Okay, a bit of a background on the term. Pulp Speed refers to the Pulp era authors like Lester Dent and others, who frequently wrote a short story in a day and mailed it off to a magazine the same day. They didn’t rewrite. They didn’t agonize over every word and sentence. They just wrote. And published several stories every month, across the then-humongous universe of SF magazines.
The modern consensus of Pulp Speeds goes something like this: Pulp Speed One is measured as a pace of writing ONE MILLION WORDS in a year. Which sounds insane, but breaks down like this. 1,000,000/12 = 83,334 words per month. In a thirty-day month, that breaks down to 2,778 words per day average.
Given that a writer who is on point and not fucking around on the internet can usually hit a pace of 1,000 words/hour, that’s roughly three hours writing, every single day.
Obviously, if you have a day job, or a young family, the chances of you being able to carve out that many hours to dedicate to writing each day are low. However, on the other hand, if you have quit the day job to write full-time, you need to treat that like the job you left behind.
Divide your day into two parts. Pick the half of your workday that will be dedicated to writing, and write. (“Sit down, shut up, and write” is the best advice I can offer you.) The other half of your day is going to have to be dedicated to “work.” Editing, Covers, Email, Social Media and Advertising, etc. If you have reached a level where you can also bring your spouse on full-time as your assistant, then they can take as much of the non-writing tasks as possible, freeing you up to dedicate to your craft.
For those of us with a bit of the hunger, the workday is frequently twelve hours. Six to write. Six to publish.
So now, back to math.
Pulp Speed One = 84,000 words per month, sustained.
To increase to Pulp Speed Two, you will need to sustain 100,000 words per month, which comes in at 1.2 million words per year. (We’ll leave off Three+ speeds for now, because the lower numbers already frighten some folks.)
I left the dayjob at the end of February this year, so I’ve been on my own for three months now. In March, there was a lot of transition and learning, plus Fabulous Publisher Babe ™ was in the process of selling her house in the city and moving out to the farm with me.
In April, I hit a stride. The normal pace of around 38,000 words I had been sustaining for the last few years suddenly jumped up to 75,000. I hadn’t previously been tracking word counts on any scale less than a year, but I wanted to know where I was at.
Hell, that’s almost Pulp Speed One, and I wasn’t even trying that hard.
Writing is a muscle, just like any other. You work your way up to a marathon. You add another disk to the weights. One more push-up today than yesterday. That sort of thing.
So I decided that in May, I would push a little harder for words than I previously had. My mornings start around 6 with a shower (I am managing to sleep that late, most days, from 4 for the last several years). Maybe I feed the kitty if she’s in the main house instead of the girlcave. (We call that the “morning Kabuki” because she is a very communicative kitty, once you understand interpretive dance.)
Then I feed myself, check the mail, check the news, and read my web comics. At that point, it is usually 730-800, and I crack open the current project and begin to cycle to hit stride and voice.
And I try to write until 1100. Sometimes I fall off sooner when I run out of words. Some days I go clear until noon. But that’s 3-4 hours dedicated to words. All that adds up.
I just got back, just now, from a trip to Lincoln City, Oregon, where four of us had rented a beach house all week, to do a writing marathon (“Sit down, shut up, and write”). Came down on Monday, which was a five hour drive from the farm so didn’t get a lot of work done.
- Tuesday: 8200 words
- Wednesday: 7500
- Thursday: 9000
- Friday: 12,006 !?!
- Saturday: 6500
Felt like a slacker Saturday, but the novel was done. I had started it last Sunday, so a week ago, and wrote the damned thing in a week. Current draft is 48,000 words. It will need more editing than usual, but that’s because I’ve never sustained this speed this long, and I was creating a whole new universe, as the first novel in a series I plan to write.
And it’s pulp. Which I found appropriate, considering. I tried to write the whole thing as if it was the late 40’s, and this was one of those radio/cinema serials. My main character could easily fit in with Steve Rogers, Clark Kent, or Kim Kinnison, having that earnest Boy Scout thing going.
At the same time, I wanted to write it like they envisioned technology was going to be, from the vision of 1948, so there are some lovely anachronisms baked in that are already present tense today, in a story that starts on Earth in 2387, before falling through a wormhole and escaping the Einstinian trap that is the Terran Solar System.
My hero has to encounter aliens for the first time in his life. And overcome his own sexism (remember: pulp SF from the 40’s, so dames in heels and skirts, and never capable of self-actualization, ya know) to discover that alien women don’t need to be protected from bad things, thank you very much. Eye-opening for the boy.
But at the end of the day, they are all just people, and Gareth always wanted to be nothing more than a hero. He can never go home, but he can take it upon himself to protect this new, galactic civilization as the only human these people have ever known.
In a way, I also tried to write this as a reversal on the Superman origin story, with a human suddenly cast into a weirder universe as the first and only of his kind (actually not, but that the genesis of the whole story, and you can read about it later). He has hopes and expectations that he will have to carry on his shoulders.
And yes, he gets to be a hero.
But it’s pulp. Hand-waving space fantasy of the juiciest kind. And it was a lot of fun to write, so there will be more, but I will have to tuck them into writing gaps going forward, because I have two other series I want to finish off (three, actually, which is another long story for later).
But back to Pulp Speed One. As of right now, I’m at 88,000 words for the month of May, with eleven more days to go. I’m pretty sure I can hit 100,000 words, writing 12,000 words in 11 days.
I am not going to try to sustain Pulp Speed Two. At least, not yet. These are muscles, and I want to work slowly up to that speed. And to have fun.
But we’re still talking 85,000 words, every month, going forward.
Or, in happier terms, how about two 40,000 novels, every month? It won’t work that way, but that’s because I am committed to writing two shorter pieces every month, while working on whatever novel I’m in the middle of. You will see an Imperial Shit-ton of new stuff soon. I have 24 things in the can right now. Six of them are for the first six issues of the new SF magazine that I am launching in two weeks. Six more are stories in those same universes, to extend the stories you’ll read. That leaves twelve more you’ve never seen before. And counting.
And speeding up.
Y’all ready for a firehose?
shade and sweet water
West of the Mountains, WA