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Words are Cheap by Rachel Aaron

It's been roughly two and a half years since I wrote “How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day,” my blog post detailing how I upped my daily wordcount from (you guessed it) 2000 to 10,000 without adding more hours to my writing time. Since then, the original post has gone viral at least twice (once from my site and once when it was reposted on the SFWA site), and the ebook I self published expanding on the topic, 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love, is my best selling title with 260 reviews and a 4.6 star rating on Amazon as of this writing. Not bad for a little blog post I threw together after a con!
When IndieRecon asked me to come talk about writing fast, I knew here was the perfect chance for an addendum to the original post. You see, now that I've been cruising at this speed for a few years, my writing habits have adjusted to fit the new pace, and the changes were not at all what I expected.
When I tell people that my daily average wordcount is between seven and ten thousand words, everyone instantly starts doing the math. I don't blame them. If you've done any writing at all, the idea of writing between 140,000 and 200,000 words a month while still taking weekends off is some heady juju. Even taking into account time lost to mistakes and rewrites, that's still a completed first draft every 1.5 months. Even after you add in editing, you're only looking at 5-6 completed books per year.
That's a pretty incredible speed whether you're a full time writer or not, and for a while there, it looked like that was going to be my life. But as my brain adjusted to going so fast, the way I wrote began to change, as did the way I looked at my stories. Now, two years later, I'm sitting at an average of 3-4 books per year, which, while not at all bad, definitely isn't the 5-6 books I'd thought I'd be getting.
Spelling it out like that makes it look like a failure of the system. After all, wasn't writing faster the entire point? But I'm actually happier with my writing these days than I've ever been, because by changing the way I wrote books, I inadvertently changed the way I thought about them as well, and that turned out to be the biggest and best change of all.
Back before I discovered my writing triangle, my total wordcount was my most valuable commodity. Words were vital and precious, the hard won product of hours of teeth-pulling, butt-in-chair time, and I guarded them like a young dragon desperately hoarding her first scraps of gold. This was especially true when I was writing and working at the same time, sacrificing my evenings so I could get up early and add to my WIP.  Ten thousand words represented an entire week's worth of work for me, and the idea of throwing any of them out for any reason, even if I knew it would make the story better, was like asking me to cut off a limb.
And then I discovered how to write faster.
Suddenly, words were everywhere. In one day, I could write what used to take me a week or more. My daily wordcount tracker was now jumping up in thousands, not hundreds, and as with any rare good that becomes common, the perceived value of my words began to drop.
This isn't to say the words themselves became unimportant—words are the building blocks of our craft, they are always important—but that my concept of words as a number by which to measure my progress began to matter less and less. The fast I wrote, the more my wordcount stopped being a precious treasure earned at great personal cost and became an excess commodity. The idea of five thousand words went from the labor of two really good days to something I could knock out in an afternoon. And as the perceived cost of rewriting scenes went down, my willingness to do it went up up up.
This was the true turning point in my career. Suddenly, it became easier to rewrite a broken scene than to try and preserve it. Redoing a chapter, even multiple chapters, went from impossible obstacle to a few days' work, and that mindset opened the doors for me in a way I'd never experienced before as a writer. I was no longer a slave to my wordcount, no longer held down by the words I'd written and the work the represented. I could now take much greater artistic risks at a much lower tolerance for failure, because it didn't matter. So what if something I tried flopped? Words were cheap, and if the ones I had weren't working, I could just write new ones. Heck, when I was unhappy with how HONOR'S KNIGHT (the second novel in my Paradox series, hitting shelves this month!) turned out, I rewrote the entire second half of the book twiceand still nailed my publisher's deadline.
It's hard to overstate what this change in mindset did for me creatively. One of the most common accusations people fling at fast writers is the assumption that I must be producing junk, but my experience has been exactly the opposite. The books I am writing now are more ambitious, more cleverly put together, and more carefully considered than ever before. And while some of that improvement is undoubtedly experience, I would say the lion's share of the credit goes to the fact that I now have the time and freedom (mentally and literally) to rewrite, reshuffle, rethink my work until everything is exactly how I want. And true, I might not be writing as fast as I technically should, but that is purely my decision to focus on the quality of my stories even more than I was before. Because now that I'm writing fast enough to be the perfectionist I always wanted to be while still putting books out at a reasonable rate, I don't see why I or my readers should ever settle for anything less.
Over the past two years, I've heard from thousands of people who say they've doubled or even tripled their daily writing output using my triangle. For some, this means hitting ten thousand or more words a day, but for the vast majority, it's going from one thousand words in a session to two, or five hundred word to fifteen hundred. That may not sound like a lot, but when you've been stuck at any number of words in a session, the ability to double or triple that number feels like nothing short of a miracle.
I understand how that feels, because I've been there, too. It was that feeling—not the numbers themselves, but the sense of flying through your own work that comes when you're doing your best writing all the time—that inspired me to write 2k to 10k in the first place. Two years later, though, it's no longer just about speed. The real power of writing fast is the freedom that speed gives you. The freedom to lavish time and attention on my scenes, to have absolutely control over the quality and content of my own creative output without worrying if will be the only book I'll have time to write this year. That is the real victory the speed writing journey has given me, and I sincerely hope that, however many words a day you reach and whatever you decide to do with them after, it does the same for you.

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This Post Has 8 Comments
  1. I loved your original post about going from 2K to 10K! Thank you for sharing it!. One of the biggest takeaways for me is that it is possible to reach this level of productivity. Your article not only confirms that we are able to push our own limits with regard to output but it also encourages us to see our words as our allies rather than our enemies. Thank you for your amazing post!!!

  2. Rachel, I just finished your 2K to 10K book about an hour ago, and it spawned a couple of aha! moments. But the additional info in this blog expanded those. Andsomehow I’m tripping back to Braveheart’s cry of “Freedom!”
    Thanks!

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