Because I have a perpetually small window of time in which to do my writing, I need to (and do) write quickly. And as I finish my Sunday night ritual of posting the week’s articles and graphics to my blog, I’m often left wondering if what I’ve produced is any good. Is my writing suffering because I’m trying to write a few thousand words in the space of 4 or 5 hours?
How long should it take?
In my eternal search for answers, I stumbled across a couple of short articles by two writers talking about how long it takes them to write an article. And they differ by quite a bit.
The first is a typical how-to article by Jim Estill that describes his writing process, explaining how it only takes him 20 minutes to write a 500 word article.
The second is by Allena Tapia, a freelance writer and blogger at About.com. She recently wrote a 1200 word article in 13 hours, a figure that includes interviews, research, and 3 drafts, and put out the question of “how long?” to her readers.
A brief perusal of the comments section reveals that Allena is a lot closer to the norm than Jim is, but Allena’s writing magazine articles whereas Jim is writing blog entries. I wonder if the difference in publication has an effect on writing time across the board and, if so, why? Does the self-imposed weekly publishing schedule help me produce posts more quickly?
Speed and quality: oil and water?
And then the question of quality…is an article written in 20 minutes inherently less valuable, less interesting than one written in 13 hours? Merlin Mann’s getting a bit snobby now that he’s joined the A-list of bloggers and has a taste of internet celebrity, but I think that his recent list of what makes a good blog is a decent collection of things to think about when it comes to a blog. Can you meet some of the criteria that Merlin Mann’s laid out in his list if you’re writing something in 20 minutes?
What about fiction?
I write blog posts and fiction, and I’m finding that blog posts come faster than my fiction does. I was listening to an interview with a comic writer whose name escapes me at the moment, and this writer was talking about the ability to write several scripts per month. He thought that people who wrote for newspapers tended to be the better writers in general (at least for comics). Because they were exposed to several stories every day, they absorbed an intimate and inherent knowledge of what makes a good story. And because they had to write to deadlines throughout the week, they learned to write quickly and make those deadlines. But despite being very prolific, I don’t think anyone would argue that writers of comics are guaranteed to be good writers.
So I’m still here, pondering the question of how long it takes to write something good. And I think I’ve put in about 20, maybe 30 minutes on this post. Is it any good?