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Old 03-10-2009, 10:58 PM   #1
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Write Fast, Write Slow?

I was reading over the Max Brand biography the other day and again I was struck by how much he produced. According to the bio he would pump out 50 pages in an afternoon (that's around 50 x 250 words on a mechanical typewriter, or 12,500 words) and the amazing fact about this is not the speed. No. A lot of this ouput went straight into print! No editing, no correction, from his fingers directly into publication.

So, thinking about this, what's the most you've ever written in a day? What's your acceptable level of output on any writing session, or day? When I'm blind writing I can get around 20,000 words, but all of them have to be edited (I'm no Max Brand). Without blind writing, I steady out at around 2,000 good words.
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Old 03-12-2009, 04:02 PM   #2
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When I was writing my novel I averaged around 16 pages a day. On a good day I would pump out around 20.

When I write short fiction I usually keep at it until the first draft is done, so somewhere between 12 and 20 pages.

Of course, it always needs heavy editing. I usually do between three and five rewrites (and no that doesn't mean four smartass) before I feel I've gotten the story down. Of course my wife will always find at least one typo in my "final" version.
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Old 03-12-2009, 06:19 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Moejoe View Post
I was reading over the Max Brand biography the other day and again I was struck by how much he produced. According to the bio he would pump out 50 pages in an afternoon (that's around 50 x 250 words on a mechanical typewriter, or 12,500 words) and the amazing fact about this is not the speed. No. A lot of this ouput went straight into print! No editing, no correction, from his fingers directly into publication.

So, thinking about this, what's the most you've ever written in a day? What's your acceptable level of output on any writing session, or day? When I'm blind writing I can get around 20,000 words, but all of them have to be edited (I'm no Max Brand). Without blind writing, I steady out at around 2,000 good words.
I'm not a writer. Not even close. I write blog posts and essays for school, and that's about it. However, the essay I just submitted for class got a perfect score from a professor who does not give perfect scores, and a ton of compliments. The sad thing is, I accidentally submitted the rough draft! The essay took me all of about half an hour to write.
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Old 03-12-2009, 06:29 PM   #4
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I'm not a writer. Not even close. I write blog posts and essays for school, and that's about it. However, the essay I just submitted for class got a perfect score from a professor who does not give perfect scores, and a ton of compliments. The sad thing is, I accidentally submitted the rough draft! The essay took me all of about half an hour to write.

That's an interesting point you make. How do we know our writing is any good? Sometimes I'm writing and it feels right and looks right, but later I hate it. Sometimes I'm writing and it feels awful, and later on it looks great (to me). We can never be sure of other people's reactions. I remember writing my Master's Thesis (Poetics) over a weekend. Twenty-five thousand words and next to no editing, I got a 76 for it, which put me in place to receive a 1st in the Degree (counting in other work).
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Old 03-12-2009, 10:56 PM   #5
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The "next to no editing" part is what ends up happening to me. I'm excellent at spelling, and no slouch at punctuation and grammar, (in formal writing, don't start pointing out my mistakes in forum posts), so I do very little editing, which used to drive my teachers in high school absolutely crazy.
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Old 03-14-2009, 09:01 PM   #6
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I like to miss commas every now and then. My spelling has gotten a lot worse as I got older. I used to be able to spell just about anything, not so much anymore - and I find myself spell checking even simple words I used to know so so well. Oh well. I blame TV.

As for writing, I think on a good day I was able to get about 35 pages, double spaced. I think now I can type out maybe a good 3 to 5. But that's not an 8 to 12 hour writing shift. That's in somewhere between 1 - 4 hours. Work writing I can pump out in about 20 minutes. The more complicated stuff can take an hour...and that's usually about 1 or 2 pages.
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Old 03-14-2009, 10:04 PM   #7
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Lester Dent often cranked out 60-70 K words (final copy) a month. Pulp writers were known for their output, whether Brand or Dent or Hubbard. When that's how you eat, and the pay is low, you tend to work hard at it, resulting in large outputs.

Amateurs like myself, with no professional aspirations, crank out much less. My 273rd rate posts take 1-3 hours per post. But when it doesn't flow, I don't post. It'd be a lot different if I were eating on my results....
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Old 03-14-2009, 10:09 PM   #8
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Lester Dent often cranked out 60-70 K words (final copy) a month. Pulp writers were known for their output, whether Brand or Dent or Hubbard. When that's how you eat, and the pay is low, you tend to work hard at it, resulting in large outputs.

Amateurs like myself, with no professional aspirations, crank out much less. My 273rd rate posts take 1-3 hours per post. But when it doesn't flow, I don't post. It'd be a lot different if I were eating on my results....
Lester Dent is a personal favourite of mine, not particurly for his fiction, but for the Lester Dent Pulp Fiction Master Plot. He broke down stories in such a simplistic fashion and the weird thing is the actual plot fits about almost all of commercial fiction, TV and Movies. Broken into 4 acts, it shows exactly how to go about writing a 'yarn' as he calls it. Warning!!!, you'll probably never read another book, or watch another TV or Movie and not see this plot as applicable after you've read it.
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Old 03-18-2009, 12:39 AM   #9
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I maxed out at 33 pages in a single day, but it wasn't very good.

