Don’t Hate Me Because I Write Fast

Fast

 

By Larry Kahaner

I write fast.

I write fast because that’s just how I learned to write, lo those many years ago, when I was a newspaper reporter. You wrote fast because the job demanded it. You had your notes in front of you, the clock was ticking, editors were waiting for copy, and you hit the keys and didn’t pick your head up until the story was done.

You read it over quickly, made your changes, made sure you didn’t say something dumb or wrong, and handed it in. You didn’t use fancy words or clever turns if it meant that you slowed down the process. If you weren’t sure of something you either left it out or used some weasel words to make it accurate and beyond the reach of libel lawyers. The key was to do the best you could in the time you had. I write fast. What of it?

It was the finest training for any writer, and I’m grateful to have had that experience.

Even now, when I don’t have to write fast, I still do.

There are benefits. For one thing, you get done with your work sooner. Who doesn’t want that?

Second, there’s no time for self-censorship which is the bane of many writers. Sure, you make mistakes, don’t use exactly the word you want but you can fix it later in the editing process, which is a slower and more thoughtful activity.

I have a buddy who’s working on a thriller and he stopped in mid-sentence and asked me about which firearm his hero should be using in a specific situation. (I’m the author of a book about the AK-47 , so I know some stuff about guns.) Anyway, I gave him the answer off the top of my head but then told him that it didn’t matter right now. I told him to just write the word “rifle” and fix it later. By stopping to think about the perfect rifle, he not only lost his train of narrative thought, but slowed his writing momentum. Writing is physical exercise, like walking or running, and when you stop, it’s sometimes difficult to get moving again.

Third, you don’t suffer writer’s block. How can you if you never stop moving?  As I’ve said many times before, there’s really no such thing as writer’s block even though some writers insist on believing that it exists.

Over the years, people have asked me how long it takes to write a particular story, article or book. When I answer, I often have to endure the usual comments about how can I write well if I do it so fast. If I’m even inclined to answer, which sometimes I’m not, I point to other writers who’ve written quickly. (Thanks to Kristen Lamb’s blog for this list.)

To wit:

  • William Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying in six weeks.
  • Ernest Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises in six weeks.
  • After being mocked by a fellow writer that writing so fast created junk, John D. MacDonald wrote The Executioners in a month. Simon & Schuster published it in hardback. It was also serialized in a magazine, selected by a book club, and turned into the movie Cape Fear 
  • Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in nine days on a rented typewriter.
  • Isaac Asimov was the author/editor of over 700 books during the course of his career.
  • Stephen King writes 1,500 words a day every day of the year except his birthday. He’s published over fifty novels, and I don’t even know how many short stories and novellas. Let’s just say he’s written a LOT. Could he have done this writing a book every three years? Every five?

The truth is that just because you write quickly does not indicate that your writing is either good or bad, which brings me to National Novel Writing Month. [ ] For those of you unfamiliar with it, every November, participants aim to write 50,000 words during the month. NaNoWriMo, as it’s called, is voluntary and you can keep track on line. If you accomplish the goal, you receive bragging rights and some words that you can rewrite at a more measured pace.

One of the main objectives of this exercise is to keep would-be writers as well as experienced authors from slogging along in misery whilst trying to write their novels. By moving so quickly, you don’t have time for self-flagellation, malingering or complaining about how difficult writing can be (boo-hoo).

Does NaNoWriMo produce some solid books? Yes, it does. Some great books. It also produces some awful crap, because speed has nothing to do with quality.

I’m not ashamed of being a fast writer. Still, this is one of those times that I’m not going to tell you how long it took me to write this blog post. Just reread the author list above, okay?

 

 

 

Guest post contributed by Larry Kahaner. Larry is the author of more than 15 non-fiction books and has just completed a thriller. Check out his blog at The Non-Fiction Novelist. Shameless plug: To read an excerpt from my Kindle Scout book “USA, Inc.” click here. If it is nominated, you get a free e-book and his appreciation.


Intent to HoldIntent to Hold

Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Nick Ryan answers a call from his estranged wife in Mexico to help find her kidnapped brother. When he and his partner Meredith Ryan arrive, they find the crime is not as simple as they were told.

Betrayed and caught by the police, they are expelled from Mexico. Returning to Puerto Vallarta by boat at night, Nick and Meredith battle nature, Federales, crime cartels and even Nick’s own family to rescue his brother-in-law.

To complicate their mission, Nick must face the end of his marriage while Meredith hasn t yet put her own nightmares to rest. Thonie Hevron’s 35-year career in law enforcement fueled this action-packed story.


 

 

 

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15 thoughts on “Don’t Hate Me Because I Write Fast”

  1. Love the bit about the ‘gun’, I recognise that as a ‘procrastination’moment in my own writing, but I realise that’s exactly the kind of detail I couldn’t care less about as a reader of other works, and obviously if it does matter, the editing process is a much better time to worry about it. Now I just need to remember the advice when I’ve next got writers block…

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  2. I’m one of these. I’m sure your speed tops mine but I did get 10k written on a novella in a single day. First drafts to me are the fun times, not time to get caught up in all the nonsense of wearing grumpy writer face while struggling to find the perfect word. Nice article 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. An excellent post. If a writer has all the words to say and the heart that wants to say them, that’s the best writing of all. You gave great examples with authors. Yes, get those thoughts down on paper and go back for edits later. -Jennie-

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  4. I’ve done NaNoWriMo several times it has been very useful. I tend to write fairly fast but it’s each to their own. You write in the best way that suits you. Not what the majority deem to be the best way. Great article.

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  5. Love this article! I just vent my thoughts when I blog, and I really feel what I am writing. But when I decided to start publishing it for the world, I began to think about the words I am using and the sentence structure in order to ensure that it was well-written. But it became slightly mechanical. So glad to hear the pros of writing fast and maintaining the momentum.

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