Write FAST and Furious! Learning to Outrun "The Spock Brain"


Original Image courtesy of David HT Flikr Creative Commons…

Many new authors slog out that first book, editing every word to perfection, revising, reworking, redoing. When I used to be a part of critique groups, it was not at all uncommon to find writers who’d been working on the same book two, five, eight and even ten years. Still see them at conferences, shopping the same book, getting rejected, then rewriting, rewriting…..


Great, maybe Kathryn Stockett, the author of The Help took five years and 62 revisions to get her story published. Awesome for her. And yes, her book was a runaway success, but this isn’t the norm. It’s playing Literary Lottery with our careers.

For most writers, it will be hard to have a long-term successful career if our pace is a book or two a decade.

Most authors who’ve made legend status were all talented, yes. But many were (are) also prolific. 

Does Writing Quickly Produce Inferior Work?

I’m a huge fan of Fast Draft. Candy Havens teaches this technique, and it works. Write your novel in two weeks a month, whatever, but write fast and furious. No looking back. Always forward. You can fix stuff later.

I’ve heard some writers criticize this method, believing that writing at this increased pace somehow compromises quality. Many writers are afraid that picking up speed will somehow undermine craftsmanship, yet this isn’t necessarily so.

To prove my point, here are some interesting factoids about writing hard and fast, some taken from James Scott Bell’s WONDERFUL book The Art of War for Writers (pages 79-82):

  • William Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying in six weeks.
  • Ernest Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises in six weeks.
  • After being mocked by a fellow writer that writing so fast created junk, John D. MacDonald wrote The Executioners in a month. Simon & Schuster published it in hardback. It was also serialized in a magazine, selected by a book club, and turned into the movie Cape Fear TWICE.
  • Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in nine days on a rented typewriter.
  • Isaac Asimov was the author/editor of over 700 books over the course of his career.
  • Stephen King writes 1,500 words a day every day of the year except his birthday. He’s published over fifty novels, and I don’t even know how many short stories and novellas. Let’s just say he’s written a LOT. Could he have done this writing a book every three years? Every five?


Meet “Captain Kirk Brain” and “Spock Brain”

Here’s my explanation of why writing faster than we “are comfortable” can produce fiction just as good (if not better) than a work that’s been written slowly and deliberately. And, since all roads lead back to Star Trek…

When we write quickly, we get into The Zone and pass The Wall. We become part of the world we’re creating. Fatigue wears out the cerebral cortex (the “Inner Editor” which I will call our “Spock Brain”). Fatigue diverts us to the Limbic Brain (also known as the Reptilian or Primal Brain, or for today’s purposes—“The Captain Kirk Brain”).

The Captain Kirk Brain is emotional, visceral and has no problem kissing hot, green alien women or cheating the Kobayashi Maru. He out-bluffs Klingons, outruns Romulans, starts brawls and throws the rulebook out the window. He’s pure instinct, raw emotion and all action. In short, Kirk is the stuff of great stories. No one ever got to the end of a book and said, “Wow, that book was riveting. The grammar was PERFECT!”

From original Star Trek

From original Star Trek

Captain Kirk Brain can do it’s job better—write fiction—when Spock Brain isn’t there saying, “But Captain, you’re being illogical. It clearly states in Strunk & White….”

The BEST line in the new Star Trek movie is when the villain of the story says to Spock, “You can’t even break rules, how can you expect to break bones?” So, I’m going to apply this to writing. Are you breaking enough bones?

Many writers hold back emotionally when writing. Why? They aren’t going fast and hard and so Spock takes over and he wants us to use a seatbelt and our blinkers. He isn’t the guy you want in charge if you’re going for the GUTS and breaking bones.

Kirk is Great for Action and Spock is Better for Rules

Spock Brain is a perfectionist and wants us to take our time, make sure we follow all the rules and put the commas in the right spot. He’s seriously uncomfortable with “suspending disbelief” and he tries to explain everything so others don’t get confused.

Author, you are being illogical.... (Via Star Trek)

Author, you are being illogical…. (Via Star Trek)

The trick is to hop on a cerebral crotch-rocket and outrun Spock. He is seriously uncomfortable with speeding and you can easily lose him in the school zones or the parking lot of Walmart. Don’t worry, Spock will yell at us later….at the appropriate time which is during revisions.

Thing is, Kirk and Spock make the perfect team, whether on The Enterprise or in our head. They balance each other, but they are also antagonists. Kirk wants to put phasers on KILL, and Spock wants to check and see if the rules for the Oxford Comma allows this.

Blogging and Writing Quickly Helps Us Learn to Shut off The Spock Brain

Blogging helps us ship and get comfortable with going FAST. No maybe every piece isn’t the quality of a New Yorker article, but who cares? It’s a BLOG. We aren’t looking to win the Pulitzer. We’re looking to get better riding a Cerebral Ducati and ignoring all of Spock’s protests that “This isn’t safe” and “Where is our helmet?” and “Clearly the speed limit forbids you going this fast.”

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 1.56.37 PM

Image via Star Trek (2009)

When we get the stories out faster, they’re more visceral. We get more practice with more stories since we aren’t letting Spock nit-pick for the next ten years…which he will do if Kirk doesn’t go running the other way despite Spock’s protests.

