writing tips

Facebook Live #2 : Mark Talks Autographs, Paperbacks & Writing Tips

On Tuesday, I did my second Facebook Live session, after last week’s had to be unexpectedly cancelled at the last moment. In this one, which I enjoyed as much as the last one, I went into my new autograph cards, my paperback books, and questions from viewers relating to writing tips and my inspirations.

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publishing quickly

How Fast Is Too Fast? When Publishing Quickly May Become a Liability

I can read over 750 words a minute and utterly devour books (2-3 a week). I have done this since I was first able to read. Teachers called me “unique” which I guess is their polite way of saying that I was a freak. My mother told me often in the past that she found it unnerving to see me reading so fast.

So when it comes to writing my books, I am also a speed demon. With a touch-typing speed of over 130 words per minute and a “pantser” writing style, it isn’t long before the smoke is rising from the keyboard and my fingers and wrists are screaming “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!! WE NEED A BREAK!!

Is Working Fast & Publishing Quickly a Liability?

I started the whole indie self-publishing gig back in August of this year. Now four months later, I have three books out and a 10,000 word novella. Another 10,000 word novella is out next month and I am working on the next book which is optimistically planned to be 100,000 words, my longest yet. This will probably be out in March, four months from now. The only reason it will take that long is because I am going into the hospital for two months very soon.

For 2018, I have plans to write four more full-length novels, at least five more 10,000 word novellas, and four non-fiction books. I guess you could say I am a workaholic, I am rocking the productivity and kicking away the procrastination.

But (and there’s ALWAYS a but), friends and family have commented that I am publishing too fast. They suggest I should be pacing myself and staggering the release dates. They protest they can’t keep up with me, that they are now several books behind because of my tendency to “pump them out”. That I am rapidly heading for burnout. Even my ARC team are complaining and several have dropped out.

But I can’t help it. When I get into “the zone”, I can produce tremendous amounts of work, and the excitement of publication means that when a book is finished, I see no point in sitting on the book and not putting it out for a few months. If it’s done, it may as well go out now and start earning for me.

In my opinion, putting it out immediately keeps the momentum going and keeps the customers happy. I am convinced there is no earthly reason to make people wait if you have the next book in the bag ready to go.

So the three questions these objections raise for me are these.

  • Am I unintentionally harming my sales and my reputation by writing and publishing too fast?
  • Should I be making readers wait longer for the next book to heighten anticipation?
  • Is my accelerated schedule making the stories less interesting because there is no proper buildup?

self publishing formula

I discussed this with fellow indie authors over at Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Community and they were evenly split with their thoughts. Here are the broad areas that everyone touched on when I asked them for my their opinion.

Being Indie Means You Can Publish On Your Own Timetable

If you are a “traditional” publisher, you are restricted by your publishing company on how many books you can put out per year. Otherwise you will be told you are saturating the market. According to people I have spoken to, traditional authors are limited to a maximum of two books per year. This is why Stephen King also wrote under the pseudonym of Richard Bachmann – to get more books out.

Two books a year? That would drive me completely insane being held back like that. But if you are an indie author, you are not beholden to a publisher and their arcane rules. You can publish as much as you want, whenever you want.

Some people have suggested that the people who have complained to me about my publishing speed are the ones who are only used to seeing 1-2 books a year from each author. That the idea that an author they like can pump out five, six, even seven books a year is just unheard of and absurd.

Publishing Too Fast Means More Chance Of Putting Out Substandard & Inaccurate Work

There was a certain camp of thought at SPF where people thought there was a very good and simple reason for slowing down. The faster you write and publish, the more chance there is that you will start producing substandard work and more chance of work having typos and grammar errors. Over the long term, this is going to destroy your reputation.

A lot of indie writers I know swear by hiring editors and proofreaders for hundreds of dollars to check their work. But before I started as an indie author, I was a copywriter, proofreader, and editor. So I feel that I am qualified to edit and proofread my own work. Plus I am tight with my money and I want to keep those hundreds of dollars for myself!

But I have been told that I cannot spot my own errors because my brain will see what it wants to see. So is my speed and my disinclination to spend money actually my own worst enemies? Is my over-confidence my Achilles Heel?

Some Of The Best Authors Wrote Fast

isaac asimov

But then the pro-speed writers came back with a great argument. Some of the greatest writers ever wrote like they were on drugs. Nothing bad happened to them. So I am in good company and I shouldn’t be worried. If it worked for them, it will work for me.

How many books did Agatha Christie bring out in her lifetime? Or Barbara Cartland? Jackie Collins? It seems like Nora Roberts brings out a new book each week. Isaac Asimov’s back-list looks like a book itself.

If writing fast means I am going to emulate Isaac Asimov (who is one of my heroes), then I will speed up even more.

But Then There’s The Burnout…..

