Nothing to fear but…

You know that cliché in nightmares where you are desperately trying to run — lungs heaving and heart pounding in that cliché way — but you just can’t move a muscle?

(Yeah, no, I don’t have that nightmare either. I have the drowning cliché nightmare, the naked-in-public cliché nightmare, and the “can’t find my classroom and it’s test day” cliché nightmare, but not the stuck-in-molasses cliché nightmare. For the sake of this blog post, though, I’m going to suffer it. Why is it that even my clichés don’t make my writing any easier? Sheesh.)

writer on the markWrite faster, write more

One of my greatest fears in today’s publishing world is that I can’t write fast enough.

Once upon a time — back in 2009 when I was first published — a book every nine months was good enough. Nine months was very gestational and all, which is symbolically satisfying. But in today’s self-publishing world, popular opinion suggests we must produce a new work every six weeks or at least quarterly in order to keep retailer algorithms favorable.

(Slight non sequitor. Some self-publishing writers who smugly crow how they have ditched their New York overlords neglect to mention how they have merely traded in for completely faceless algorithms, but that is a different rant.)

I’ll manage through no fault of my own to hit the quarterly release mark in 2013, but rather than allaying my fears, I find myself even more nervous about 2014. I need to step up my game but I see all the usual stumbling blocks (day job, perfectionism, laziness, etc.) ahead of me, plus some new ones (changes to said day job, a faltering mission statement, etc.).

I need to race ahead of my fears. That seems obvious to the point of ridiculousness. Just as “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” deserves a “Well, duh.” The trick to writing faster is… wait for it… to write faster.

But there are a few things I can probably do to improve my chances of racing ahead:

  • Know what I’m going to write next. Not just the next scene or chapter, but the next book.
  • Make sure I stay on top of my daily word count goals. When I do that, I make progress, but sometimes I let myself slide. You’d think sliding would count as movement, but it doesn’t.
  • Don’t let the fear slow me down. After all, I can be afraid and still keep moving.

Do you have tricks for writing faster? Please share in comments.


About Jessa Slade

Jessa Slade is the author of the Marked Souls urban fantasy romance series (NAL Signet Eclipse), the Steel Born paranormal romance series (Harlequin Nocturne Cravings), and award-winning self-published science fiction romance with Hotter on the Edge. You can find her online at all the usual haunts.

Posted on October 24, 2013, in Auth: Jessa Slade and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. Ah, Jessa, once again you’ve made my brain spin! A new book every six weeks? That’s about how long I take to *really* know the characters and plot the book out. Yikes!


    • I KNOW! It’s terrifying to me too. I’m not sure if I should just hope that “teh rulz” change again… but what if it changes to a book every month?! Egads, NaNoWriMo twelve times a year… There’s some Halloween horror for ya 🙂


  2. I love the post Jessa (and all of the thoughtful comments). I too would love to read the post about algorithms… scary to be sure. My biggest problem is not so much getting the first draft pulled together, but editing, re-editing, re-re-editing to death. I am still in the – it has to be better than my last one – fear cycle. Thankfully I just, finally, finished my major revision of my third book and started the next stage of getting it published. Now, I am deciding whether to resuscitate a half-way completed project just to get something out there, or start a new, big, project. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for the great post.


    • > deciding whether to resuscitate a half-way completed project just to get something
      > out there, or start a new, big, project

      Are you in my head, Deanne?!? I’m in exactly the same place. I have a done story that needs only (shuh, right, ONLY) revising, but I’m drawn to a new project that maybe has more potential. Business-me says go with the known entity. Free-spirit-me says go with the new thing. Whom do I believe?

      I think my best plan is to fall back on what I’m trying to accomplish at this stage of my writing. Sometimes I need to indulge my creative side, but sometimes I need to — ya know — eat 😉 It just so happens I have a third project. It’s new and thus exciting to me but it’s also practical and readily achievable. Win-win.

      I will say though, for me, I tend to default to the practical business side. Maybe that’s because my creative heart is more patient than my empty belly 🙂 Maybe ask yourself, where are you right now?


      • Hmmm, lots to stew on there (and by the way, if I am in your head why am I not getting better ideas and more written like you;>)

        It is great that you had a third option… mine would be to take a bunch of nice long naps, so probably not the best solution for me. Part of my dilemma is timing: the big project is going to take, well, big time (I keep hoping for Hedgebrook), as well as big research (maybe a trip next summer???!!!!!! The small project doesn’t seem as interesting or deep as my last book though, and I hate the idea that people would begin to compare. Arghhhhh… sometimes when I can’t decide I simply go to Starbucks, open my laptop, and see which file my fingers open first. And then sometimes I take a nap. Hopefully tomorrow will be the first, not the second. I’ll let you know. Now, stop thinking about… oh come on, really? Sheesh, I can’t write that… just let me out of your head and get back to work.



  3. The only way I know of writing more and writing faster is too always keep writing on the forefront of my mind. It took me a while, but I now think of myself as a writer who also teaches physics. Before I was a physicist who also wrote and not very productive in the writing department at all. I’m afraid though–very afraid–of what will happen to my day job and my life once I have true publication deadlines. I already feel like I’m giving up a lot for writing, so far it is worth it. What will happen when the sacrifices starts to feel like sacrifices and writing becomes too stressful? That’s a big fear of mine.