What are your thoughts? Has your inner Vulcan taken over and edited all the life out of your story? Has Kirk been allowed too much sway and now you’ve got to let Spock whip it into structure shape? Does the idea of going faster scare you?

To prove it and show my love, for the month of June, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of June I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!


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  1. My Kirk Brain is well developed. I’ve written all my first drafts withing a month (I use Nanowrimo). I find that if I push myself, I write more and my stories take interesting turns. I also use Write or Die, an amazing tool that puts the “prod in production.”

  2. Heh, heh, inner Vulcan. Wait, what were we talking about? Oh yes – I have discovered the only way for me to churn out a draft is to go (if I may), balls to the wall. Just get the story told in all it’s bits and pieces. I’ve tried to do it the organized way, but that just bogs me down and let’s my inner Vulcan (so love the reference as I grew up watching Star Trek, the original) not only edit me to death, but quite often sit my Muse in a corner with His inspiration tied behind His back. No writing gets done.

    • Lucy Lit on June 17, 2013 at 2:45 pm
    • Reply

    OMG. I think you’ve crawled into my head! As a newbie writer, I struggle with this. When I get to certain parts of the story, I think ‘I need to go back and fix/insert/explain’ something. And then the bright, shiny object syndrome of fixing this or that kicks in. Next thing I know, an hour has passed. I’m going to paste a picture of Kirk in front of me for a reminder. Thanks for the humorous (and helpful) post!

  3. Whew, what a perfect frame for this dilemma. As I see it, the problem with working in “Spock brain” mode all the time is that it’s not a very inspiring place for creative people to hang out. Nothing burns me out on a writing project like worrying about rules all the time, and when the passion’s gone, it’s easy to forget writing is something I actually want to do.

    And yes, I hopped over here to read this comment while avoiding editing this chapter… again…

  4. Yes! Yes! Yes! I was just thinking that fast and furious is the way I write. It’s like a roller-coaster ride for this total panster. Sometimes I can do character interviews before I hit the keyboard – but these last two it’s been “buckle up and hold on for dear life!” I started in 2009 and have other novels to revise, in time, but for now I keep learning and keep writing and enjoying every wild minute with no risk of whiplash.

  5. My Spock Brain not only controls my writing-I-mean-my-habit-of-constant-revision, but I think he has me in one of those Vulcan death grips. I needed this.
    Question: if you throw caution to the wind, does it blow back into your face??

  6. Personally, I find Capt. Kirk to be a highly irritating character. People like that who are all hell-for-leather-screw-the-rules are often only able to be that way when they have someone more cognizant of systems and impacts (and in some cases, morals) who’s got their back. Particularly in the new movies, I find Kirk to be absolutely over-the-top.

    That being said, I get and appreciate the point you’re making here. It’s definitely better to write forward and not backward. A bit more speed would probably benefit us all, although of course, “fast” is a relative thing that depends upon the type of story being written and everything else the writer has going on besides writing. Plus, saying “write fast, fix it later” sounds almost like a rule unto itself, which, we don’t want.

    1. Why? We need rules. Rules guide us, but they shouldn’t “rule” us. We are bound by the “rule” of narrative structure. My point is that we shouldn’t fear writing quickly. Making every page perfect has ham-stringed many good books. There are plenty of less-than-perfect-books that made the best-seller list and it’s always better than a halfway-finished “perfect” book. And this is why I point out that we NEED both Kirk and Spock. We need the part that dives into the passion and emotion, but we ALSO need the part that makes sure we are fitting certain guidelines to meet reader expectations. The problem is we allow the editor in too soon and that can uproot subconscious seeds or dilute the visceral nature of fiction.

  7. I agree and disagree. I wrote the first draft of my story like I was on a four month writing bender without a path in mind. The rewrite was hell, as I had to actually create a path, tying my little gems together or killing them off if they no longer worked. i would liken it to playing music; you have to learn to play the instrument and learn how to read music before you can truly improvise and free the inner captain Kirk.

    1. But the more stories we write, the more the “rules” become ingrained in the subconscious so we don’t have to think about them so much. We can write. Yet, over-perfecting one book is like refusing to play more than one song on a guitar. We don’t grow uncomfortable and have to stretch and work muscles. We learn by doing and writing and rewriting and rewriting the same book is counterproductive.

    2. I don’t think Kristen is saying don’t have any prep beforehand. Personally, I don’t start writing until I have an outline (it’s kinda crucial for my genre – mysteries). Since I’m kind of a Spock Brain to begin with, I first plot out the basic arcs to make sure they are sound. THEN I shift to Kirk Brain, so I’m fast-drafting with a road map of sorts (though I often veer off the grid, LOL, as new ideas occur to me). It works for me, and I find revisions aren’t such a hot mess.

      1. Actually do ALL the prep beforehand. Sort of like cooking shows. They dice all the onions, garlic, tomatoes, whatever and pre-measure out the spices. Everything is handy and available to access immediately so they can get to the COOKING instead of stopping to search for the bottle of cumin they KNOW they bought (meanwhile onions burning). Too many writers are trying to research or figure out details in the middle of creating and it can make for a rough time.

  8. I love NaNo for just this reason. It’s all about turning off your inner editor and just writing. It’s amazing what you can come up with when you stop thinking about it so hard. If only there was a way to edit faster…

  9. Reblogged this on kristininholland and commented:
    Writing is a mystery for me. Sometimes it flows and sometimes it blows. Kristen Lamb gives a thorough Star Trek backed approach to the benefits of just going for it at full speed ahead.

