Typing Down and Dirty
Something I'm often asked about is how I manage to write so quickly. I'm also often asked about how I manage to murder with a smile on my face, and why Honey Boo-Boo is so popular with the American public. Two of these questions are Deep Mysteries, only answerable by God and perhaps certain network television execs. One of them, however, is within my grasp and understanding.
And no, it's not the "murder" one.
It's the writing thing. For those of you who don't know me, I'm a full-time writer. I'm a bestselling novelist and produced screenwriter who has had the great honor of having major Hollywood studios butcher his screenplays for borderline obscene amounts of money. I'm one of the bestselling horror writers on Amazon.com: my latest horror novel, Apparition, has been sitting pretty on the bestselling "ghost horror" books there pretty much since it came out, and my YA series The Billy Saga has been doing great business for two years straight.
So I write. That's my thing. It's what I do. And I do a lot of it. In the past two years, I've written over a dozen books, plus an additional dozen screenplays. That's on top of countless articles, guest blogs like this one, and basically a caboodle (that's classy talk for "a buttload") of other writings, short and long. That sandwiched in among conventions, author signings, and other promotional events. Plus I occasionally try to show up and be a good dad and husband. 'Cause that's how I roll.
It's not unusual for me to crank out 10,000 words before dinner. Sometimes closer to 15,000.
Now, I know it's the middle of NaNoWriMo as I type these words, so some of you might be looking at your computer screens and wishing you could reach through them and throttle me via the magic of the internet. Luckily for me you can't. And for you, too, because my point in all this isn't to brag. It's to bring a message of hope, and a statement of belief: I believe that most of YOU can write that fast. I think that many people sell themselves short when they write; that they believe less of themselves than they are capable of.
Don't get me wrong. I don't think that you're going to finish this article and start instantly blasting out thousands of quality words. I'm not magic. You want that, you go to Tony Robbins. But I do think I can whisper a bit of a secret to you, the elusive secret that so few writers seem to know, the secret to writing fast, and writing good stuff fast.
The secret to writing fast is... writing fast.
Okay, don't get out your special Mob Kits (only $49.95, patent pending) and come looking for my blood. There is a method to this madness. What I mean is this: very often on the best days of writing, the more you do, the better you write, and the better you write, the more you do. It's the opposite of a vicious cycle, it's a "happy cycle," for lack of anything better to call it. A lot of authors look at it as some rare visitation of their muse, but in reality it is just them getting out of their own ways, letting themselves do what they're already good at.
So you... let's say you do an average of 3,500 words a day during NaNo. So tomorrow when you type, worry less about quality than quantity. And yes, you read that right. Go for 4,000 words. Even if it's crap. Crap is okay, that's what God invented the delete key.
But here's the thing: if you start writing, if you just let go and start "feelin' it," just movin' and groovin' and letting your fingers do the talking, I bet when you hit that 4,000 word mark you'll look back and be amazed at how few words need serious revision.
There's a lot of craftsmanship to writing. A lot of practice, a lot of effort. But like most things, once you've learned to a certain level the secret isn't concentration, it's getting out of your own way and letting yourself perform at the level you've trained for.
10,000 words? Bah. Watch me hit 15,000 tomorrow. The only real limit is how fast I can type. And I'm not even so sure about that one. Follow @mbcollings