    • > What will happen when the sacrifices starts to feel like sacrifices

      Yikes, that’s very well put, Asa. And terrifying to think. Writing, like all the arts, does demand a lot from its creator and often gives back very little in terms of immediately apparent value. If it stops even being a pleasure… Very scary indeed. Perfect for Halloween 😉


  4. I was just discussing this with my husband as we were driving to the other place and I was fuming that he didn’t give me enough time at home to do what I had planned for the latest WIP. After RWA Nationals, I downloaded the Indie track MP3 and was listening to these as we drove. I pulled the earphone out of my ear, turned to my husband and said, “If you keep pulling me here and there how can I publish a book every three months?”

    That is also my greatest fear. Not being able to keep up with the expectations of this new age of reader. I tried to write shorter, but dang if this last book didn’t hit 88,000 words. Historicals are hard to keep at the 50-60k range they say is the new novel size for ebooks. I’m thinking the stress of getting books out is what has turned my usually non-dream self into having frantic dreams that I feel like I can’t control anything.

    Great post, thanks for making me see I’m not alone. 😉


    • There’s really nothing you can do if the story demands more words. And yes, I am totally enabling you right now 🙂 I have a story that MUST be no more than 10k. I’m 2k in and I’m already hyperventilating. We can do it!


  5. Author Writing Schedules – the New Horror Flick, scheduled to be released in 90 days 🙂

    I wish I could help but my problem is not writing fast …or slow… it’s just plain writing. Blank pages doesn’t get anyone towards their goal to complete a book!


    • > scheduled to be released in 90 days

      And then the sequel is in 180 days. And then Episode III at 270 days 😉

      Ah, blank pages, how they mock us. Are you familiar with “Drunk History” and “Drunk Cooking” phenomena? I think you and I should get together and do “Drunk Pages.” What better way to silence the Internal Editor for a time than to get her stinkin’ drunk?


  6. And here I was thinking that by self publishing I could avoid my biggest fear—the dreaded deadline. I’m a year and a half into my WIP and still have a few weeks to go. I’m happy with it though, and that’s more important to me than finishing fast, so I figure there’s not much chance I’ll ever make steady money at this. I’ll have to settle for enjoying the journey I guess.


    • Tammy, I think we are so often our own slave drivers 🙂 I hear a lot of the long-time NY published authors say one of the reasons they switch all or part to SP is to regain control of their time. Whether that’s because they want to put out more titles or fewer is THEIR choice.

      But with NY or SP, learning to control our time is key to being as successful as WE want to be. And I think you’re absolutely right, HAPPY is one of the criteria for successful.


  7. Thoughtful post, thank you, Jessa Slade, and all of you who commented. For me quality writing takes time. Self-editing with four rounds takes concentration. Nine months is a perfect estimate for my next baby of 60,000 words. I’m writing an angst-driver.


    • Kathleen, I got obsessed with QA (Quality Assurance) back when I was a kid and first heard my dad use the term about his work. My little hangup stopped me from self publishing for awhile because I didn’t know how to reproduce that QA on my own.

      Actually, my dad found a typo in this post this a.m. So no wonder he got me obsessed with QA!


  8. I have to fight the same urge I had as the mother of newborn twins (twenty-one years ago) — if I held one baby, I felt guilty for not holding the other one. If I’m working on one project (say, a first draft), I feel guilty for not working on the revisions on that one, or neglecting the prep for the next project. With the babies, sometimes the decision got taken out of my hands (oh, that one’s crying now? I’m on it!). Maybe I should train my manuscripts to whimper. I wonder if there’s an app for that?


    • Ugh, exactly, EJ! I always think of my projects as being on different stove burners: this one going cold, that one boiling over. Although I don’t think the stove metaphor works as well for babies 😉


  9. It’s a race with no finish line, which boggles my mind. The course is so vast at this point I’m not sure there is a destination anymore. And that makes me care less and less about the long term of publishing — both as a reader and a writer. Seriously, how many authors can write and release a quality book EVERY six weeks? “Faceless algorithms” is entirely right. That’s a post I’d like to read, Jessa! A year from now will the new algorithm mean releasing a book every four weeks? So what’s left for the authors? Writing for ourselves, writing for the pleasure of writing… and maybe not publishing at all.


    • > a race with no finish line

      So true. When I look at the nascent stories in my idea folder and calculate how long it will take me to write them and how many years I can reasonably expect to live… And I’m constantly adding new “what if”s.

      > maybe not publishing at all

      Yeah, let me know if that’s possible 🙂 I suspect all the Janes and most writers for that matter are communicators at heart. I don’t think we are content shouting into the void. We want an ear on the other end to bring the idea to life.


      • I usually begin with a statment that goes something like, “If I can just get through this year…”
        And somehow the year goes by… and I’m still doing this, but I too wonder if there are better opportunities out there. Something that might ADD to the bottom line so when I am at the end of my life I can shout into a void just because I feel like it.
        Then again, it might be a whole new void depending on the algoruthms.


Thanks for your comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: