On Writing Times

Once at a bar I suggested that MFA students should be producing one novel every semester. Right after, I felt that was mean. Like, bitchy. It was silly. It was stupid. I was writing fast then, maybe at a quicker pace than others, but mostly because my writing was extremely toned down, pared down, simple. The sentences were often less than ten words. Most of the novel that I had just finished, for instance, was quick dialogue. I did not go so deep into the characters. It’s easy to write 3,000 words a day when there’s a lot of repetition, when people say stuff like this:

“Hi.”

“Hi.”

“It’s you there.”

“Yes, hello. It is me. And that is you.”

“It is me.”

“It is a fine day.”

“Isn’t it a fine day?”

It was. It was a more than fine day.

“It is most definitely a fine day.”

“Yes.”

I don’t expect MFA students to churn out books. Still, I do wonder why, with all the time we’re afforded, more novels aren’t put together. You got to think, on average, that a novel is about 70,000 words? Maybe it’s closer to 80,000? 1,000 words a day will get that out in not much more than two months, which is less than a semester. It strikes me that the issue is weaving long-term narratives together. But then, for me at least, that comes later, after the first and fast and terrible draft is vaguely formed.

I’ve heard from people that 1,000 words takes anywhere from 1 to 3 hours. That’s 7 to 21 hours a week. That’s half of a 40-hour week. Teaching and classes amount to about 20 hours.

I’m not taking into account, of course, that people have families and other jobs and social lives and research.

There have been a few articles recently about the lack of novel-writing in MFA programs. But that’s not really what I’m thinking about. I’m thinking about how long it takes to get words out.

I’m thinking unclearly, I think.

I’m thinking that this post doesn’t think too much about anything.

So it goes with Thanksgiving. Hope everyone had a fine holiday.

Tim

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