  10. I love this post! Just sayin’…

  11. I love the Star Trek analogy, especially since I’m a Star Trek nerd. (And I remember the line in the movie about breaking rules and bones.) I think I’m kind of a combination of the two characters. 🙂

    • Jennifer Cole on June 17, 2013 at 3:22 pm
    • Reply

    I loved this post. I am a diehard Trekkie fan. Especially of The Original Series and that episode was one of my favorites! I totally get where you are coming from. I joined an FB group where we clock in every hour with the idea of writing at least 1000 words in an hour. It’s been a real help for me as you can always fix it later. That’s why you have editors to do all the hard stuff. What a great post. Thank you! Date: Mon, 17 Jun 2013 19:29:27 +0000 To: jlynncole@hotmail.com

  12. Interesting article (or should I say “fascinating, Captain”).. Funny, my co-author and I were just having this discussion, as he’s more like Kirk and I’m more like Spock, so we balance each other out. It’s almost a metaphor for the right brain/left brain conundrum.

    It would seem that Kirk (right brain) would come in handy when brainstorming a premise or story concept, and for plowing through a first draft. But, being more of a “Spock” myself, I like to work from at least a high level outline prior to the first draft, though I suppose the first draft could be used to generate an appropriate outline or story structure or be retrofitted if needed.

    I realize the grammar, punctuation, logical flow, etc. can come during revisions, but I like to also check the story against a model like Blake Snyder’s story beats, or Chris Vogler’s Writer’s Journey model or whatever model is appropriate to the story, just as a cross-check (I like to know the rules before I break them). I guess that could happen after the first draft, though I’ve found that doing this during the outline stage can save a lot of time later.

    So I guess a related topic is whether to work from an outline or not. In our case, my co-author and I split the difference and agreed to start with a high level outline, knowing that it could very well change as we get into telling the story (and our last book certainly did). Also, I tend to sweat over things like character names, unique locations, reasonable motives, etc.but that can all happen during early planning.

    To to me, I think I’d bookend it — using the Kirk method to brainstorm premises, the Spock brain to help flesh out the story elements (protagonist, antagonist, goals, conflict, stakes, theme, etc.), the Kirk brain to plow through a draft, and the the Spock brain during revisions. But I can definitely see the benefit to doing a fast first draft or you can easily get stuck in analysis paralysis.

    Then again, I was reading that in writing the script for North by Northwest, Ernest Lehman and Hitchcock had no idea where act 3 was going to go, and then had to brainstorm it. So, I guess, winging it, can work too! There I go over-analyzing again.

    1. The point I hope to make is they are BOTH important, but put them in the jobs they are designed to do…and they do subvert each other. It’s our job to know when to listen to Kirk and when it’s time to let Spock take the helm ;).

  13. I loved this post! Thank you so much for putting this in terms I can actually understand. And an even bigger thank you for the picture of Chris Pine on the bike!

  14. Ah… you’re describing my ideal writing world. I am Kirk brain. Left to my own devices I’d confine myself to purdah for weeks at a time, eating and sleeping occasionally and then just writing until it was done. Unfortunately, I’m a stay at home Mum, so the K’Barthan trilogy has taken me about 16 years so far. The more Kirk-like I am with the writing, the more completely mental I get when I have to keep stopping. 😉

    • malindalou on June 17, 2013 at 3:28 pm
    • Reply

    I agree! You need to make quick and creative decisions when you’re laying down words. Otherwise, you’ll risk not ever having a finished product. If you see errors but keep going anyway, you might just discover you can work them out as you go and will have less editing to do when you’re done.

  15. My first novel took two years to write the first draft. Spock here I come. I got better at igniting Spock (god love those ears) and now my third novel is 3/4 done in about two months. Kirk is getting more attractive. Lol. Although if we were really talking Chris Pine or Zachary Qinto I’m not sure who would win me over. Might slow down for Spock!

  16. Another great blog post!

  17. In this case, I’m definitely a Kirk kind of person — my average daily output for 2013 so far is around 2800 words (though some days I wrote nothing and others I wrote 10k). Every day. Yep, I’m a Kirk type, even if generally in life I’m more of a Spock.

  18. I totally believe this principal – I’ve been shot-gun writing for the past two weeks and have made more progress on my WIP than I have in the last two to three years! It’s the truth. My plan is to have this very first rough draft finished by mid-July, then I plan to go back and “Spock” the heck out of it. For the moment thought, I’m just enjoying the ride and I really am because I’m not always sure where it is going to take me.

  19. There may be quite a bit of truth in your theory. For example, I recently entered a post-writing contest on a well-know, freelancer’s website (CT’s). I saw the contest e-mail 1 1/2 hours before the entry deadline. In a panic, I scrambled my frozen brain for a quick idea, then wrote as fast as I could, and without giving too much thought to editing. Out of 100 entries mine was the last. Guess who won? Yup…

    I think sometimes when you are for forced to meet a deadline – unexpectedly – your inner, raw skills take over your conflicting inhibitions.

    Great post, Kristen.

  20. Well timed (for me anyway). I’m doing some major re-writes to shorten plot that require whole new scenes. So, I’m giving this fast thing a try. Spock is very, very loud.

