This post was first published at iainbroome.com on 2 August 2011.
I've just read Joanna Penn's short interview with John Locke, the chap who sold 1 million ebooks without a publisher. In it he talks about how he wrote a book - that's an entire book - in just seven weeks. That's very quick.
Now, I don't got no beef with no one and I have no reason whatsoever to doubt Locke's claim. However, I worry about the notion that to write a book in that time is something that we should all get excited about, or attempt ourselves.
Essentially, I don't believe that you can write a quality piece of fiction in seven weeks. More importantly, I don't believe that any writer can say that a book written in that time could possibly be finished. That it couldn't be improved. That it was the best that they could do.
Don't try this at home
To be clear about this, I have no problem with someone knocking a book out quickly and making a lot of money from it. But I do get pretty twitchy when this writing model is presented as a) sensible advice and b) perfectly achievable.
Let's take the first of those. Just how good do you think your work in progress could be? If the answer is really, really good, then you're going to have to collect lots of feedback, go through many revisions and find space to think in between. You can't do that in seven weeks. It's impossible.
And now the second. I don't think that there are many examples of people having written books in under two months. You're going to need a pretty empty calendar and a very clear plan of what you're going to write.
Locke says his trick is to have it all 'written' in his head before he starts. I think he must have a brain like no other writer I've ever come across.
What I'm getting at
In all the stories about and features on Locke, we rarely hear about his writing. He and a few other high-profile indie writers have become poster-folk for self-publishing, but the focus is always on the sales and the money, or in this case, how quickly the book was written.
I totally understand why this happens. Their success is both significant for publishing and an inspiration for other writers who are looking to self-publish. Independent publishing is a legitimate way to get your work seen and to start earning money from writing.
But whoever you are and however you attempt to publish your work, please don't be fooled by million-dollar headlines and glitzy blog post titles. Writing is hard work, there are no shortcuts and the chances of you completing your best work in seven weeks are slim to none.
In a nutshell
I believe that you should always aim to write the best book that you possibly can, and that alone should be motivation enough to take your time and get it right. Aim high, be patient and see if you can create something that's truly great.
If what you'd prefer is a quick turnaround and to make an even quicker buck, then for me there's something wrong. And you don't sound like a writer that I want to read.
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