Friday, August 20, 2010


Lately I’ve been wishing I could write faster. Guess I’m not the only one. My friend Cassandra Pierce, author of HEIRS TO DARKISLE, a wonderful vampire romance with a new twist on the vampire legend, shared her thoughts with me and consented to guest blog today on her experience. Enjoy!

by Cassandra Pierce

A friend of mine, who is usually working on a novel or two of her own, really floored me the other day by sighing wistfully and saying, “I wish I could write as fast as you do.”

I admit I was completely caught off guard. When I do sit down for a serious writing session (usually when a deadline is looming, like now), I spend half the time at my computer castigating myself for my sloth. To some extent, speed is relative. The rough-rough draft of HEIRS TO DARKISLE, consisting of approximately 40,000 words, took 45 days to complete, but the second draft (90,000 words, 15,000 of which I eventually cut) took about 8 months to revise. The initial idea was born as an ebook about eighteen months later.

So I do manage to produce pages…and chapters…and eventually, stories, essays, and books. Like most writers, though, I wish I could complete more pages, more chapters, and more books, and all at a much faster pace. Everyone probably remembers looking down in shame when some snarky English teacher trumpeted the fact that Voltaire penned his classic satire Candide in three days (it’s probably a myth, but then again they didn’t have cable TV or the Net to distract them in the 18th century).

I admit I’ve been tempted by those splashy Web ads that promise “a publishable book in 30 days,” only to dig deeper and discover that they’re not all they’re cracked up to be, mostly because their definitions of “book” and “publish” are not the same as most people’s. I did buy at least three books with that same “30 days” promise in the title (much cheaper and more realistic than the web-based lessons). I’ve also tried novel-writing software, which provides all kinds of spreadsheets and plot wheels and character cards, among other toys, for the aspiring writer to tinker with. Thank goodness for free demos—some of those programs cost hundreds of dollars!

And the result? I had modest success, and plenty of fun, with some of these tools, though I never completed a novel-length manuscript using any of them (much less the next Candide). I don’t write any faster. Even the “first draft in thirty days” book gave me only partial success, since my first draft took me 45 days. In the end, I always go back to what works best for me: a pad of regular blank paper, a word-processing program (just the plain screen, no bells and whistles), and a couple of reference books (Word Menu is a favorite). I did realize one thing, though. In the beginning stages, it’s all about word count.

Most everyone who writes has probably heard about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated). It’s a sort of contest to produce 50,000 words in 30 days (November is the official month, but there’s nothing to stop anyone from doing it privately at any time). What it boils down to is writing 1,667 every day, and doubling that for every day missed. I didn’t sign up for the contest, but I did try to keep that pace on my own for a while. As you can see from my second paragraph, I didn’t quite make it, technically speaking. I got stressed out. But I did produce words, and pages, and drafts. I also conquered my fear of the blank page or screen. Knowing I had to reach a certain word count freed me from caring whether what I wrote was pitch-perfect, something that has always held me back. Revision is a whole different topic, obviously. But generating something to revise in the first place is the key.

All this leads me to believe there really is no magic trick that will boost one’s writing productivity (besides, anyone who discovers one would be crazy to share it with her competition). Maybe, in time, I will learn to whip out a draft that needs minimal revision in a month or less. For now, I’ll just have to keep plugging along at my own pace and suffering the pain that results when the words just won’t come. What I now know is that I don’t need to spend time and money on special (and in some cases overpriced) computer programs or gimmicky, misleading writing e-courses in order to be productive. It’s still all about planning, drafting, and most of all revising. I’ve accepted the fact that I just need to sit at the computer, put on some mood music (New Age or instrumental movie soundtracks work well for me), and pound out whatever I can in however many days I can.

I’m still not totally immune to the promise of a quick fix, however. I bought and loaded voice recognition software on my computer, thinking I could dictate future novels as I play out the scenes in my head. I haven’t really gotten into it yet (too much performance anxiety and too many hilariously misinterpreted words on the screen), but I’m going to keep trying. One thing I know for sure: I’ll have to keep the windows closed when I get to the hot parts of the story. Don’t want to give my neighbors the wrong idea about what’s going on in my bedroom!


Cassandra Pierce’s vampire e-romance, HEIRS TO DARKISLE, is currently available from Siren-Bookstrand:

and from Amazon at:

Readers can also visit her website at and check her out on Facebook!

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Calisa said...

Thanks for sharing your 'tricks of the trade' Cassandra. I use these same tricks and have tried many of the same ones you probably have. I still have plotting issues. I don't do it. I should. I need to. I just can't seem to stay focused long enough to tell the story short form when all I want to do is write it and see the completed end result. A toast to plotters, may I manage to resemble one one day!

Angel said...

Thank you so much for this reminder! I'm finding that it is all about the drafting process, getting those words on the page first. I wish I was a first draft/final draft writer, but I'm not. Guess I'll have to live with it. :) But it is glad to see I'm not alone.


Rachel Lynne said...

LOL! Definitely be careful with that voice!

I was despairing of ever getting a finished manuscript last year but, after many months on the same project I did NanoWrimo and wrote 56k in 30 days. Haven't opened that doc. since but it did teach me enough to write a fairly clean draft in about 6 weeks ... which turned out to be my first published work, so, I say let those fingers fly and consign the internal editor to Hades; you never know what will sprout from an unfettered imagination.

Gale Stanley said...

I did NanoWrimo too and it helped but that internal editor still pops up way too often. I'm working on it tho.

Word Actress said...

I'm hoping to finish my novel Night Surfing during this year's NaNoWriMo. This will be my second (or third) NaNo, and I never meet the word count, I'm much more of a turtle writer - slow and steady! - but it's fun to put yourself into that kind of madness and to know others are too! I also belonged to a 500 Word writing group for a while which really helped me to stay on target and to be accountable to others daily. Whatever it takes, right? I've been trying to do more Guest Blogging this year so it was great to read your peppy, interesting post!

Riley Quinn said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I can write fairly quickly when I put my mind to it but I revise so slow, it makes up for how fast the words go on the page.

I am finding, though, that the more I write and revise, I'm catching some of the things that I revise and fix it right there. I'm hoping this will continue until my rough draft is fairly clean.

Of course, by then I'll probably have new things to revise. LOL

Clark Stone said...

On writing fast, I can dictate faster than I can type. The fastest I have typed anything was 1500 words and hour including mistakes. Using the voice translation software, I managed to get 2500 to 3000 words per hour with mistakes.

Even though the program I have said that I could speak normally, I find that it is much more accurate when I talk like a robot.

NaNoWriMo is a great way to get work put down on paper. In last year's challenge, I set a goal of writing 2500 words per day. I anticipated that I might miss a few days. What I did not anticipate was that attack of appendicitis that his during Thanksgiving Week. Luckily, I had my count up to 49.5K so when I got home, I typed out my last 500 words and won my challenge.

I plan to participate in this year's NaNoWriMo. This time I plan to be a bit different. I will use October to outline my novel.

Now, on using the Voice-to-Text program, I understand your 'performance anxiety.' I find it hard to work using my Dragon NaturallySpeaking with anyone around.

On occasion, I will use it with mom around but since I write Sci Fi, she usually ignores me because she does not like that genre. Mainly, she does not understand what I am talking about.

Gale Stanley said...

I just can't work with anyone around me period. I disappear in my cave and if anyone walks in I freeze like a deer in the headlights.