    • Lanette Kauten on June 17, 2013 at 4:03 pm
    • Reply

    I’m a pantser (one who flies by the seat of my pants and never uses an outline), but I use my first draft as an outline. I allow my MCs tell me the story first. However, none of my characters are writers. Their job is to tell me the story; including dialogue, setting, descriptions, etc. then when that’s done, my Spock brain analyzes their story and gets it into shape.

    That’s the model that has worked best for me until the current WIP. This one’s more complicated for several reasons: 1) There are three POV characters and two of those are antagonists, 2) Part of the story’s told through the MC’s dealings with a court-appointed psychiatrist, and those are all done out of time synch, 3) I’m an upmarket writer, and this is my first legal thriller, not exactly what I would call a thriller, but the legal aspect is definitely there as is the upmarket voice. The issue that I have come up against is there is constant research. Research the legal system (including jails), research laws and legal proceedings, research eugenics (the major issue in the novel) and its history in not just this country but in India. And that takes me to the last thing that’s slowing me down. The MC and her attorney are Indians, and I’m not. My writing partner is, so I send her every chapter I write, which she modifies and sends back to me. Since there have been times when her comments and revisions have altered certain plot points or directions, I can’t just write the whole thing and send it to her. It really is a chapter by chapter process and not at all my usual way of doing things. When it really comes down to it, sometimes we have to do what’s best for the project.

    • Lanette Kauten on June 17, 2013 at 4:04 pm
    • Reply

    I forgot to mention, I shared this article on Twitter.

  21. I’m a big fan of Candace’s Fast Draft. I’m writing my second draft using this method. It works, but only for determined and disciplined minds 🙂

  22. My last three books were written as fast drafts. I’m sold on the method. I need to plan out at least the major turning points and I have to know my characters in some depth and know the backstory of my story before I begin the draft. Then I let the writing take over. I’m planning on a NaNo draft of book three of my trilogy in November.


  23. I’ve been working on a book for two years with a spock mindset, but recently I’ve had more time to write and that has strangely made me write faster, be less of a perfectionist and just work to get it done. You are so right. I’ve gotten more done with this mindset in the last two months then I got done in the last two years!

  24. Soooo funny! I can’t tell you how long I’ve agonized over this book I’m writing. One of things I’ve learned over the course of writing it is that slamming through a draft and then focusing on fixing the soft bits is way better than two words forward, three words back. However, that said when I find bad grammar in a pubbed book it’s a big red flag that the writer didn’t care enough to fix it or find an editor that could.

  25. I totally agree with you, Kristen! I write 4 books a year and work to write 2,500 words per day, 6 days a week. Are they always good words? No. But if I don’t get them out of my head and into my computer where I can see them, how can I every work and rework them? I do always start with an outline, which helps me stay on track. I don’t 100% stick to the outline (what would be the fun in that?), but at least I have a good idea of where I’m going.

  26. I was JUST thinking about this as I spent ages crafting a mere response to another’s blog post…I thought, I should really try a week of speed-blogging (like, just post it already, woman). Then I read this:

    “The trick is to hop on a cerebral crotch-rocket and outrun Spock.”

    I will keep this phrase very close to my heart, and I’m definitely picking up the book The Art of War for Writers. Thank you!

  27. I definitely have an inner Spock…that Vulcan pisses me off sometimes. Why won’t he just let me write without having to re-read what I wrote the day before to make sure it all flows? I did that today and ended up wasting an hour of writing time on editing. Grrr…
    So I will have to find “a cerebral crotch-rocket and outrun Spock!”
    Wish I could simply pick one up at Wal-Mart.
    It sure would be easier that way.
    Loved this kick in the pants and especially the author trivia. If I ever want to be successful I’m going to have to start knocking out novels much quicker.
    Thanks for your wisdom 🙂
    Have a fantastic evening!

    • Marci Miller on June 17, 2013 at 5:32 pm
    • Reply

    Great post. Did we notice that all the listed writers who write fast and a lot were men?

    1. Candy writes very fast. INSANE fast and she’s a best-selling author. But, yes, I do think sometimes it would be nice to be a male author, LOL.

  28. This sounds like it applies more to pantsers than people who work from an outline, or maybe that’s my real life Spock-like tendencies coming through, haha. My process involves a good bit of outlining. Actually I produce two — one on note cards, the second a chapter by chapter “summary outline” which is my working outline. But once I have that, it’s pretty much full speed ahead after that point, because the niggling details Spock-brain gets caught up on are already worked out.

  29. Guilty! Caught in the act of write and rewrite. Need to spin out and go nuts and finish. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Christy on June 17, 2013 at 6:30 pm
    • Reply

    I have tried Write or Die and I thought I would ‘die’. But I found a silly kitchen timer helped. It’s now a game to get more words in 30 minutes than the previous session.

  30. Reblogged this on Darswords and commented:
    Again, a great article by Kristen Lamb!

    • dinavidscuitee on June 17, 2013 at 7:12 pm
    • Reply

    Oh my gosh I love this. I will try to shut off the Spock brain.

