The Quest for Pulp Speed Continues!

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Write fast, write well, write often.

This is Pulp Speed, the foundation of pulp-style writing. With a hungry market always eager for more fiction, the pulp writer earns his bread by feeding the market everything it wants, as quickly as he can.

To survive in the cutthroat business of pulp writing in the 1920s, writers had to write fast. The pulps published on a weekly, biweekly or monthly schedule, churning out a doorstopper chock-full of short stories, novellas and full-length novels. If you couldn’t write fast enough for their publishing schedule, someone else will.

But writing fast is secondary to writing well. It doesn’t matter if you can write a million words a year if you simply write a million words of garbage. You had to write powerful, punchy stories, the kind of stories that resonates with audiences and editors. Without skill, profligate writing leads nowhere.

And yet writing fast, harnessed properly, leads to writing well. The more you write, the better you write. If you write with deliberate intent. Mindlessly vomiting words on a page merely trains you mindlessly vomit more words on a page. Writing with the intention of writing better stories faster helps you be a better and faster writer.

Pulp Speed, the skill to write at the speed of the pulps, is the fundamental strategy of the Pulp Revolution. Everyone has different methods of getting there. Two and a half years ago, I wrote about mine. For 2020, I’m changing it.

In 2017, my goal was 3000 words a day, every day, with a target output of 21000 words a week. That fit my schedule then, but it wouldn’t fit my lifestyle now.

Back then, I could live the life of a hermit, ensconcing myself at my desk all day, every day, banging away at the keyboard. I can’t do that any more. I can no longer count on being available on weekends. In recognition of my new lifestyle, I’ve changed my writing pace.

4000 words a day, every weekday, plus however much I can write on weekends, with a target output of 22000 words a week.

The objective is to make time on weekends by spending more time writing on weekdays while still making my weekly wordcount. Normally, I don’t like interrupting a project while I’m working on it, but my new life no longer allows that option.

Presently I’m two weeks into my latest project, Rogue, Book 3 of Song of Karma, and I’m well ahead of schedule.

For the first time in years, I could take days, plural, off writing without significantly affecting the schedule. Now I have time for other pursuits, including marketing, planning, and the all-important task of providing for my family.

More to the point, it feels like I’ve released a pressure valve. There is no overriding need to keep writing, day in and day out, to force myself to write even when exhausted, to march nonstop to the end of the project. Once I’m done for the workweek, I’m done — anything else after that is a bonus.

I’ve also noticed this sense of ease seep into my current project, leading to free-flowing prose and better storytelling. This novel is my 16th since 2017. Only now do I feel it is beginning to approach the standard I aspire to.

As you can tell, I have a tendency to overwork. But to survive in Singapore, what the world calls overworking is merely the minimum necessary to survive. In such an environment, it’s easy to overlook the necessity of taking a break.

But men are not machines, and even machines break over time.

The pulp speed ideal is Pulp Speed Six: 5500 words a day. With my old schedule, I hovered around 3000. Now, it’s 3500 — but well over 4000 if you exclude non-writing days.

This isn’t something you do overnight. You need to work your way up to it, develop the stamina for such a grueling task. Remember that it is not merely enough to spew words on a page; you must also write well. The better and cleaner your first draft, the easier the edits will be. The better the raw material, the finer the product.

The quest for pulp speed continues. This new approach has led to improved output, superior writing, and better quality of life. While it’s in the early days, I’m going to stick to this schedule for the year and see how it works.

There are no limits and no brakes in Pulp Speed. There is only the quest for more and better words. If you desire to be the best at what you do — and I do — then find every method you can to increase your output and quality within your limitations.

You don’t have to write like me. But if you want to stand among the greatest in the industry, embrace the tenants of Pulp Speed.

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The Quest for Pulp Speed Continues!
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