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Churning out pages...

Cheryl's Musings: Churning out pages...

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


Churning out pages...

One writing problem I hear voiced time and again--from writers at all stages--is the difficulty of writing the maximum number of words in the minimum amount of time possible. How do "those other" writers write so quickly? How do they churn out a book a year? Or two?

Most people seem to think that some writers are just naturally fast. By correlation, then, some writers are just naturally slow. Here's where I jump on my soap box to disagree.

See, I think that all aspects of writing--even aspects like speed and productivity--can be learned. Maybe I won't ever write as rapidly as Robert Heinlein or as beautifully as Libba Bray, but with practice, I can start to close the gap.

Sarah Sullivan talks about this idea in the Through the Tollbooth blog (, with a great story about a quantity versus quality pottery class experiment. One pottery class, divided into two groups, one group graded on quantity of work produced, the other graded on quality. Guess which group learned the most?

November is National Novel Writing Month (, where writers around the world practice the skill of writing quickly. Author Jonathan Stroud delivered an inspiring pep talk on the topic to participating writings. Unfortunately, it's not yet posted on the NaNo site, but here's a taste:

With my Bartimaeus Trilogy I had a big fat fantasy novel to write each year, three years in a row. One novel a year? That's not so hard. Or so I thought. Then I figured out that what with the time taken up with editing and revising my manuscript, and then with printing and distributing it, I actually had about five or six months to get the first draft done...

So I did exactly the same thing you're doing this November, and set myself a strict schedule of pages per week to get the first draft done.... Quality could wait. This wasn't the moment for genteel self-editing. This was the time when the novel had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into existence, and that meant piling up the pages.

So I did it, one page at a time, even when it was like pulling teeth or squeezing blood from a stone. I did it. And you can do it too.

Practice writing quickly, without a care for quality. You'll get better at it. You'll write more. And your writing--like those students' pottery--will improve!

:) Cheryl

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At December 31, 2009 at 10:36 AM , Blogger ProserpinaFC said...

Dear lord, getting out that first draft is the most painful experience I've ever gone through... Hell, I'm still going through it. I'm at 17,000 words for a nice, small, 200 page novel.

Painful. It's like month-long labor for a baby that you know you'll have to sit down at a genetics lab and then correct 80% of its DNA, then put back in your body. Then deliever again!

Then spend 18 years disciplining and teaching it, only for 20 colleges to reject it because 5'7" kids with freckles aren't marketable anymore.

Anyway, it is painful.


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