    • Debbie Johansson on June 17, 2013 at 7:36 pm
    • Reply

    Love the Star Trek analogy Kristen – I can picture Spock quoting Strunk & White! With all my studies lately I think my inner Vulcan has taken over that it feels like a permanent mind meld. I’ve gone over one of my WIPs so often it’s become tedious as I’m too much of a perfectionist (yes, I spend too long over blog posts too). I know when it comes to writing I need to write the NaNo way or embrace my inner Kirk (one of my favourite Captains). I’m hoping he will be given full reign in a couple of months time when I finish my studies for good. 🙂

  31. Awesome post. I’ve been seriously caught up in the Spock Brain, over-analyzing and bogging myself down in what is “supposed to be” (because I am inherently a perfectionist). And my writing has suffered. It’s so very true!! I do need to embrace my inner Kirk. He’s there–deep deep down. I used to fly by the seat of my pants all the time and dash of stuff in a blur that I’d go back and read and say “Wow, I wrote that?, It’s friggin’ brilliant!” (Of course the other 50% was crap, but whatever.) Inner Kirk, you scoundrel let’s make some noise!

    And yes… All thing DO come back to Star Trek 😉

  32. Well, my dear Kristen, no matter how hard you try to outrun Spock, you get nowhere without the Force. It will be with you–always.

  33. Kristen, This month I am coordinating a Romance Writers of Australia event called 50ks in 30 days. It is NaNoWriMo in winter for us Aussies. I have 50-odd writers posting regular wordcounts and making great progress towards their goals (not always 50,000 words, targets range from 10,000 to 80,000). We are running the event in the RWA members forum, and I’ve modeled our area on your blogging tribe, because it creates such a great sense of community. About 50% of our writers are on track to make their targets. Our writers (some multi-published, some on their first ms) have commented about how writing fast allows their story to flow through them.

    Words flow better the more you write, kind of like how a blocked drain clears up when you shoot the hose down it. 50ks in 30 days teaches us to be the hose.

    I posted the following to our forum:
    I highly recommend subscribing to Kristen’s blog, and check out her WANAInternational website for classes, WANATribe forum to connect with other writers, and her WANACommons Flikr group if you would like to use creative commons images for blog posts. WANA stands for We Are Not Alone, the title of her first book on social media for writers. She has great classes on writing, social media for writers (how to market yourself without telling everyone to ‘buy my book’ all the time), setting up websites, blogs etc.

    I learned everything I know about tribe building from Kristen.

    Today’s post is about outrunning your Spock voice and allowing your Kirk voice to take over. Sound familiar?


    Did I mention that she is also funny?

      • robynaldridge on June 18, 2013 at 2:44 am
      • Reply

      Can’t waffle here, not when our Captain Sarah is at the helm. Couldn’t be a better time for the ‘Down Under’ group.

      I won’t print out all you’ve said, otherwise I won’t get the words down. KISS –

      Inside brain first
      Spock second for

      Not perfect but I’m adhering to what you say. No fiddling today.

  34. My Kirk brain unfortunately left with motherhood, but when I can sit down, uninterrupted, I love that it pays me a visit. I miss it. I use to do lots of free-association writing. I look back on that now as if it was the wild college parties of writing. Now I’m lucky if I can get 600 words of my WIP out every few days.

  35. I actually put aside a short “how to” book that I was writing. I was taking so long writing it, I finally decided that I really didn’t want to say it bad enough to bother with the time to do it. I was sorry to put it aside, but the passion for my topic wasn’t enough to motivate me to get it done.


  36. Omigosh. My Spock brain has my Kirk brain constantly under lock and key and it is so frustrating!! I’m really searching for a way to set him free. It is amazingly difficult.

  37. I did write a first draft with Candy. And unfortunately, it wasn’t right for the line I was writing for. In fact, it was ALL WRONG even though I did all the pre-write exercises. I ended up putting 200K words of revision into that 60K novel over 4 months and it STILL isn’t done properly for the line. Nor can I really sell it elsewhere, and I don’t want to do it myself. (Hard core porn, yes, but Harlequin Blaze? Uh, no.)

    I don’t think that writing is a one-size-fits-all proposition. Some people can handle a 2 week intensive. Others can’t. It’s not a bad thing, it just is, you know? Though, yeah, I agree – even 18 months to 2 years is too long to focus on only one novel.

    But…life simply isn’t the same for everyone. We all have different challenges. A day job that pays all the bills in the family, college kids, babies, parents that live with us, impossible debt, debilitating doubt, and everything else in between. That doesn’t mean the desire to write isn’t there. It just means that, maybe, we each find our own way in our own time. And those that still push the same book after ten years are maybe not meant to be writers.

    Maybe one day after I get over the 2 week and a bajillion words debacle I’ll go back to trying to write THAT fast. I know it’s possible – my dad wrote a 50k book in a week for a publisher that needed to fill a hole in production schedule (back in the 70s). I just don’t know if that’s the type of writer I want to be.

    But hey – great discussion points!

  38. Thanks. This was a very motivational post- and I’am gonna put this idea into practice. And this excellent post deserves to be shared everywhere :).

  39. I had a dream last night. I’m not one to put too much thought into analyzing my dreams. I feel that the ones that are supposed to be looked at will so make themselves to be, to me. Those dreams are pronounced, they are vivid, and they tend to cause me a preoccupation about them throughout the day. Not so much about what they could mean, but that their meaning was somewhat easily evident.

    Such a dream was this one last night. I was a prisoner, in jail. But I was there somehow of my own accord, like a was a volunteer but all the same convicted. It was though i didn’t want to be there but I gave up the key a had, freeing other inmates. The irony of the dream was palatable.

