How Fast Is Too Fast? And How Slow Is Too Slow?

How Fast Is Too Fast? And How Slow Is Too Slow?

Do you crank out copy at a fast and furious rate? Or are you “the slow one,” the writer who labors over every word, phrase, or even punctuation mark?

Or, even more weirdly, are you one of those writers who strikes a happy medium between racing and plodding?

I must admit, I’m a bit of both, though I’d never say I strike any kind of happy medium. In short, it all depends on the project.

 

Labors of Commerce, Labors of Love

In my freelance service, I’m sometimes called upon to bill per project, whereas other times I’m called upon to bill hourly. Obviously, the slower I work, the lower my average hourly rate will be for any given project.

Today I wrote an article in a little under three hours. To round off, let’s call it 1,400 words in about three hours, or an average of around 465 words per hour.

By contrast, I used to spend weeks polishing a 1,400-word article in my old full-time job. In fact, some of them took somewhere around ten hours all told, if I recall correctly. When your workload is limited by what’s assigned to you, you sometimes have the luxury of laboring over each project.

Contrast that even more with my fiction. I’ll admit, I labor over novels more than anything else—in part because I don’t have the luxury of working on them full-time, but mainly because I want them to be as good as they possibly can. 

Checking the editing time on my current Work-In-Progress, Jihad Insurance, I see I’ve spent about 40 hours on it. And that’s just the time measured by MS-Word, which doesn’t include the time I’ve spent staring at something, much less any of my research time. 

At its current word count of 12K, that means a rate of around 300 words per hour—much faster than I’d ever expected it to be, but not exactly cranking it out, either. But that number will inevitably slow, as I can see by checking the Advanced Reader Copy of my last novel, Whizzers.

 

Is One Better than the Other?

I’m torn on the issue of whether it’s better to write fast, slow, or somewhere in between. While I know many of my fellow writers prefer not to edit at all while in the composition phase, I’m the opposite: I rewrite and edit as I go, and when I’m finished with a draft, my final editing process from A through Z isn’t difficult at all. If I did it any other way, my A through Z edit would be a nightmare of an emotional rollercoaster.

Writing fast doesn’t always produce bad content, and going slowly doesn’t always produce genius-level results. When I’m in a zone, I can write my best stuff fairly quickly, though not at a madman’s pace. When I’m struggling to create something, I have to slow down.

What do you think? Is slow better? Fast? Neither? Or, like me, do you think it depends almost entirely on the project, as well as what kind of shape you’re in when you work on it? Let me know in the comments below.

genre

Have You Ever Written In A New Genre?

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How Do You Sell A Book in the Digital Age? Market, Market, Market

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Literary Excellence and Why Writers Need to Be Readers

Literary Excellence and Why Writers Need to Be Readers

Back when I first launched my company, I often used the phrase literary excellence as part of my branding. The idea was that Sahno Publishing evolved out of the notion that literary excellence is more important than a financial formula.

The company entered the publishing world with the guiding principle that books should always find an audience, especially if written well.

Naturally, I hope readers think of my own novels that way, but where does it all come from? For my fellow writers, I think the answer is obvious: you have to read widely before you can write well.

It’s been said by many writers for many years. Emerson wrote, “If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” And when it comes to what writers themselves say, there’s no shortage of great ones exhorting their readers to read even more.

“The more you read, the more you will write. The better the stuff you read, the better the stuff you will write.” – Annie Dillard

“You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so… If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” – Stephen King

“By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well.” – Kurt Vonnegut

 

Great Writers Are Great Readers

So what does all that have to do with me or this blog?

Well, I think it’s important for all my fellow writers to get the message any way they can. I love to read, and I love to read the classics. As an undergrad, I was required to take three hours of grad-level literature classes. I took eighteen. At one point, I had to read a Shakespeare play and two major classic novels every week for an entire semester.

In grad school, I continued that kind of pace. I took a seminar in Dickens, which required reading a novel a week, at the same time I had two other grad level classes.

