Pulp Speed & It’s Just Me in Here

I see Dean Wesley Smith has another bit up on the concept of Pulp Speed. You should read it. You should also take into account your own situation, but you should read it because the important point therein is really not about speed. I know, that seems odd given its title. But I know certain things about us writers, and what I know is that despite the rest of the title, folks are going to focus on the term “Pulp Speed” and ignore the rest.

I’ll get to what I mean by “take into account your own situation,” in a moment.

First, let me say that the important point about Dean’s missive to me is about the difference between “old-school” traditional publishing and the “newer world” (I admit that by now I hate using the term “new world” when it comes to indie publishing—it’s no longer new, so I’ll go with “newer” and be done with it). As a person who does all my long-form fiction (*) through independent distribution channels, I can tell you exactly how freeing that process is. As an independent publisher, you are responsible for yourself, of course—but you get to make all the decisions and deal with all the ramifications of them. If you can write a million words a year (to Dean’s example), you can publish them.

The challenge is to get to the point where you understand that what Dean is talking about is, if not yet practical for you, absolutely possible.

* As a counterbalance, the feelings I have while doing this indie thing are considerably different than the feelings I have while waiting for traditional publishers to get around to my short fiction. I do that, you know? I publish a fair amount of short fiction through traditional markets (including a short story in Analog this month!). So I’m not against the concept—though it’s totally fair to note there is an ocean’s breadth of difference between long and short fiction when it comes to business practices.

Still, there’s that work thing, right? Independent publishing is a lot of work—especially early on, or at least until you can get to be successful enough to hire people to do stuff for you. It’s a lot of work that expressly does not include writing fiction.

I do well enough, but I am certainly not successful at that level, yet.

So, to run my business I have a lot of work to do that, again, does not include writing. For example, I’m just at the tail end of a three-day process focused on adjusting pricing schemes and loading books onto an a platform that I had not been using previously. That was intensive work. It took a lot of patience and attention to detail. During those three days I managed to create only 1500 words of fiction.

Still, my read when it comes to Dean’s concept of Pulp Speed—the underlying principle of his Pulp Speed framework—is that one really does need to come to grips with is the idea that it is possible to write that quickly, and that it’s also possible to write well while also writing quickly. Once you get that idea properly under wing, all it really takes to hit that word count is dedication (read that as “time in the seat”).

My suggestion to you, though, as a person working hard in the field of independent publishing, is that you look at what Dean’s advocating, realize it’s possible, and aspire to get as close as you can to it while making whatever adjustments you need to make for yourself.

For example, I’m personally rounding up toward 250,000 words of fiction created this year. I’m expecting to wind up at 350,000-400,000 words by the end of December. Perhaps a little more. 500K would make me leap for joy. Dean’s million words included blog stuff, and other stuff, and boiled down to 700,000 words of fiction, or ten novels. You’ll note that I’ve not made that kind of progress. What I’ve done in the place of a couple hundred thousand words includes all the production work for releasing at least a dozen books this year—and maybe a few more. Time will tell. I have plans, anyway. Regardless, my current annual pace leaves me at around seven novels, give or take.

So, that’s good. I’m happy.

I’m not going to compare myself directly to Dean because our situations are different.

There is, at present anyway, only one of me.

If you’re reading one of my books, you’re consuming something that is 100% me—with the exception, of course, of the work Lisa (the wife/copy editor) does. I cannot copyedit my own work. [grin]. I also will, on occasion, commission a cover from outside. (Rachel Carpenter did great work on my SGTM covers). Even then, the final decisions are all mine. I create the books. I do the marketing, and what little advertising there is. I (mostly) design the covers. I record and edit the audio. I write the intros and ask folks for blurbs. I decide pricing and manage the back end of the distribution system (a task that has, as I noted absorbed my last three days).

It’s all me.

Oh, yeah, I also moved to Las Vegas in June and July this year. So there was that little time sink.

So, for me, Pulp Speed—as defined by 1,000,000 words a year—is always going to be a dicey proposition. Given my current business situation, I think I could get awfully close. If I literally had an entire year just lay out there before me and not mess with my cycle, I think I can do maybe 600,000 or so new words and still get the production side done well enough to keep the overall business moving forward. With all the extras Dean’s talking about, maybe I’d be at 800,00 to 900,000. Close, but no banana, right?

In my situation, to make it to that 1,000,000 means I need to make some different decisions in how the business side of things get done.

That’s always possible.

I’ll likely review certain things as I get into Q4 that might make things easier going forward.

But that’s the thing I think about every time I see one of Dean’s Pulp Speed posts (or when I think of a few others who I know are working like that).

I don’t need to compete with Dean on word count. What I need to realize here is that Dean is describing the opportunity field that exists out there. He’s exploring the edges of a person’s very real capacity. I can use that idea to hold myself accountable. I can use his definition to ask myself if I’m spending my time wisely, or if I’m just slacking off (hey, there’s no shame in not writing, you know…I just want to be honest with myself). If I haven’t maxed out my wordcount, was it because I’m using that time in other useful pursuits? If so, am I making the right business and personal decisions for myself.

Would it be better to contract out covers? Would the expense be worth the benefit?

What joy would I be giving up by exporting work? What drudgery?

Can I really bring myself to let go of the act of piddling around with my own audio (which I enjoy, but I’m really not super-great at)?

Would I be better off writing.

So, yeah. Read Dean’s thoughts, and absorb them. But realize the most important thing about that post is not the aspect of speed—it’s the fact that in today’s world you get to make all those decisions.

Which is really, really cool.

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