    I write philosophy, but it goes beyond what I see as the conventional western discipline of philosophy, though I use it as a medium.

    I used to write short stories. In a way, one could say my Spock overtook my Kirk, but really they are combined by the fortitude and conviction that breaks the strictly conventional logic; prolific but limited. My activity is Spock-like, confined by my own idea if freedom, as this freedom is metaphorical as well as logical. So your post appears synchronistic; whether I get drawn or not, this marks an effort toward what I see as logically confining, but is actually a step outward.

    Perhaps, a fiction author might help me to find a way into a larger world. I have essays and books written, if I could only let myself find an outlet.

  40. Thanks….. I’m going to break some bones! Great post, I’m too embarrassed to explain further.

  41. Yes! I totally agree. It was only by adopting this ‘fast and furious’ approach that I managed to finish my novel after being stuck at around 30,000 words (albeit very well-edited words) for too long. So, I bit the bullet and went for it! Four months later, 96,000 words and a first WIP actually FINISHED. Please note: novel since edited down to just over 90,000 words – some of the fast and furious stuff did make me laugh on re-reading – so there you go! An added bonus. Keep up the great work, Kristen – inspirational blog. Thank you.

    • Patty Hawthorne on June 18, 2013 at 12:03 am
    • Reply

    You, are really funny. What an amazing, astute observation of the writing process. You, make me laugh at myself, which is good for my soul. Please put my name in your hat…I have a funny picture book for you to critique. Patty H.

  42. Cute 🙂 Of course all things lead back to Star Trek…. and I do write fast and madly…and I also edit and correct obsessively. And every step of the voyage goes boldly where this writer has never gone before 😀
    (and I still like Spock best, lol)

  43. Thank you for speaking so truthfully, writing with the heart means that were not writing perfectly, but there is space because it’s writing to review and fix the creation later.

    • moxeyns on June 18, 2013 at 3:03 am
    • Reply

    Spock is for editing 🙂

  44. I frequently find myself telling Spock to hush, so Kirk can get on with the business at hand. (good analogy, glad you thought of it) Now, if I could just figure out how to reinvent the wheel and describe Space,..

  45. I absolutely agree with you on that. Writing fast and furious is THE way to go. Entering NaNoWriMo year before last helped me to finally write a book. And in only 30 days time! Last year I did it again. Problem now is the editing/revising 🙁 I just don’t seem to get ’round it… Too big a hurdle?

  46. Kristen, how on Earth do you always know what the write to kick my butt into action? My inner editor is always driving me crazy. I always forget to just write and just get it out of my system. So thank you!

    • DJ Austin on June 18, 2013 at 6:17 am
    • Reply

    Kirk in the captain’s chair. Spock in the back-up seat.

  47. Reblogged this on Cynthia Stacey and commented:
    Awesome Advice from Kristen Lamb author of We are Not Alone. Everyone has a little of Spock and Kirk in them!

  48. I used to get caught in what I called the ‘editing loop’ where I would go back and polish and re-write and re-work what I’d just written over and over and over because my pride wouldn’t let me leave it rough. But I didn’t get ANYWHERE. Now I just bash through it, I fling the words down, I get the plot down and I move on, knowing that there will be time to polish later and in fact it will eventually be to my advantage as when the first ‘bash draft’ is done it will be far more malleable and and easier to edit as a whole, rather than something so worked on and so concrete that it is immovable. A big problem when you inevitably change your mind about a character or plot point. I’m a big believer in the fast/bash-drafting now. I would never have got anywhere without it.

  49. “Cerebral Ducati.” Want one!

  50. I haven’t been writing everyday like I want/should/need to be. I need to create that important space for it again, and get the next book out so I can go all Spock on it LOL

    • DeeAnna Galbraith on June 18, 2013 at 10:50 am
    • Reply

    I couldn’t hear you the first time. My Duc was sitting next to Harley farm machinery at a stop light. Now I get it.

  51. Loved this post! I definitely think this is good advice…that I’m going to listen to.

    • carolmckibben on June 18, 2013 at 2:33 pm
    • Reply

    Kristen, I love this. May I post a link to this on my blog? Carol McKibben

    1. Sweetie, you can reblog or link to whatever you need :D.

  52. Great post .The Star Trek references really do it for me. My Kirk brain is on. I’m in for 180,000 words already this year–that’s two full novels, the ending of a third, the beginning of another, and doesn’t count my blog posts. 😉 Merritt out.

  53. I tried writing fast….It worked so well for one chapter, then the Spock brain took over.

    1. Takes practice. What finally worked for me was having the story in ONE sentence. What was the problem and the goal? Then WRITE. I worked as a copy editor for YEARS and trust me, SPOCK is tough for me to shut off. But he has a place and that is in REVISIONS :D.

  54. My goal back when was to write two 50K novels a year, written on January and November. I accomplished it the last two years and I already wrote a 50K in January. With several WIPS started and one planned to start on November. I am trying to increase two 50K a year because I agree with you. Only the readers in the billions will determine if it was well-written.

  55. Kirk runs the ship until he’s incapacitated, Spock takes over, cleans everything back up a bit, then Kirk gets back. Sounds about right. It’s a great extended analogy. I wrote the first draft of my most recent novel in a month, because I let Kirk have the controls, and he let Spock do his job as Number One.

