As Sean McLachlan ably discussed here at Black Gate last week, there’s an evolving internet storm about a romance writer who discovered, to her surprise, that some of her novels “have plagiarism.” She says it happened without her knowledge; she was working with a ghost-writer on those, and she’s taken them all down. She is the object of much scorn on the internet today, and probably for some time. Indeed, in the future she may have to find a pseudonym under which to publish the fiction she does not write. (Click the image above for details.)
Attendant to that storm, though, is the issue of how much one person can reasonably be expected to write in a month. Some people say “several books” and other people say “are you crazy?” and then terrible things and animated GIFs start to happen.
As it happens, this is the sort of thing about which I have very little knowledge and lots of opinions so HERE IT ALL IS.
I’m not the fastest writer in the world when it comes to fiction — I seem to run about 250-350 words every half hour. (Can be faster or slower.) Taking the upper limit there, and assuming those are good words that I don’t throw away (which is never true), it’d take me 143 hours to write the first draft of a 100K book, or almost 4 full-time work-weeks. But I rarely write 40 hours in a week, unless I’m on break and on deadline.
Michael Moorcock was famous for knocking out sword-and-sorcery novels over the weekend. Novels tended to be shorter then, of course — novels of 40/50K were not uncommon. (There’s a handy page describing MM’s 3-day method, along with stuff about Lester Dent’s “Master Plot Formula,” here.)
But now books are shorter again, if we’re talking about self-published e-books: I have a sense (which may be mistaken) that lots of e-books run on the short side of what SFWA calls a novel. (The minimum is 40K words.) Many e-books are more like novellas. If I were trying to make a living writing e-books, that’s what I would do: pick a genre where people read a lot of new stuff (romance, mystery, etc) and try to crank out one or two per month.
That’s why some readers think it’s possible to write several books a month and some writers think that’s crazy. They’re both correct, because they’re using the same word to describe things which are actually quite different.