The Journal: Fiction Writing and Pulp Speed

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* First, welcome
* Second, today’s post
* Let’s Talk Fiction Writing and Pulp Speed, Part 1
* Let’s Talk Fiction Writing and Pulp Speed, Part 2
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“A Pulp Speed writer loves to just tell stories, one right after another.” Dean Wesley Smith

“The crap rules the traditional publishers forced on writers are gone for writers smart enough to escape them. [W]riters are free to write stories again at whatever pace they want to write. … The second pulp era is upon us.” Dean Wesley Smith

“[I]f you think it can’t be done, ask yourself why? Why is your belief system telling you that?” Dean Wesley Smith

First, welcome to Kim R, Deb ?, Triss W, and any other new subscribers I might have inadvertently missed recently. I hope you’ll find some of what you need here, and please feel free to leave a comment or email me if you have any questions or comments.

Second, today’s post is very long. It isn’t something I could get through well in fewer words, and it isn’t something I wanted to break into two or more posts.

However, it also might be the best post I’ve written all year. To make it a little more palatable, I’ve broken it into two parts. I hope you’ll get a mug or tall glass of your favorite beverage, settle in and enjoy it.

Let’s Talk Writing and Pulp Speed, Part 1

If you’ve written a novel, you’ve already accomplished something most aspiring writers will never accomplish, so good on you. If you’ve written more than one, so much the better.

Writing fiction professionally is not for everyone. There are those who write only to check an item off a bucket list, and there are those who write as a hobby. If either of those are why you write or have written, that’s fine.

But if you are an aspiring professional fiction writer—one who consistently writes (or wants to write) short stories and/or novellas and/or novels—and if you’re willing to do the difficult initial work of setting aside the myths, you have a wonderful surprise coming.

Once you learn to trust yourself and set aside the myths we were all taught—that oulining, seeking advice from critique groups, revision and rewriting/polishing are necessary because we can’t possibly create something by ourselves—you will enter a world in which it’s literally sheer joy to go to work every day. A world with no hoked-up drama of how “hard” writing is, one in which you can hardly wait to get back to your current story, or to write the next one.

In this new world, you won’t celebrate finishing a story or novel. As we do when we lose a friend or family member, you’ll regret that it’s over and ruminate that it was entirely too short. You might even mourn a little. And you’ll want to recapture that feeling of joy that’s been snatched away, so you’ll start the next story or novel, and you will celebrate that birth, that new beginning. Again, just as we do in every day life.

As a bonus, you will have no shortage of story ideas, and you will find that the sensation of the keys moving beneath your fingers and the words appearing on the screen is almost hypnotic, if not outright erotic.

If you’re an aspiring professional fiction writer, this is a decision only you can make. In any case, it isn’t something you “can’t” do, so that excuse is out the window. This is something you either choose to do or choose not to do.

And I’ll tell you the truth: What’s easiest in the early stages is to decide NOT to do it. If you remain safely mired in the myths of outlining, revising, seeking criticism, rewriting and polishing, you can honestly complain at your launch party about what terrible drudgery writing fiction is, because it will be.

But if you do that, you will never know the sheer joy of unbridled creativity. Unbridled storytelling.

On the other hand, you can take responsibility for your own work and choose the much more rewarding path. To do that, force yourself to Trust Your Characters to tell the story that they, not you, are living. Don’t allow your conscious, critical mind to second-guess them (and don’t EVEN allow anyone else to second-guess them!).

Oh, and while we’re at it, stay the hell out of that authorial ivory tower. You wouldn’t try to control what your neighbors say and do as they live their story, right? So don’t try to control what your characters say and do as they live their story. Besides, face it: You don’t look all that good in silken robes anyway.

Instead, slip into your jeans, sneakers and t-shirt, roll off the parapet into the trenches of the story, and race through it with your characters. You have fingers. They don’t. Their job is to live the story. Your job is to experience it with them and record it for posterity.

Do that, and I guarantee you will enjoy going to “work” every day. If you’d like some assistance in doing that, I strongly recommend following Heinlein’s Rules. You can download a free copy here.

Let’s Talk Writing and Pulp Speed, Part 2

If you don’t read anything else today, please read “Pulp Speed Brought Forward Again.” You’ll find the link later in this post. It’s one of the best posts Dean Wesley Smith ever wrote. It’s blunt and plain, with no frills. And he brought this post forward again at just the right time for me personally.

Now, Dean and I don’t agree on everything. For just one example, when he talks about pulp speed, he includes all “consumable” words, by which he means fiction plus nonfiction plus blog posts. About the only writing he doesn’t count is emails.

But you can write blog posts (especially with no restrictions as to topic) and nonfiction books or essays without getting rid of the myths.

You can also write fiction without getting rid of the myths, but it won’t be good fiction. It will be wholly or partially contrived by the conscious, critical mind, and it will feel (and read) as if it were contrived. The writing of it will be laborious, and it won’t be a labor of love. It will be drudgery, a concept that is sheer terror for a natural storyteller.

Take it from me, the sooner you learn to trust yourself, your own abilities, and your creative subconscious (your characters), the happier (and “faster”) you will be as a storyteller. You’ll also practice your craft a lot more while writing dozens of short stories or multiple novels in a year, so you’ll also become a better storyteller a lot more quickly.

To write FICTION at pulp speed, you have to set aside all those myths: outlining, needing to know what happens next and how the story will end, revising and rewriting, seeking critiques, polishing, etc.

You can’t write fiction at pulp speed while working with a safety net. To write fiction at pulp speed, you need to have to know that you don’t NEED a safety net. That you won’t fail, and that if you do, so what? The fact is, there will be no consequences. None. You’ll just begin the next story.

And that’s what I’m going to do. When I start writing fiction in earnest again (sometime this month), I’ll also begin a new annual goal: to surpass 1,000,000 words (pulp speed) of published fiction in one year.

So go read Dean’s post at, then maybe come back and re-read this one. Then begin the hard work of clearing out the myths and learning that you really can trust yourself. All it takes is a decision followed by stern determination.

Then jump in and let’s write some stories.

Talk with you again later.

Of Interest

See “Writing Shooting Scenes: How Hollow are Your Points?” at

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1330 words

Writing of WCGN 5: Tentative Title (novel)

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for November……… XXXX
Total fiction words for the year………… 623282
Total nonfiction words for November… 6010
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 184500
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 807782

Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… 13
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 3
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 66
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.

2 thoughts on “The Journal: Fiction Writing and Pulp Speed”

  1. Great post, Harvey! I’ve been doing the math (on average I’ve been writing 240,000k words per year, which is a 20k novella a month) and came to the sobering conclusion that, at that rate, I’m only writing around 45 minutes a day.


    I spend way more time than that writing texts and emails. And the fact is, if I truly want to be a prolific professional writer (and I do) then I need to seriously up my game.

    • Hi Maggie, Amazing, isn’t it, that it all boils down to math and priorities? (grin)

      Maybe interesting to note too, that SF Grand Master (and pioneer in SF) Jack Williamson averaged 200,000 words per year. He was considered highly prolific because he published 2 novels per year through TOR.

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