh. Yes. After all. Stalin comes to mind. Hitler. Edi Amin. Papa Doc. Hmmmm

            • Mao’s Little Red Book was a mega-bestseller in China back in the day.

              I bet it’s not selling so well now! 🙂

  19. What does Amazon, a merchant/retailer, has to do with good literature? If ‘packaged smoke’ would sell Amazon will sell it. I understand that competition is a dirty word when you are a supplier of anything, including books, but at least all writers can sell their books now under the evil capitalist system, Amazon. Maybe that’s the gripe, limit the supply, Amazon, because I cannot sell My Books. And my books are superior, I took the time to ferment them, and age them well like a good wine. You cannot write good books until the muse takes its time and strikes, and you polish the book (this means pad the book with pulp) until it feels hefty. Oh yeah?
    Some of us are fast, some of us are slow. Sure if you let the story sit for a while you will improve it somehow, but there is such thing as analysis paralysis. The story is either good when you start it, and time will not improve it.

  20. Those fast writers are writing, publishing, selling, and earning circles around her. She wrote this post to make herself feel better, to reassure herself that her books are So Much Better.

    Okay, fine. But those other writers are still writing, publishing, selling, and earning more than you.

    Slower isn’t better. It’s just slower. And less profitable.

  21. people used to argue about sex like this. This way, is the ONLY way . Has to be this long or that short, or this kind or that other kind.

    Fact is: all good when both are enjoying.

    Simple cowboy logic.

  22. I wanted to mention too, that ‘sudden books’ truly do come through mysterious inspirations that fall on a writer. Then, writer rushes to try to get it all down before the fugue state or whatever it is, drops him or her out back into mundane reality.

    Some authors talk about writing as though it is only an industry and they are the creatives. There is more. Far more. There are also mysterious forces that sometimes colonize, what I would call, a writer fortunate enough to be caught in such a force of speed and good story.

    One could set a clock to measure how long/ etc, re what is good and what is not. But there is also a clock of the cosmos that most of us can hardly grasp. And though many groups from ancient and modern times have many names for the forces that might visit some persons– how that all works in essence is not on tiny time with all its faux walls of past/present/future as we have been taught it, but Time for. Time with. Time beyond time. Time as an energy, as an intelligence.

    Under the starry skies here at night, on open range with rock canyons still orange in the moonlight, one has, I think, more awareness sometimes, of Time as Boundless. Rather than time as increment.

    It’s all good.

    • Elizabeth Gilbert, in a TED talk on creativity, talked about a woman who wrote poetry who talked about poems coming at her through the air, and she had to get to a pen and paper to write them down before they passed her by. One time she barely got the pen, and had to grab the poem as it was almost gone. It came out perfectly on the paper, but backwards as she grabbed it out of the air by the last word and reeled it back in. That description has always stuck with me since I heard it, because sometimes creativity works like that.

  23. Meh. It doesn’t matter if writing slow makes better books. Most people can’t live on a book every year or two.

    Plus you can rattle off a list of books written quickly that are considered masterful.

    This sounds like a bad case of “your stuff is crap and my crap is stuff.”

  24. As a reader, I would like to explain a few things. None of us cares about your writing speed, your process, how you publish, whether you hired an editor or how much it costs, or your literary pretensions (or lack thereof). We want good stories and we really don’t care how you do it. Just do it.

    And we know who is really responsible for what sells in the marketplace. We, the readers, are. If you think that Amazon is more responsible than the Big 5, you are just saying that Amazon is more responsive to readers. Don’t show contempt for your customers.

    • None of us cares about your writing speed, your process, how you publish, whether you hired an editor or how much it costs, or your literary pretensions (or lack thereof). We want good stories

      You think you don’t, but if you want good stories, you actually do care about those things, even if indirectly. A lot of different factors go into “Just do it.”

      Me, I respect my customers. I want them to have the very best I can produce. That’s why I take my time and invest in editors and keep in mind my aspirations, to ensure that my customers get my very best, every time.

      • You think you don’t, but if you want good stories, you actually do care about those things, even if indirectly.

