Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How Fast Authors Write and the Quality of Their Books

In almost twenty years, I have never come across two writers who have the same writing patterns. Some take months to write one sentence, others take seconds. Some take years to write one novel, others take weeks. I even know one author with several published novels at Alyson Books who writes a full length novel over the course of a weekend. And he's an excellent author!

Of course how fast you write also depends on life circumstances. Most writers carry full time jobs and have families. This makes it hard to write fast. Until the past four years, I owned two businesses and wrote part time. And I wasn't submitting nearly as many manuscripts as I am these days. But I always wrote fast. Even with the two businesses, I always set goals to make sure I was in at least ten anthologies a year. Editors appreciated this and they knew they could trust me.

Another factor that comes into play is how publishing has changed so much. Ten years ago the options were limited for all writers, especially for lgbt writers. Basically, the only option was to submit short stories for anthologies. The calls were posted early with six month deadlines...or longer. I can write a short story in a week, or less, which left writers like me very frustrated. And then once the short stories were submitted it took another year to get the anthologies published.

In "old" publishing, the process has always been long. The old joke has always been that publishing is the slowest industry in the world. In some cases it still is. I've been watching one young author who recently released a middle grade fiction book and it took well over a year to get that baby out on the book shelves. In the summers, "old" publishing basically shut down and went to Maine. This affected everyone, including writers like me who couldn't understand whether it was about a lack of work ethic or just plain inefficiency within the publishing industry. It was the same way when it came to holidays. "Old" publishing did not, and in some cases still does not, know the definition of a fast turnover. (Which is probably why many are scrambling right now.)

Since 2006, my summers have never been busier. The same goes for holidays. I marvel at friends who are still stuck in the "old" publishing mode and claim they have nothing to do in August. At this point, it's unfathomable to me. I'd have to open another business just to stay sane. I like work. I thrive on fast deadlines. And I've never been one to sit by the side of a pool and lounge doing nothing.

The reason I'm posting all this is because I ran across another dumb blog post yesterday, where the blogger suggested that authors who produce novels too fast may or may not be producing quality fiction. This is debatable, of course, and it would be hard to challenge a comment like this. There will always be some know-it-all who says something stupid like this and I've come to accept certain realities when it comes to bloggers.

But I also know this mind-set comes from a lack of experience and the blogger knows very little about the actual publishing experience. Unfortunately, her readers think she/he knows it all. But when you have the background, it's not hard to spot a fake. The ironic part here is that I've always questioned this blogger's ability to review and blog about the tons of books they discuss in the course of a week. We're talking four and five book reviews and blog posts a day, and supposedly the blogger has a demanding full time career. If anything, I find this questionable. And you'd think the blogger would know it's possible to produce quality work in a short amount of time just based on their own blogging and reading experience.

But smart bloggers like her/him also know how to spark debate and gain attention, which I have a feeling is the reason why this blogger makes these dumb comments. The bottom line here is this: all writers work at a different pace. And this has nothing to do with the quality of their work. If you really want to see the definition of ugly, force a slow writer to work at a faster pace. It won't be pretty. And the same goes for faster writers. If they had to contemplate the same sentence for more than a few minutes, they'd lose their minds.

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