In a previous post, I mentioned that I had hit Pulp Speed One in May, with month left over. That’s the measure when you are on pace to write one million words in a year. It breaks down to an average of 83,334 words per month, sustained over twelve. In April, I started tracking my speed, because I had been at about 40-45,000 words per month while holding down full-time employment, and now I was working for Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) as an IP generator.
So, April ended at just over 75,000 words, and I hadn’t even been pushing that hard. Writing is a muscle. You don’t start out with a marathon. You start with a walk around the block. Then two blocks. Then a job. Etc.
I’ve been writing for a little over four years now, in the sense of fiction for publication. (I’ve been writing forever, but that’s a different story). I have some of the muscles, but not enough. Learning to write for many hours, instead of one or two, here or there, was a new thing. Something to work up to.
So I worked in April. And almost doubled my normal speed. Woo-hoo.
But then I hit the end of the month and realized that I was close to Pulp Speed One. Dean recognizes up to Pulp Speed Six in his blog, jumping by 200,000 word increments. At Six, you are writing 2 million words per year, which sounds like an astronomical number.
For context, a novel is defined by many of the award categories as being 40,000 words or more. One million words, therefore, would be the equivalent of writing twenty-five of those novels, or roughly one every two weeks, with some time off for vacation. Fifty working weeks per year, twenty thousand words per week. Four thousand words per day, five days per week, with weekends off.
Boom. Pulp Speed One.
But something interesting happened in May. we went down to a writing retreat in Lincoln City, OR. A group of us rented a house on the beach (off-season), packed it with food and coffee, and wrote all day. It goes like this. Write for an hour or so, then walk around the block. Rinse. Repeat. All day.
Fabulous Publisher Babe’s goal when she does these is 10,000 words, and 10,000 steps each day. No television. Limited internet. Prepared food at hand, so no need to go anywhere and just through lunch together and eat it.
Sit down, shut up, and write.
Let me repeat that, for the folks in the back: Sit down, shut up, and write.
Someone asked me my secret to productivity. Can you guess it? Sit down, shut up, and write.
When a normal writer is on, they can type 1,000 words in an hour. What FPB has taught me recently is that when we hit a thing called “Flow State” that can jump to 2,000 words in an hour.
For me, the early part of a novel requires lots of thought, because I write into dimly-lit hallways. I have several ideas, and a direction, but nothing so formal as an outline. And I occasionally just write into the darkness and let writer-brain take over.
At the retreat, I wrote the following daily word counts:
- Tuesday: 8200
- Wednesday 7500
- Thursday 9000
- Friday 12,006
- Saturday 7500
This was writing all day, with time off for lunches with local pros a couple of days and a few dinners with friends. Note that Friday I went off the rails as the story hit stride. Saturday afternoon, I finished the novel I had started the previous Sunday, just before driving down Monday morning. Just over 48,000 words written.
When I hit Flow State, the craziness mounts.
Yesterday (Friday, June 1) is a REALLY good example. I was getting to the end of the latest novel (Packmule, out in early 2019). Wrote about 2500 words in the morning block, before we had to head off and do errands. Stopped at a Starbucks at the corner on the way home so she could spend 45 minutes doing some internet heavy publishing work (easier there that out at the farm with iffy coverage). In those 45 minutes, 2000 words came out.
Then we went home, fed the kitty, and headed out again, for a meeting she was attending. I waited in the front room, plugged into the wall and standing up, and banged out another 2000 words in 55 minutes. From there, straight into town to a friend’s retirement from day-job party. Hung out in Seattle with some former coworkers all slowly escaping the hell that was the previous job. Got home around 730 pm, fired up the machine, and banged out about another 1800 words in 90 minutes.
And I stopped there because the novel was done, save for the denouement I wrote this morning (the last 1500 words in a much different tone from last night). Yesterday’s word count: 8200 words, in one day.
Won’t hit that today. Don’t need to. But I could.
I ended May 2018 with 120,000 words written. That’s Pulp Speed Three with a little room to spare. (116,667).
Dean talks about writing like it was a job. Sit down and write for eight hours, as if you’re on the clock. I’m getting myself to the point that I can do that. And I try to write every day, missing maybe one day every two or three weeks when things are crazy, or long drive somewhere, or just not feeling the words. I don’t beat myself up over not writing, because I’m racing Death, not anything so short-term as this week’s writing target.
So let’s math (deal with it, I never told you there would be no math here). Let’s pretend like I can sustain 8,000 words, five days a week, with two weeks off. Possible, because I just did that during the retreat.
That’s 40,000 words in a week. That’s a novel, if you will. Multiply that by 50 weeks.
You are looking at 2,000,000 words. Pulp Speed Six.
Now that’s a crazy goal. Might be impossible, because I have to edit, and publish, and stuff. And have a life.
But let’s also pretend like I could hit flow state on demand, which is getting easier and easier as I practice. Let’s drop that to six hours of work, or a block in the morning and a block in the afternoon, with time off for all the other crazy shit I need to do to make life happen.
Pulp Speed Nine is 60,000 words per week. Or twelve thousand words per day, five days a week. Or six hours in Flow State.
I have four novels in the can right now, and am about to move on to the next project.
Let’s go get crazy.