Ann Aguirre on Writing Fast


I’ve talked a lot on this blog about my focus on quality over speed in writing. I try not to take hard­line stances on issues as a matter of course (because there are always excep­tions and drawing lines in the sand is a great way to alienate people). But when it comes to empha­sizing care over quick­ness in writing, I am about as hard­line as I get.

I was dis­cussing this with national best­selling science-fiction, fan­tasy and romance (and, I’d argue, horror) writer Ann Aguirre, who has become some­thing of a friend and mentor to me since I went pro. Ann writes with *blazing* speed. If I’m remem­bering cor­rectly, she can do 3-5k/day reg­u­larly. And they’re GOOD words too. I can cer­tainly turn out that kind of a word count, but I then pro­duce an extremely rough man­u­script that requires another 4–6 months of revi­sions before I even feel com­fort­able showing it to my agent. Ann pro­duces good work, best­selling work, quickly and consistently.

I asked her how she did it, and was so intrigued by her response that I asked her if it was okay to share it with you:

Well, the thing is, it’s a learned skill. When I first got serious about writing, again, in 2006, 1K was a LOT for me in a day. But I trained my brain, just like you can train your body. I got to the point where I could write 1K fast, and then I upped the ante. I kept going that way, until I found I could reli­ably churn out 3K fast. (It helps that I’m a quick typist / 80 words a minute at last test). I also learned tricks that keep me writing and elim­i­nate staring time. NONE of this is nat­ural inborn talent. I sus­pect anyone could teach them­selves to work as I do. Some people don’t want to, choose not to, or sub­scribe to the fal­la­cious belief that I am ‘nat­u­rally’ a fast writer. Bol­locks. I wanted to write lots of books. So I fig­ured out how to do it.

I think even slow writers could learn because I was slow. I used to be a tin­kerer, and it took me for­ever and it caused me lots of angst and unhap­pi­ness. It led to project aban­don­ment. I wasn’t meeting my goals, or achieving what I wanted. So now, it does agi­tate me when tin­kerers and slow people tell me how “lucky” I am to be fast. Luck be damned, I made this happen with deter­mi­na­tion. I didn’t like the results I got as a slow writer. The market doesn’t value that or respect it like it once did. Pub­lishers want reg­ular, reli­able product. There are people who bemoan this as a gen­eral state­ment on the impov­er­ish­ment of our society, etc, etc, but I’d rather make some money and please some readers. Pub­lishing is very much adapt or die. That said, I’m not arbi­trating that everyone should work my way. Everyone should do what makes them happy and works for them.

What I like about Ann’s implied posi­tion is her insis­tence that people can change habits and retrain them­selves to do … well … any­thing, really. We have a ten­dency to treat a lot of life as inevitable. I’ll always look like this, I’ll never do X or Y, I can’t write fast. None of that is true, beyond the bound­aries we place on our­selves, and Ann gives a good reminder of that.

So, yeah, no hard lines here. You usu­ally turn out to be wrong.