I’m not saying it’s necessary that every writer obtain a formal education in literature; it’s not even necessarily important that they read every great book in the canon in order to create their own great books. But it can’t hurt, and can only help.

After grad school, I certainly didn’t think I was anywhere near finished. I realized that even my Master’s in English hadn’t filled some gaps in my reading experience, particularly continental fiction. So I delved into Balzac, Camus, Mann, Umberto Eco, and many others. Lately I’ve been reading some of the Dreiser novels I didn’t get to in college.

This is the writer’s life. It’s the life of a reader. It means reading widely, reading every great writer you can, until you have absorbed them all and developed your own voice. You won’t be imitating any of them, but some will have influenced you. And that’s all to the good.

slow

How Fast Is Too Fast? And How Slow Is Too Slow?

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Ready to Launch Into 2019?

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How Do You Write About Sex—Seriously, Irreverently, or Not At All?

How Do You Write About Sex—Seriously, Irreverently, or Not At All?

“Writing about sex is like engaging in sex: it’s hard. Or, it should be.”

—Sean Murphy

 

Today I want to talk about fictional scenes where characters either discuss sex or engage in sexual activity.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit, because I’m working on a novel about a Hollywood director who decides to direct a “mainstream” porno…and release it to theaters worldwide.

It’s been a while since I wrote a scene where the characters talk about sex, and even longer since I wrote an actual sex scene. Like many writers, I took that scene seriously: it was the consummation of the romantic relationship between the main character and his love interest, and the treatment was as erotic as I could make it.

No one ever complained about the scene, but no one praised it, either. I guess that means I did all right.

 

Erotic vs. Comic

One of the greatest difficulties writers face is whether or not to treat sexual discussions or activities with reverence. The sex scene I mention above was sheer reverence, yet that’s not always how people think or talk about sex—especially men.

In my third novel, Miles of Files, some of the characters discuss sex in terms that might not please a romantic reader. I’ve learned that Google Assistant filters out profanity, and its algorithms may lead to skipping over sites that include profanity. So while I don’t censor my characters in the books themselves, I’ll screen out the naughty words here.

Here’s a look at Mac Flambet from Miles of Files:

 

Someone had recently asked how old his kids were and, without thinking, he’d replied, “About three and a half marriages.” And that was true, though since he hadn’t found number five yet, he still hadn’t gotten completely over ex-wife number four. He’d told the psychiatrist as much the previous Friday.

“I still think about f**king her sometimes,” he’d said thoughtfully, his eyes fixed on some distant unseeable point beyond the St. Petersburg skyline. “Anybody would think about f**king her.”

 

Sex vs. Love

You like the concerts and studios

And all the money, honey, that I make, but…

Do you love me?

—Kiss, “Do You Love Me?”

 

With that in mind, here’s a sneak peek at Hollywood director J. Edgar Schnatz talking about the porno project with his girlfriend Maura.

Maura arched an eyebrow. “What about all these b*tches on the set? You’re going to try to get the hottest porn girls out there. Won’t you be tempted?”

He shook his head again. “Pros never want to do it on their own time, babe. But no, I’m going to look for straight film actors for the cast.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yep. People who f**k for a living are too jaded. Bunch of dead-eyed whores. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it wouldn’t work for this movie. Besides, a porn addict might recognize one of his favorites and then be unable to suspend his disbelief.”

Now it was Maura’s turn to shake her head, more in disbelief than anything else. “I don’t know how anyone can have sex without at least caring about the other person. Sex and love belong together.”

He smirked. “Nah. You can have sex without love, love without sex, or sex and love together. Shi**y romantic comedies and love songs led people to believe you have to have love to have sex, babe, but it’s all bullsh*t. All three combinations are possible, and they’re as common as dirt.”

“Well, I still think sex with love is the best.”

“Oh, no doubt.” He pulled her close, then slapped her bottom. “I’d never argue that point.”

 

As that excerpt shows, I’ve chosen to go with irreverent for this book, especially considering the subject matter. It’s a comic novel.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next week!

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