Wednesday, April 1, 2009
From Heart of the Bay, the newsletter of the San Francisco chapter of Romance Writers of America
Note from the Prez
My head is still spinning from Maya Banks’s visit.
Remember the part where she admitted to writing three books—180,000 words—in the last two months? That’s the kind of output of which legends are made. Or more to the point, it’s the kind of productivity that forms the foundation of a fast-rising career. Maya’s pace reminds me of the pulp writers of the thirties. Please note that I don’t use the word pulp disparagingly; it’s not a comment on the quality of the work. Check out the surge in contemporary interest in pulp classics—the canon, if you will—if you doubt the lasting power of those high-drama novels …they’re being revisited and celebrated by today’s scholars and readers.
Here’s a few facts I stole from author Duane Swierczynski’s Secret Dead Blog:
• John D. MacDonald (1916–1986) wrote 800,000 words in four months (though he did admit that most of it was “unsaleable”).
• Lawrence Block wrote books “in as little as three days; I've written a couple that took only seven or eight days that are probably as good as anything I've done.”
• Orrie Hitt produced a novel every two weeks and was paid as little as $250.
• Richard S. Prather once wrote 24,000 words in 24 hours.
Should everyone write at that insane pace? Or even push themselves out of their wordcountcomfort zone? Of course not. There are many beautiful novels that would have been lesser works if they had been rushed. This month’s $5 million deal for Audrey
Niffenegger’s long-awaited second novel may be a prime example; I’m sure many hardworking authors are relieved to see the industry recognize that seasoning, contemplation, and extensive revisions may, in fact, improve the end result. I think the
key is to recognize the difference between contemplation and procrastination. The former is beneficial; the latter, not so much. If you think about what unifies many of our favorite and most prolific authors, it’s dedication and focus. Maya stressed that writing is her job and she treats it as such.
No one is immune to the sirens’ call, though, whether it’s TV or the Internet or even laundry. And then we have to get creative at the other end—with our excuses. I’ll close with a comment from Bay Area author Camille Minichino, whose day job is working for Lawrence Livermore Labs as a scientist. “It was easier to make up excuses for science paper deadlines: ‘I had to wait until the system cooled down (or heated up)’ or ‘The people in Germany didn't return my call’ or ‘I had to declassify the data.’”
So, until next time, be focused, be prolific—be very creative with more than excuses …