News room: Beat The Clock! 10 Famously Speedy Writers

Beat The Clock! 10 Famously Speedy Writers by Jessica Barrah

In the northern hemisphere we’re just past the longest day – but how hours of writing does it take to write a novel? For these ten famous authors, not as long as you might imagine.

1. Michael Crichton

Author of Jurassic Park Michael Crichton churned out on average 10,000 words per day. However, he was very keen on editing his own work.
“Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten,” he said. “Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”

2. Stephen King

The popular and very prolific author has said “Yes, I once wrote a novel (The Running Man) in a single week. But I can say, with complete honesty, that I never had any choice.
As a young man, my head was like a crowded movie theater where someone has just yelled “Fire!” and everyone scrambles for the exits at once. I had a thousand ideas but only 10 fingers and one typewriter. There were days — I’m not kidding about this, or exaggerating — when I thought all the clamoring voices in my mind would drive me insane."

3. Kazuo Ishiguru

Ishiguru said about his Man Booker Prize winning novel, The Remains of the Day,

“I’d written an opening chapter to a new novel the previous summer, but now, almost a year later, I was no further forward…I would, for a four-week period, ruthlessly clear my diary and go on what we somewhat mysteriously called a “Crash”. During the Crash, I would do nothing but write from 9am to 10.30pm, Monday through Saturday. I’d get one hour off for lunch and two for dinner. I’d not see, let alone answer, any mail, and would not go near the phone. No one would come to the house.”

4. Ian Fleming

Fleming’s first Bond novel Casino Royale took around two months to write. His subsequent Bond novels took even less – about six weeks for each one.

5. Anthony Burgess

Being almost 40 when his first novel was published, Burgess tried to make up for lost time, committed to writing 1,000 words a day, seven days a week, turning out 33 novels in 36 years.

5. William Faulkner

Faulkner wrote his masterpiece, As I Lay Dying in less than six weeks while working the night shift at a power plant. He also claimed he didn’t change a single word.

6. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The first novel to feature detective Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet took Arthur Conan Doyle just three weeks to write.

8. John Boyne

Boyne became so engrossed in writing The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas that apparently he couldn’t stop, writing the book in around two and a half days.

9. Alexander McCall Smith

The prolific author of bestselling books such as The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency doesn’t have any problem with writer’s block.

“I switch on the computer and fall into this world. I find another voice, be it Mma Ramotswe or any of my other characters, simply takes over. Very enjoyable, very satisfying… I find that once I have started it flows reasonably well. On a good day, at full tilt, I find I’m writing 1,000 words an hour.”

10. Jack Kerouac

Kerouac supposedly wrote On the Road in three weeks, typing it almost nonstop on a 120-foot roll of paper. Kerouac typed about 100 words a minute, and replacing regular sheets of paper in his typewriter just interrupted his flow — and so, the scroll helped. But although he’d typed it up in in three weeks the book had many versions and revisions over a number of years, and wasn’t as ‘spontaneous’ as the prose style indicated.

However long it’s taking you to finish writing your book the best advice is…just keep going!

Further reading:

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Written by
Jessica Barrah
Published on
Midsummer, Writing, Speed, Fast, Authors, Fiction, Novels, and Self-publishing