Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wanted - Fast Writers

I'm not going to take too much time on this one because I'm knee-deep in the middle of some projects...

Editors and agents want fast writers.

Here's the deal. Although editors may only want to produce one book of yours a year, they still would love to see things coming in fast. This means that you always have projects at various stages on their desks. Something in proposal, something you are writing, something that is in editing and something that is is production.

They are also eager to see how fast you can turn something around when revisions come in. In many cases, they will ask you how long it will take you. In reality, they have a deadline in their head and they dang well expect you to meet it. No excuses, no complaints.

I will say that this is one of the reasons I have a turn around time that is so fast for a request. If you submit to me, you have no more than 1 month to get the project to me. It is amazing how many people can't meet that deadline. I have to say that tells me a lot about that person as a writer.

One of my writers is currently writing for two houses. Juggling the deadlines for something like that can be tough. But, she does it. How? She works with a schedule and deadlines. After talking to her editors, she was able to lay out a year long writing schedule that will produce 6-8 books for two houses.

So, think about your production speed. Do you have what it takes? Do you have the time availability to produce like that? Are you ready to commit to that?



  1. Dear Scott,
    I am still laughing about the "tombstones on the Oregon Trail" comment. Whatever would you have to say to those hopefull students siging up for Creative Writing degree programs? I hope they want to teach the same stuff to other hopeful souls, because it's difficult to see what else could be done with such a degree.
    My own excellent university received 400 applications for the six places in the program this year.
    About speed writing. I understand that editors want reams of typed pages like children want to live on cake and ice cream, but can anyone say this demand produces anything but poor quality writing? Most of this stuff reads as if it was rattled off into a tape recorder in the car on the way to the Pottery Barn. Has anyone noticed that the writers we admire, the writers that are taught in school, are not the ones that slammed together whatever came to mind between aerobics class and loading the dishwasher? Is one book a year really out of the question these days?What is considered the acceptable minimum?
    Just a thought from the Oregon traIL. keep firing away.
    Linda Reed Gardner

  2. Does thinking about your next novel count for anything? I've heard some writers can think about their works for a long time, then sit down one day and whip them out in fairly short order.

    Have you worked with writers who are successful this way?

  3. I have projects in various stages on my hard drive. I write fast in spurts. My biggest hinderance beside working a full time job, taking care of my mother, my own health issues and trying not to go under under all of life's responsibilities is procrastination.

    I have always admired fast writers. And I admire women and men who can write around children and families. I just haven't found the balance yet. I have completed 2 novels that didn't go anywhere but got nice rejections and various proposals/projects. Though I must say, I write faster under a deadline.

  4. When I am referring to "fast writers" I really am speaking about the production speed. Sure, you can spend time thinking about your writing, but hopefully, while that is going on, you have works at a couple of other stages.

    I am afraid to say it, but too often writers just are not successful because they wait until their current WIP is finished, before they do anything with the next book. This includes, brainstorming, outlining and what not. You just can not do that.

    Two of my current authors just received news from their editors about a new writing project. In one of the cases, the writer has to finish the project by August 1. Remember though, this author is already working on another project. To accomplish this, it is important to set the time aside and really balance the schedule.

    Now, does this writer have other things in her life? Yep. 3-kids, 2 on a competitive swim team, and this summer is teaching a full time load at the college.

  5. I have to say, that in some cases, writing professionally just isn't right for all people. Sometimes it is simply a matter of timing.

    For the author working, taking care of a mother and with health issues, I would say to make that a priority. Although writing professionally might be a goal for your, this just doesn't sound like the time to do that.

    Do you give up on the writing? NO! Keep writing, even if it is playing around with a lot of different WIP's. Just don't push for the professional thing yet.

  6. Hi there. I enjoy reading your blog and I think the advice is really, really informative.

    I do have a question, though.
    I understand that a lot of the comments you make are for "professional writers", but of the books that are published, how many of them are actually by "professional writers?"

    Let's say I write one really good book. I ship it to an agent, he likes it, and he shops it around. A publisher takes an interest and says "We'd like to buy this book, and contract for three more in the next three years." And I say, "Sorry, I'm not a professional writer. I have other commitments, I have a full time job, and I just wanted to write the best book I could. I can't commit to that."

    Is my deal dead? Can I never sell books one at a time?

    I'm just wondering, because so many books, especially in the "main stream", seem like just one-time deals...but I'm just a consumer, so I don't know how it actually works.

  7. Jim,

    Good question.
    There are certainly cases when an author will just produce one book. The thing to remember is that the book has to be REALLY good and unique. It has to be worth the effort for an editor to want to devote time to that single book.

    In most cases, I would see this more for non-fiction books than with fiction. Fiction writers tend to realize that after building a readership, their sales will increase.