The human body has limits. I recently discussed on this site about how depression affected and influenced my writing. By working so much, something has to give. As the saying goes, you can’t burn the candle at both ends.

If you’re not working, you’re not sleeping. You’re not taking time out to do other enjoyable things such as spend time with your family and friends. And eventually the well of story plots is going to run dry. All of this is going to lead to serious burnout.

If you’re lucky, this might be something as simple as temporary writers block and a need to have a few more lie-ins each morning. But if you’re not lucky, you could be looking at a serious breakdown in your health. I’ve already had one breakdown in my life. I don’t need another.

The Consensus

What everyone agreed on though was that everyone is different and only you know yourself and your limitations. Writing fast, publishing fast, and establishing a speedy back-list has its numerous advantages, but if you’re not careful, it could spectacularly backfire in your face. But only you yourself know which one will happen to you.

Let me know in the comments what type of writer you are. Are you a flaming hot fast writer driving out dozens of books per year? Or do you prefer it slow and steady, doing only one or two a year? What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of both?


Don’t Get Hung Up On Researching Every Little Thing


When The Renegade Spy came out, I inevitably had the nitpickers send me emails and Amazon reviews about inaccuracies they found in the book. Oh, this gun should be called this, you can’t do this, it should be called a suppressor, not a silencer, etc, etc. Being the polite person I am, I thanked them all sincerely for their feedback. But truth be told, when it comes to fiction, I don’t get totally hung up on researching every little thing to be 100% accurate.

Of course I would never say anything totally outrageously inaccurate in my books, like Sophie Decker bringing down a jet fighter with her pocket knife. But someone said somewhere (and it annoys the hell out of me that I can’t find the source now), that when writing a fiction book, you are not writing reality, but the illusion of reality.

When writing a fiction book, you are not writing reality, but the illusion of reality. Click To Tweet

In other words, as long as it sounds believable, then treat the book as it is – a story. Something to escape into and enjoy. Don’t get hung up on every little detail being completely believable. Don’t freak out if I call a gun part, a silencer instead of a suppressor. Don’t hit the roof if I put the full stop outside the speech mark instead of inside it. So what if someone manages to get from Point A to Point B quicker than they would in real life? Did you honestly tell me you actually timed yourself doing it just to prove me wrong?

Books are meant to be for escapism. To escape from your normal life and indulge in a bit of fantasy for a while. So if you are writing a fiction book, of course make sure there are no pink flying elephants in it. But you don’t have to specify what kind of gun someone is carrying. A Glock or a Smith & Wesson, it makes no damn difference, because it is just a story.


The Best Method To Start Writing – Listen to Monologues


I pride myself on being really good at what I do, which is writing. My wife always tells me how freaked out she is at how fast I can type and push out articles. But quite frankly, a lot of the time, I have a lot of trouble producing the goods. If I am not procrastinating online (I’m looking at you Facebook), the writers block is kicking my ass.

The words just won’t come, no matter how hard I try. Add to that a nice warm attention-seeking dog who is always looking to bounce up on my knee, and you can see right away why there are days when I consider switching careers (it doesn’t last for very long though!).

But when the words absolutely HAVE to come, say if I am about to collide head-on with a deadline, I have to find some way of unfugging my brain. The quickest way I have found is to listen to monologues on YouTube.

Monologue (n) – a speech presented by a single character, most often to express their mental thoughts aloud, though sometimes also to directly address another character or the audience.

The type I am talking about are the ones by political journalists and comedians at the start or end of their show. Comedians can be general comedians such as Stephen Colbert :

or they can be political comedians such as Bill Maher :

Samantha Bee (her language can be rather NSFW) :

and John Oliver.

Political journalists can be people like Jake Tapper :

and Rachel Maddow (although I thought the whole Trump tax thing was a huge brouhaha over nothing) :

Listening to monologues, whatever the subject, are brilliant for getting the mind moving. Monologues by their very nature are long commentaries, a “rant” if you will, on that person’s pet topic of the day/week.

Listening to monologues, whatever the subject, are brilliant for getting the mind moving. Click To Tweet

Why politics though? Frankly because there are more monologues on politics than any other subject (politics tends to set people off, no matter your political persuasion). So you have a lot to listen to and a lot to think about (which for me is the whole point of the exercise). Plus I am extremely interested in politics which always helps. Politics is also combative, so there are lots of provocative statements, lots of back-and-forth. Somehow I don’t get the same results with Jerry Springer-type shows.

Monologues inspire me a great deal, gets me thinking about their subject, gets me thinking about possible versions that I would have written if I was on their staff, and it generally unfreezes my ability to string two words together. Suddenly before I know it, I am off to the races and typing so fast, there’s smoke coming out of my keyboard.

Writers always advise other writers to find their muse. Generally it is the special someone in their life. With all due respect to my wife whom I love very much, Bill Maher tends to get my creative juices going a lot faster.