Some Thoughts on a Pulp Speed Weekend

My son didn’t have school yesterday (Monday) because the teachers had an in-service day.  So my wife took advantage of his vacation to take a day off from work to go visit her parents.  My son plays trumpet, and solo and ensemble competitions are coming up.  As my father-in-law is a trumpet player, there was instruction and practice taking place.

I didn’t have Monday off.  The university was education (or something that resembles it to the untrained eye) as usual.  This was a good thing.  It meant I had the house to myself all weekend.

So I wrote. I tried to write at pulp speed.  For those who may not be familiar with the term, pulp speed is writing at a rate at which you can support yourself as a writer, like the pulp writers did.  They rarely rewrote, at least more than once, and they wrote prodigiously every day.

I didn’t get as much done as I had hoped.  I didn’t sleep well Saturday night because I had a large cup of hot tea a little later than I should and was kinda wiped out most of Sunday.

But it was still a highly productive weekend.  I got over 6,000 words written, over 5500 of them on Saturday and Sunday.  (I lost my slip of paper where I was writing down word totals and don’t remember the exact number, but 6k was a minimum,) It’s more than I would normally have written.  Since I didn’t get started until after 3:00 on Saturday afternoon (yard chores) and still managed to put over 3k down, I won’t complain.  I didn’t write much on the sword and sorcery novelette I’m been working on during the week, but I did get at least half of a ghost story completed.  And started a horror story I’d been kicking around.  The S&S tale will go in a collection with others in that series.  The ghost and horror story are for a collection I’m going to publish as an exercise in learning how to epublish.  Once these two stories are done, I should be ready to start putting the thing together, although I may write one or two more if the right ideas hit me.

I did learn several things.  It’s possible to write ahead of your story.  I’ve never really outlined.  I’m more of an organic writer, one who starts with an opening and usually but not always has an idea where the story will end up.  Usually I know what the next scene will be before I finish the one I’m working on.  That has changed over the last year or two, but I’m still primarily a pantser.  The ghost story has grown, and now that I know the ending, I need to back fill some things to avoid an abrupt ending that feels forced.

The things I found most interesting was what I learned about myself.  First, I think when I’m writing and the words are flowing  and the muse is yielding herself to my desires guiding my work, I’m in an altered state of consciousness.  My focus is sharp, I’m exhilarated yet relaxed, and I hit a contentment that few other things seem to provide.  Mind you, this is when things are going well and I can hardly type fast enough to keep up with the words.  When the words won’t come, the above doesn’t apply.  Yes, I just said writing is a drug, my drug of choice.

The second thing I learned is that such intense writing can wear you out if you’re not used to it.  Now as Dean Wesley Smith said in the post that David J. West linked to on his blog, there are different levels of pulp speed, and I was only hitting on one of the lower levels for a brief time.  And thanks, David, for that post.  I only saw Dean’s through your link, but both posts have really impacted how I approach writing.  There is a bit of a price to pay for the altered state of consciousness that is in the zone writing.  But like anything else, you can work up to it.

The third thing was that I’ve always wondered if I could write at that pace.  I don’t generally write in large blocks.  But I loved it.  It’s definitely a writing regime I could get used to.  I need to improve my self-discipline, but I can do it.  Which means if I can turn out readable copy (yet to be determined), then there’s a good chance I can turn this writing hobby into a paying gig.  And that’s the ultimate goal.  To write stories and books that people want to read badly enough that they will willingly give me money for them.  Whether the quality of the writing will ever reach that level, we’ll have to wait and see.  But I can keep that pace up, especially if I train for it like an athlete.

13 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on a Pulp Speed Weekend

    1. Keith West Post author

      Wow, that was quick. This thing just went live. (Unless you’ve hacked into my computer. 🙂 )

      I’m getting really excited about the pulp revival that’s happening. I want in on it. Hopefully both collections will be out by the end of the year. I’m still going to try to place some of the S&S stories in a professional venue if I can hit a length an editor is willing to buy from an unknown.

  1. Woelf Dietrich

    Stephen King calls it a “writer’s daze”, the zone you enter where the real world stops working and only the words flowing from your mind matters. I love that. It doesn’t happen often with me, but when it does the words just generate themselves and seem alive with something not of my making.

    Like you I’m mostly a pantser. I only outline when I contribute to an anthology. When I write my own stories I want to be surprised where it takes me. That is half the fun.

    And yes, self-discipline is important. I’m working on that. You’re on the right track, though. Every day you write you add more words and your story grows. Determination and consistency are your sword and shield here.

    I’m writing this to motivate myself and to congratulate you on your progress. Look forward to reading those stories.

    1. Keith West Post author

      Funny you should mention King. I just tweeted a link to a motivational video that starts off talking about him and how many times Carrie was rejected.

      I appreciate your comments, and agree completely. Focus and discipline are the key. I’ve managed to create several spaces at home where I can get away from the noise and distractions of other people on a semi-consistent basis. That alone has made a huge difference. I’m adding words every day, with a minimum goal of 500. The next step is to finish the active projects.

      On a personal note, let the award nomination you received motivate you. It’s affirmation that your work connects with people. And congratulations again.

      1. Woelf Dietrich

        Funny enough, I’m not too crazy about King’s books. I’ve only read a handful but that doesn’t mean he’s not a good writer. His “On Writing” is an excellent guide for writers. King also mentions Carrie in the book and how the manuscript ended up in the trash after countless rejections. If I remember correctly, it’s because of his wife that he submitted it one last time. Knowing that even the best went through countless rejections helps fuel one’s determination…or hope.

        Thanks, I appreciate it. You do get your down days when you wonder if your writing is going anywhere. The nomination came through on one of those days.

        1. Keith West Post author

          That was the point of the video I linked to. King’s wife did indeed pull the manuscript from the trash. The point of the video was to not give up in the face of rejection. I’ve heard a similar story about (I think, it’s been a while) Donaldson’s first Thomas Covenant books. Whoever the author was in the tale, he sent the work by mistake to a publisher who had already rejected it. The editor had changed, and the new editor loved it. Then there was the guy who was sending a story down an alphabetized list and didn’t realize that two consecutive magazines had the same editor. When he sent it to the second magazine, the editor who had rejected the story for his other magazine bought it and said, “I love what you did with the rewrite.” The author had never touched it, just sent it out as is.

          Sounds like God knew you needed a boost of encouragement.

  2. Paul McNamee

    Sounds like a great weekend.

    I’m learning to zone and churn words for the novel and not worry about tidiness.

    One scene at a time, uncaring Crom. One scene at a time.

  3. Robert Zoltan

    Nice job, Keith! What you refer to as a drug is also called Flow (have you read the book by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi? Here is a Ted Talk by him, which I have not yet watched I also think it is an example of being fully in the present moment (in the Now, as Eckhart Tolle calls it). That is experienced by us when fully engaged here and now in what we are doing, not lost in a phantom mind world of our illusory past and present (where our mind is using us as opposed to the other way around), whether walking in nature, playing a sport, doing an art or scientific endeavor, etc. Glad you’re experiencing that happiness and hope you move into it often.


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