East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Marathon or 100 meters?


The whole point, of course, is not to suck.
No, OK, let’s me get this from the start.
I was discussing with a friend, 36 hours back, whether what I am doing with my 42000 words in 7 days challenge is like running a marathon or running the 100 meters.
In other words, is it a matter of endurance or is it a matter of speed?
From what I saw so far, it is both and none of them at the same time.
Last night, I’ve been able to write 2800 words in two hours – my standard “cruising speed” when writing being roughly 1000 words per hour, this means 40% more than my usual.
On the other hand, what’s allowing me to go on is not speed, is the need to reach the current target.
It’s a matter of staying focused, and keep writing.

But will it be any good at the end?

That’s something they asked me – because there is this strange idea, that speed and quantity are inversely proportional to quality.
And indeed, there were people that made the automatic assumption

It’s written fast, it will suck

You should go at it slowly, and write as little as possible – that’s the general wisdom.
We already discussed that, but it keeps popping up.
And it is an alibi.

ray-bradbury-writing-quoteSir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote A Study in Scarlet in three weeks, in 1886.
Feodor’s Dostoyevsky wrote The Gambler in 26 days.
A Clockwork Orange was written by Anthony Burgess in three weeks and “only for the money”.
Mickey Spillane wrote I, the Jury in nine days.
Robert Heinlein wrote Glory Road in seventeen days.
Robert Louis Stevenson wrote The Strange Case of Dr Jeckyl and Mr Hyde in six days.
George MacDonald Fraser said it took him to write The General Danced at Dawn as much as it took to read it.

This doesn’t mean you’ll ever be as good as MacDonald Fraser, or Spillane, or Heinlein.
It only means it can be done, and books should not be judged by their writing time.

And then there were the old pulpsters – Lester Dent, Walter B. Gibson, Norvell Page, and all that strange generation, that churned out millions of words per years, because they were paid 1 cent a word, and it was hard making a living.

The point, as I said, is not to suck.

In general, and from what I am seeing, the main purpose of these extensive experiments, like the 42000 words in one week, is to learn the hard way that it can be done. You can write 5000 good words in four hours, you can write 9000 words in one night and close the story. The story is in your head and you can put it on the page at the same speed at which you can type.
And this is an essential skill, it’s an important thing to know, if you are writing to a deadline, or to pay some bills.
It means you learn to keep going even when your first impulse would be to take a break and let it rest until tomorrow.
So, onward we go – and tonight, seven-thousand non-sucky words it will be.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “Marathon or 100 meters?

  1. I never judge a story by how quickly it was written, only by how long it stays with me after I have read it.


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