  56. I’m in Kirk-mode right now. That’s odd for me. I usually analyze to death! But it’s good. I go with my gut and I i’m unsure about a detail, I can always leave a note to go back and look it over.

  57. Reblogged this on Cecile's Writers and commented:
    Free your mind and write. Sage advice in this post.

    • Aerisa on June 19, 2013 at 6:18 am
    • Reply

    Great advice! Especially when Kirk & Spock are involved 🙂

  58. Better than morning coffee. I’ve been struggling with a first book for six months. I have a development grant. I’ve had the time. But I’m writing as slow as molasses. Spock brain has me in a vulcan grip. This weekend I’m going to go see new Star Trek. By next week I will have ship back under control. Thanks.

  59. With my current WIP, I started out in Kirk brain, but Spock has slipped in. I am currently trying to kick the pointy-eared freak out of the bridge until the story is in the computer.

  60. Oh, my gosh! Advice that I can actually internalize! Kirk and Spock . . . I should have known that I could incorporate Star Trek into my writing methods. Thanks for the tips! (think I’ll rev up the Cerebral Ducati this evening)

  61. Great post! Illogical or not…I love FAST writing! I participate yearly in the Muskoka Novel Marathon in northern Ontario. 30 writers get together and, over the course of 72 hours, we each write a novel. That’s pretty much a bookshelf of books in one weekend! (-: Yes…they need polishing. But it’s a great experience…writing the first word and the last word in 72hrs. It gets tricky typing fast enough to keep up with your thoughts! AND…it’s a fundraiser to collect funds for literacy programs too. So far, we’ve raised $65,000. Writers helping readers. And let’s not kid ourselves…it helps us too. I SO agree that faster is more visceral. It’s my favourite way to write now!

  62. Cerebral crotch rocket. I will never think of my brain the same way again. Thank you for this fabulous fabulous fabulous timely reminder!

  63. When I was a kid I practiced until I could raise one eyebrow just like Spock. Now I will practice until I can make out with green women just like Kirk. Great post!

  64. This is one of those exceptions where haste does not make waste. Thank you of the inspiration.

  65. Reblogged this on Brock's Book Blog and commented:
    A reblogged post from one of my favorite bloggers Kristen Lamb. This is one example of where haste does not make waste. Now if I could only overcome my tendencies to check over my shoulder and revise…

  66. Love this! Hope you don’t mind that I post a link to it on my blog. All the Best, Carol McKibben

    1. Share and use whatever you need, my dear 😀

  67. I want what you’re having! This speed demon is gonna break some bones, baby!

  68. This post was written for me! I’m way too guilty of letting my Spock brain take over and slow me down. Thanks for the kick in the pants to get moving!

  69. Friends tell me I’m crazy and doing it wrong, but I’ve always written like a wild madman. I get told it will be a horrible mess to clean up! But hell, if I don’t get it out quick how can I get to work on one of the other million ideas screaming in my brain?

    Brilliant post! So far I’m up to about 48k words in the past month on my current novel. The novella I wrote the month before took about three weeks to get the 30+k words down on the page. That one is in the midst of editing and illustration (yes it’s an illustrated novella).

    All said and done, I love the post! I’ve already shared it with the friends that tell me to slow down and pay attention to what I’m doing. Maybe they will learn something from it and get off my prolific back. Thanks! 🙂

  70. I am certainly Captain Kirk, but have joined a writing practice group that is slowly (very much like a snail) helping me be friends with Spock.

    • RJ on June 20, 2013 at 7:18 pm
    • Reply

    I have a problem just getting started. After reading this, I am definitely going to try this approach.

  71. Reblogged this on The First Gates and commented:
    Many writers will already know Kristen Lamb’s blog, but this article is worth rereading and rereading. She uses the metaphor of Kirk and Spock to discuss a classic for bypassing the inhibiting part of our conscious mind. Such strategies are relevant to other arts as well: actors who practice improv, or visual artists who draw with the non-dominant hand to see what emerges. Enjoy this most encouraging post!

  72. Completely true. Write, then edit later. Of course, plotting first is a great idea so you don’t drive head-first into a wall …

  73. So here’s what I’ve finally figured out works for me: Fast Draft, Slow Edit. I love Candace Havens’s Fast Draft approach. Keeping up that speed and intensity helps me stay in the story and get it on the page fresh and riveting. BUT later I need time to sift through and make every line really shine (a la Margie Lawson, if you will). When editing, I still take the attitude of getting buried in my story each day, but I need to take my time on each section, each line, to make sure it’s doing its job as best it can.

    (Oh, and I like the grammar to be perfect. 😉 Okay, the grammar should at least be good enough to not distract the reader from the story.)

  74. Great post – I love reading your blogs – they inspire me to keep going! Love the Star Trek reference. Unfortunately, Spock writes my blogs. Kirk inspires them while I am out doing other things like walking the dogs, but when I sit down to write, Spock takes over. Takes me hours to write my blog, so I don’t know how I could write a book. I think I read in one of your blogs about a Blogging Workshop? Was I on crack that day or is it a reality? Do you have one coming up?

  75. Thank you. What a useful analogy. Getting into my ‘Kirk brain’ is giving myself permission to go where I might not have went before – or went too cautiously.

