Yesterday, in the last chapter of the book I did about writing a novel in five days while traveling, I made a comment near the end that I found the exercise fun to be able to (just for a few days) feel like I belonged in the world of the pulp writers. … Yet even with things being easier, it is unusual for a writer in 2017 to write a novel in five days. … So why do writers in this modern world not just write novels every week, week-after-week? … I knew the answer. Writer’s belief systems. Modern writers don’t believe they can. That belief has been trained out.
Good heavens above, man.
To write a 350 pp novel in five days, you must write something on the order of 70 pp a day. That’s close to nine pages per hour, provided you write for eight hours a day; or nearly six pages per hour if you assume you’re writing for twelve hours per day.
You know why people don’t do this?
a) It’s hard to pour that many hours per day into writing pages, even if your writing pace is naturally fast. Perfectly normal non-lazy people will burn out if they try to do this.
b) Many writers, including (I assume) many writers with a naturally fast writing pace, have other priorities besides page production per hour.
c) It’s not necessary for writers today to write this fast in order to build a successful career. And if it’s not necessary, why suffer trying to do it?
If you’re a naturally fast writer, go you. If you actually enjoy zapping through seventy pages a day, that’s great, go right ahead.
But don’t go around implying that anybody could hit this pace if they weren’t a slacker. You may have noticed that people are not interchangeable widgets. Individual variation in personality and in life circumstances means that people will naturally write at different speeds. Personally, I admire parents with young kids for managing to write at all, never mind six pages an hour for twelve hours per day.
Books are individual creations,too. As a rule, I would imagine that authors writing dense, description-heavy, literary-style prose are going to be slower per page than those writing lots of unadorned dialogue. Surely no one would expect that, say, Jo Walton’s The Just City would naturally be as fast to write as the stripped-down dialogue of a hard-boiled detective novel? Because I doubt it. Encouraging everyone to write in a pulp style in order to achieve pulp speeds — to the extent there ever was such a thing as “pulp speed” — does not strike me as a useful notion.
But hey, I’m sure it’s fun to write a novel in five days, if that’s your thing.
4 thoughts on “Possibly there’s another answer to this question”
Sounds like a good way to bring on an attack of the Fanthorpes.
(Lionel Fanthorpe, who wrote pretty much the entire SFF output of Badger Books in the 1950s and 60s, at an average of a book every 12 days; brought padding to a fine art. https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/2004/cur0410.htm)
I’m not sure who Smith is contrasting “modern writers” against- it was never the norm to write a book a week! Sure, there probably were a few poor souls at any time writing pulp with plots-by-numbers for publishers who were happy to put them out unedited, but the majority, and anyone writing longer books or more complicated ones? Nah.
Jen, yes, exactly.
I heard that Jekyll and Hyde was written in less than a week, but I was under the impression that that was due to a rare and uncontrollable burst of inspiration. Stevenson wasn’t writing at that pace on a regular basis.
To be honest, I wouldn’t allow myself to write at that pace even if inspiration did strike. It’s just not healthy, and unhealthy writers do not produce good writing.
Most “pulp” books have lived up to their name and been pulped. With good reason.