Marking a Writer’s Pace

This past Sunday the New York Times ran an article by Julie Bosman about how certain genre writers used to write a novel every year but are now being asked to buckle down and write as many as two — or at least some short stories to supplement their annual book. It’s called “In E-Reader Age of Writer’s Cramp, a Book a Year is Slacking.”

As you might imagine, I found this hilarious.

Now, I’m not mocking any writer’s work ethic or process. We all write at our own pace, and in the end it’s what’s on the page that matters, not how fast it got there. Besides which, every one of the authors quoted in the piece has likely sold far more novels than I have, so clearly what they’re doing works well for them.

The reporter takes an odd angle at the story, highlighting how hard this pace is for authors to manage. I doubt any of the authors pushed that angle. While writing is challenging and can be difficult, it’s not hard work.

My brother, for instance, works as a carpenter, often outside all winter here in Wisconsin. That’s brutal. I get to sit in a climate-controlled room and make up stories during hours I set. By almost any yardstick, I have it far easier.

There’s a better angle for the article, and it’s buried there in the text. It’s about how the publishers who work with these bestselling authors have finally figured out that readers want more from an author than a single book each year. Writers like James Patterson have known this for years. He uses co-authors to help him come out with around a dozen novels a year, and they all sell well.

Here’s hoping more publishers figure this out soon. It’s one of the reasons I took up my 12 for ’12 challenge this year, to show that it can be done. However, the reason I’m self-publishing the books is that no big publishers would even think about taking on a dozen books from me — or anyone but James Patterson, it seems. Moving writers up to two books a year is a step in the right direction, but they still have a long way to go.

Comments 6

  1. For writers that are capable of producing more, I think that publishers should definitely make use of their productivity. Full-time writers and/or writers that have a fast drafting process should benefit from that increased productivity. I hope that the increase in speed doesn’t bite writers who aren’t as fast or don’t have as much time for drafting.

    Right now, the amount of time I’d have to spend to write two books a year on top of my day job would leave me without any time to live, so I don’t. Hopefully, the chance to sell books with an accelerated release schedule will make it easier for some authors who are close to being able to go part-time at work or full-time writing to take that plunge and succeed.

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      Exactly. It’s just taking the brakes off of those who can go faster. Speed’s not as important as quality, but there’s no reason to artificially limit the speed.

  2. I can see a fair few folk having a chuckle at this one.

    As a hobby I can manage to rattle out two books a year in my spare time the evenings.

    All I can say it is great that we can buy several books a year from the same author now, waiting a year between instalments of a series was never a popular choice for fans and we always hear how the great pulp writers of the 20’s and 30’s knocked out 5 to 6k words of fiction a day on a typewriter of all things.

    I pity these authors who battle to finish one book a year, must a struggle for the poor souls.

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  3. I confess I laughed when I saw this article as well. 2000 words a day is what I picked as a nice gentle pace I could keep up on a regular basis without too much strain despite assorted health issues. I would not describe it as brutal.

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