The Need for Speed

There seems to be more buzz than usual among genre writers seeking ways to increase their output. It used to be that producing one book a year was considered normal, a happy balance between flooding the market and allowing your readers to forget your name. Then that got pushed to two books a year. And then writers started juggling multiple series, sometimes in different sub-genres, and output began increasing exponentially, with expectations keeping pace.

For those doing the math, it actually seems pretty reasonable. A writer who churns out 1,000 words a day, five days a week, over a fifty-week period, will have 250,000 shiny new words at the end of the year, and that’s assuming they take weekends off and have a couple weeks of vacation. That’s about two-and-a-half to three novels. Or two novels and a bunch of short stories. Not a bad output.

Except writers know it’s not that simple. There’s more to writing a good book than simply writing the book. There’s rewriting and editing. Galley pages to review. You need to take some time to actually promote the book — updating websites, running contests, heading out for blog tours and book signings and the occasional conference. These are necessary distractions that can affect a writer’s daily output. And let’s not forget those other pesky things, like day jobs and kids and visiting in-laws.

So it’s perfectly understandable that writers are searching for ways to write faster. Whether that means hitting the daily word count in less time or simply producing more words per day, the goals are the same: Write more, better, and with less need for huge deletions. Tips for achieving this goal focus primarily on limiting distractions, such as phone and internet, and knowing where you want to go with the story before you sit down to write each day — both logical approaches that require no special tools or magic tricks. Fantasy writer Rachel Aaron talks about her own system over at her blog, and young adult writer Holly Black has challenged a group of writers to experiment based on Aaron’s ideas.

But why this need for speed? Are readers really so impatient that they can’t wait a little longer for an author’s next book? Is it because there are so many trilogies or quartets or open-ended series that we hear a greater clamor to find out where the story is taking us? Are the writers themselves pushing the race to publish — hoping that constant accessibility for readers will translate to popularity and more sales? Or are they simply trying to keep up with their flow of ideas?

I’m curious what you all think, both as readers and as writers. Do you wish your favorite authors would write more? Faster? Would you still love them as much if you needed to wait a year for their next work? And for the writers, do you feel pressure to hurry up and finish your latest project? Do you look for ways to increase your output and maybe squeeze in another book per year? Is this trend just in the genre community, or are more mainstream and literary writers getting pushed to write more? Is this all a reflection of our general impatience as human beings — the same rush that makes us flip channels during commercials when we watch TV — or is it something else?