That's amazing about Max Brand. I've never read anything by him. Impressive.
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Old 03-18-2009, 04:08 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Moejoe View Post
Lester Dent is a personal favourite of mine, not particurly for his fiction, but for the Lester Dent Pulp Fiction Master Plot. He broke down stories in such a simplistic fashion and the weird thing is the actual plot fits about almost all of commercial fiction, TV and Movies. Broken into 4 acts, it shows exactly how to go about writing a 'yarn' as he calls it. Warning!!!, you'll probably never read another book, or watch another TV or Movie and not see this plot as applicable after you've read it.
The earliest television shows being necessarily encapsulated in short bursts of time, it was necessary to devise a standard formula for episodic TV writing. Dent's formula worked as well as anything else (better than most) to do exactly what TV wanted from the beginning: To draw you in early, keep you dangling at each cliffhanger, and deliver a meaty climax at the end. How else to sell that detergent?

Keep in mind that there is plenty of TV that never used this formula... the soap opera, for example. Many sitcoms used a derivation of it (substitute "funny" or "embarrassing" for "danger"), though most of them use vaudevillian formulas of setup-punchline with no appreciable plot. And "message" or "relevant" programs (much of it sci-fi) often used a twist of it, though it was often just to demonstrate that there isn't always a happy ending.

Oh: I generally do about 10 pages a day, given a free schedule (which I rarely have, anyway).

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Old 03-18-2009, 09:46 PM   #11
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I think it's kind of difficult to go by number of pages with the line spacing and font and all. I only do about 500-3000 words in a sitting, but then I comb through that later and pepper in some pretty words.

But I have to be in the right mood before I start. This sounds ridiculous, but most of the time I lie down as if I am going to take a nap, and I imagine a setting...then put my characters in there and watch what happens when I get to that dreamy state before sleep. When something strikes me, I get up and see if I can fit it in the story.
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Old 03-23-2009, 07:37 PM   #12
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Working with something already in my head, about 2k words is typical before I start winding down and have to go walk around, empty the dog, remind my wife I'm alive, and see if another chunk is ready to be typed. One of the joys of writing as a hobby is the lack of deadlines

A fair amount of the time, I know a scene or some characters are ready to be written and I sit down with the situation in my head and let the characters just roll, those run about 3-5k average, though they've been known to go till my fingers just can't type anymore (pushing 25k words). Those are always the most enjoyable and interesting for me (both in terms of story and the writing process itself) because I have no foreknowledge of what will happen and I am essentially reading the story as I type, and I've surprised myself more than a few times as the story goes off in a radically unexpected direction before it goes back to where I know it'll link up with something already in store.
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Old 03-24-2009, 01:52 AM   #13
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I've been writing a long, long time. And I don't think that I have ever concerned myself with output. No, that's not quite right. But my main preoccupation, whether it's a song lyric, poem, blog, letter to the editor, direct marketing package or major book is to tighten and edit and polish.

Until? Until--well, the old saying is "Cut it till it bleeds." And another--also from Madison Avenue, where I used to have my little agency--was "Learn to kill your babies." Horrible. But graphic. I was heartened to discover that Joseph Persico still takes at least ten drafts to get it right. I have no limit: Ten or fifty. I never count.

But, steadily, from the agonies of writer's block to the bliss of easy first drafts, I've gotten better. Which tells me that if you keep writing, things do improve.

I doubt that I will ever count pages with much conviction. Though, I have to admit, when I'm really humming along, and the pages pile up, I allow myself the sin of pride--and a triumphant announcement to my wife.

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Old 03-24-2009, 03:36 AM   #14
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I've been writing a long, long time, and my output has varied greatly over the years. I used to do six pages (about 2,000 very polished words) every day. Now I generally do two pages a day. If I keep at it day in and day out, I produce the book well before my deadline. My editor is always hassling me to write faster, but the muse doesn't cooperate.
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Old 03-25-2009, 10:55 AM   #15
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I've been writing a long, long time, and my output has varied greatly over the years. I used to do six pages (about 2,000 very polished words) every day. Now I generally do two pages a day. If I keep at it day in and day out, I produce the book well before my deadline. My editor is always hassling me to write faster, but the muse doesn't cooperate.
Yes. In the same vein: Less is invariably more. All of this reminds me of the funny line from George in Seinfeld. He was pretending to be an architect and implied that he was the one who created the impressive Guggenheim on Fifth Avenue (am I right?): "Didn't take very long, either." Draw your own conclusions from this. I'll resist.

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