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[GUEST POST] Matt Forbeck on The Speed of Write

Matt Forbeck is the author of countless games and many stories. His Magic: The Gathering comic launches from IDW in December, and his 16th novel, Carpathia, hits stores in March. He also has a mad plan called 12 for ’12, in which he plans to write a dozen novels in 2012. His first Kickstarter drive for his Brave New World Roleplaying Game novels hit its first funding level, so he starts writing the first book in January.

The Speed of Write

By Matt Forbeck

Earlier this month, I launched a project I call 12 for ’12, in which I propose to write a novel every month for the entirety of 2012. I set up a Kickstarter drive to help fund the first trilogy, which is based on the Brave New World Roleplaying Game, a dystopian superheroes setting I created near the turn of the millennium.

To keep things manageable, I’m planning to write 50,000-word novels, a bit shorter than the doorstops seen on most bookshelves these days, but just like the thinner volumes that used to dominate such places. A dozen of those adds up to 600,000 words in the course of the year. That’s a lot of writing.

There’s no doubt this is a Herculean task for any writer, and I don’t deny that it’s a lot of work. Creating things is my full-time job, though, and I regularly write fast enough to manage a pace that totals less than 1,650 words per day.

Before my wife had quadruplets back in 2002, I used to average about 5,000 words per day. These days, it’s closer to 3,000, but that’s still about double what I need.

And, hey, 2012’s a Leap Year, so I get 366 days to take a whack at it.

The unspoken question through all of this is, of course, this: How can you write so fast and not come out with stories that suck?

First, those novels I plan to knock out so fast will be first drafts. They’ll be edited and revised and polished before they’re published. They’ll get more love than just 30 days’ worth before you have the chance to read them. (Well, unless you’re one of my Kickstarter backers who pledges enough to be able to read along as I write, of course.)

Second, the idea that you have to take a long time to labor over every phrase in a book is a lie. Jack Kerouac banged out On the Road in three weeks. Isaac Asimov wrote or edited over 500 books over the career that spanned 52 years. Walter Gibson wrote up to 10,000 words a day to satisfy demand for stories featuring the Shadow. In his peak year, he punched out 1,680,000 words in a year.

Makes 600,000 words seem reasonable, doesn’t it?

Of course, I’m still writing the Magic: The Gathering comic for IDW and handling a number of other projects, not to mention helping raise my kids. It’s going to be a long, hard challenge. I might blow it in a spectacular, literary wipeout.

Still, if that happens, it might at least be fun to watch. If you’d like to see me try it, head on over to the Kickstarter page and check out my mad plan close up and personal. If you want to dare me to try it, all you have to do is click on that big, green “Back This Project” button.

Then you can sit back and watch the fireworks. I’ll be busy making them as fast as I can.

8 Comments on [GUEST POST] Matt Forbeck on The Speed of Write

  1. Mudge the Expendable // November 16, 2011 at 12:24 pm //

    You’re doing National Novel Writing YEAR instead of month! Go go go! What a great idea!

  2.  On The Road was not written in three weeks. A simple trip to Wikipedia will confirm this. Also, how can an idea be a lie?


    That’s the problem with writing at breakneck speed: the results usually suck.

  3. Thanks, Mudge! I’m having a great time so far, and I haven’t even started writing. 

  4. Ideas are lies by being untrue, Michel, although I suppose I could have been clearer by calling that a “statement” rather than an “idea.” 

    Also, Kerouac himself promoted the fact he’d written On the Road in three weeks, and checking that Wikipedia entry confirms that he did so for the first draft of what would become the finished novel. Much in the same way, I’m proposing to write 600,000 words of first-draft material in 2012. Having spent time as an editor, my first drafts are usually pretty clean, but that also means I believe in an editor’s worth. I’ll make sure those get polished before I send them out into the world. 

  5. I think your idea is a bit mad, Matt, but I think to want to be a writer is to at least breathe in the scent of madness, if not drink it from the cask.

  6. Best of luck on reaching your insane goal. I’m totally the opposite kind of writer – my first novel took seven years, my second has been six so far.

  7. We all work at our own pace, Michel. While 12 for ’12 might seem like a challenge, I set it for myself, not anyone else. I often tell people it’s not a race. We’re only competing against ourselves. 

    And thanks for the good wishes. 

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