Writing @ the Speed of Thought

My article 5 Tips to Refine Your Short Story is up on FreelanceWriting.com. If you’re writing a story, do check it out and share it with fellow writers!

This last week I’ve been ruminating on the speed of writing. Alexander McCall Smith mentioned in an interview that he writes at the rate of a thousand words per hour. How wonderful it would be to possess his writing speed! Sentences reeking of beauty seem to spill out of his magic fingers. He even manages to set a scene and convey atmosphere or even posit a nugget of keen human observation. This is no easy task, for this is 1000 words of fiction we are talking about. Even for a person writing fiction for many years this sounds prolific. I suppose the speed and efficiency improves with regular practice, but getting to that stage is a long way away for me.

I can write 500 words of a memory or writing practice easily enough. In fact if you asked me to write a thousand words about an incident of my youth or even what happened yesterday, I’d surpass that speed in minutes. But ask me to spin a yarn and I’d be left stumbling all over the place like a drunkard. No words of beauty or keen analysis in my passages – you would be hard-pressed to locate entire sentences that made sense of their own accord without the supporting structure of the sentences around it.

I suppose I could write that much fiction that fast only if I had planned it beforehand. If the idea comes fully-formed in my head I can just write it out in one sitting, as it occasionally happens. But this is the equivalent of waiting for lightning to strike, not a useful quality for one who aspires to regularly write and publish fiction.

One way is to maintain a tracker to note the number of words you write daily and the time that you write it. This is useful for two purposes. Firstly after you have accumulated a month’s worth of data, you can derive a daily average and aim for this as the minimum you should write every day.

The second purpose is to analyze the timings to find out when is your most productive time. I have maintained a tracker only for a couple of months, but it has confirmed what I already know – weekend afternoons are likely to be the best times for me to spin fiction.

The writer Rachel Aaron has a useful blog post, which turned out to be popular enough that she wrote a book which is now available as a Kindle eBook on Amazon!

I’m not sure how long I will continue with a tracker, nor am I positive that with regular writing and tracking I will ever attain the pace of Alexander McCall Smith, but I can always hope, can’t I?

New Beginnings and 2014 Wrap-up

Happy New Year, everyone! The year begins on a positive note. My humorous essay Its Not Personal is up at Page & Spine on The Writer’s Table. 2014 had been a stellar year for me in terms of my writing. I managed a grand total of 80k words which amounts to little more than 200 words a day. The breakup is as follows:

19 short stories
16 essays
10 pieces of flash fiction/nonfiction
12 blog posts

I made a total of 165 submissions:
Accepted – 15
Rejected – 108
Withdrawn – 8
Submitted – 23

The rest were no responses, even from markets that don’t have a ‘No response means no’ policy. Those befuddle me a little, but I understand there might be reasons for this, so for me it’s just better to chalk it up as a lost cause and move on.   On the final day of the year I received 3 rejections. Ouch! Luckily I’ve grown too thick-skinned to allow this to affect me! I have renewed my commitment to the Short Story Challenge, and will continue writing one a month for 2015. Among other writerly tasks, revising the stories I’ve written and submitting them is of paramount importance. If I don’t work on that soon then I’ll land up having acquired a platoon of stories and no action taken on them.

It hasn’t been a great year for me in terms of reading as I finished only around 20 books this year, a record all-time low for me. However I’ve made up for it by reading tons of short stories and entire issues of literary journals, both to understand markets I intend to submit to as well as to analyze the components of well-written fiction and non-fiction.

Resolutions are passé, or they should be, at least for people like me who never manage to keep them. However I do plan to commit to my writing and make time for it as much as possible.

What are your plans for the New Year?