        No. I don’t care. All I care about is the finished product, not how it came to be finished. An author’s production process is none of my business. I don’t care about an author’s writing speed, internal mindset, or his subcontracting strategy. Nobody is paying me to pay attention, and I have no interest.

        I do want good stories, and I apply benign neglect to the author’s production system.

        I also want good AA batteries, yet their production system gets benign neglect.

      • as sure as sorgum, some do care and some dont care. About most anything.

        It is not true that if Ralphy has dyed his hair green thereby all men named Ralphy want to dye their hair green. Or something like that. lol

        Meaning, which reader caring or not about how the story came to be, depends very much on each reader. And the subject matter. Prob genre too. And other factors also, depending on the individual.

        • I have readers who do care about my writing speed. They regularly ask “When will the next book be out?” Or tell me to “Write faster!”

          As a reader, I care about the writing speed of my favorite authors. I want more books from them, as quickly as possible.

          • “They regularly ask “When will the next book be out?” Or tell me to “Write faster!””

            Plus a couple dozen on that bit — heck, make it a gross!

  25. I’ve never heard of this lady until today, and I’m wondering if a new publicity trick would be for me to write a blog post bashing Amazon. That seems to get some writers a lot of attention. We should all do that, actually, and come up with a “bashing checklist” to make sure we hit all the hot buttons and get linked and shared everywhere. Who’s in?

  26. I actually like and respect ULG a lot, and thing some of her work is quite amazing. But she does tend on the artsy fartsy side of this sort of thing. I suppose there will be forever this “slow work is art fast work is consumer dreck for the lower classes” thing as long as there is “art” in the world.

    Ignore it, keep writing at your true speed, whether that is one novel a decade or 12 a year.

    It all stems from this crazy, lit class, BFA bullshit where it’s claimed the old greats of yesteryear worked painfully slow and deliberately, when in fact, as many were paid by the word and had to deliver quick or starve, these greats actually worked damned fast. Sure, maybe they had a novel a year, but that was *on top of* journalism, short stories, partial novels, etc. meaning what we see released in novel form is one small part of all the words they wrote in those months. Dickens, the pulp greats, all these folks worked fast and furiously, and some of their best works were written in weeks or months.

    You know, like Vonnogut talking a book out loud to a friend at a party, who transcribed it in real time, or his novel Slaughterhouse Five, mostly written in one sitting on the back of wallpaper.

    • “You know, like Vonnogut talking a book out loud to a friend at a party, who transcribed it in real time, or his novel Slaughterhouse Five, mostly written in one sitting on the back of wallpaper.”

      … when fits of creativity run strong, more than one programmer or writer has been known to abandon the desktop for the more spacious floor. — Fred Brooks


  27. I know Deborah. She’s sold quite a bit of short fiction to SF/F magazines, and has published several novels. She also co-wrote a few of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s later books.

  28. Smart Debut Authur

    The author of this article apparently should have taken a few more years to try to compose his or her thoughts into some remote semblance of logical coherence before attempting to publicly articulate them.

    • It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech. — Mark Twain


  29. Do people not read before they comment?

  30. Suburbanbanshee

    If you analyze the length of Shakespeare’s life versus the number of plays he pumped out, it’s pretty obvious that he didn’t put seven years and six hundred drafts into every play.

    But yeah, obviously his stuff will never last.

  31. I’m considered a “fast writer,” because I put out 3-4 books a year. What people who deride that “speed” don’t realize is that I (and many, many other writers like me) put in 8-10 hours a day behind the keyboard, six days a week.

    Now let’s run the numbers: if it takes me three months to finish a book, meaning I’m putting in roughly 624 hours of work (3 months x 26 days x 8 hours) in that period to complete a 90k novel, that’s…144.23 words an hour.

    I write a heck of a lot faster than 144 words an hour. That time investment includes rewriting, revising, rethinking, outlining and composing — way more time doing all those things than simply cranking out a rough draft and calling it a day. The idea that I (or anyone who works like I do) am “fast” because I sit down and churn out a story as quickly as I think it up is beyond insulting and pretty embarrassingly ignorant.

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