  76. I’m always really taking my time with the first drafts… and I’m really old-fashioned… I write it on paper pads… this to me means, I don’t have to bother with neither power, nor any other connections with notebooks and similar. I just carry my paper pad somewhere in my purse or bag and continue writing whenever I feel like…
    And now I wonder if I’m an alien…

  77. Excellent.
    Just write. Put it away for a few days, and then read.
    If there is something that doesn’t say exactly swhat you meant, then edit.

  78. Good post Kristen
    I have to admit I think my work is better when written faster – it’s more raw and energized.
    When I write slowly and edit all the time it sucks the fun out of it too.

  79. Reblogged this on Lenora's Culture Center and Foray into History.

  80. Reblogged this on moniquerockliffe and commented:
    Another fantastic post by Kirsten I felt I had to share with you. I also believe writing without worrying about the mistakes and things you want to and need to change is vital towards creating without getting in the way! When inspiration comes it needs to be unleashed to work through you without hindrances. You can sometime get in the way of masterful work when you become too caught up in the so-called mistakes. Allow the entire story to be born, to unfold, to develop, to introduce itself to you and the world first, then, and only then, do you fix the imperfections. Trust your instincts and unleash the brilliance!
    I will be sharing my own post on Saturday so look out for it!

  81. Reblogged this on Blog of a College Writer and commented:
    I seriously need to learn this.

    • Jennifer Rose on October 17, 2013 at 2:30 pm
    • Reply

    This has to be one of the best articles I’ve ever read. I think one of the points of the article is especially important for newer writers: just get ONE project written/completed. Once you do that, you will have a better internal understanding that can only be gained from completing the novel. I took 8 years to finish my first novel, then 1.5 months to completely pants a second novel. After doing that second novel so quickly, my new understanding was ‘why did I make it so difficult for myself before?’ <3 Spock!

  82. I can so relate to this; Kristen thank you again for putting things in a way I can understand. I’m a huge Trekkie. Spock got me through a much-less-than-perfect childhood. And yes, I can completely see him quoting Strunk & White.


  83. Reblogged this on Lara McGill and commented:
    We all need to take a moment and look at this…

  84. I reblogged at Lara McGill.

  85. Spock Brain is my chronic weakness. I’m not allowing the stories to leak out onto the page because of fears that can be addressed during editing. And to add to your list of factoids, I believe Anthony Trollope held a full-time job all his life at a post-office and yet wrote prolifically.

  86. That analogy is so spot on it’s scary! lol

    • Donna Spivey on April 11, 2019 at 1:03 pm
    • Reply

    Some of my favorite authors churn out books at a crazy speed. I am “stuck thanks to Spock” on my first novel.
    This article has given me hope I can also begin again, trying this approach.
    Thank you for this idea!

    • Danae on April 11, 2019 at 3:07 pm
    • Reply

    This take on just writing versus editing the whole way, with the Spock and Captain Kirk reference put it in a new perspective. It made just do the thang exciting. I’ll always think of this now and look forward to using it immediately. Thank you for sharing this post.

    Once I get my website up, I’ll definitely back link to it. 🙂

  87. This is a terrific analogy!

    I hadn’t thought of it quite this way before, but this is the way I write that actually gets results. I write a dirty first draft, usually in six to eight weeks.

    And it’s ugly.

    I start sentences with the same word over and over. My commas are everywhere. I have engagement rings appear out of nowhere (with a note to add a scene to show where it came from).

    Inconsistencies. Repetition.

    Oh boy.

    And then comes the editor brain. This is why it takes me longer to edit a work than it did to write it. But hey, I have something to edit!

  88. With a solid outline, IE knowing where the plot is going, no problem doing 1500 a day. Conversely, Vonnegut wrote 250 a day, he’d labor over every page making it perfect but he did know where the story was going, and as such, rewrites were few.

    • Laurie Young on April 11, 2019 at 4:01 pm
    • Reply

    I think I have mastered the fast draft, I’m basically a pantser and my favorite part of the process is getting the first draft down. My problem is that I’m all Kirk and no Spock. Once I have my mess of a draft finished, I struggle to revise it into something workable. That’s the part where I am spending years rewriting, rewriting, rewriting . . . If I could sell my first drafts I’d be crazy prolific.

  89. Brilliant, Kristen! This was a very helpful and timely blog! I’m going to Kirk my novel and lock Spock in a cabinet for the next six weeks…

    • Tracy Perkins on April 11, 2019 at 7:06 pm
    • Reply

    I love this post. If I didn’t have a non-fiction MS due this June, I would be all over this like a tribble on Triticale. Kirk brain reporting for duty.

  1. […] Write FAST and Furious! Learning to Outrun “The Spock Brain” | Kristen Lamb’s Blog. […]

  2. […] « Write FAST and Furious! Learning to Outrun “The Spock Brain” […]

  3. […] K.M. Weiland asks: are you over-thinking your first draft? Since the answer is probably yes, Kristen Lamb has the answer to how to outrun Spock brain. […]

  4. […] Lamb: Write FAST and Furious! Learning to Outrun “The Spock Brain” Excerpt: “Many new authors slog out that first book, editing every word to perfection, […]

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  6. […] The blogging door remains open.  Here I make new discoveries, surprising myself, and never know for sure where it’s going today.  I also get to share the amazing discoveries of others, like the post I re-blogged last week in which Kristen Lamb presents a simple but powerful way of keeping the doors of discovery open in fiction (Write FAST and Furious). […]

  7. […] out of thanks to Kristen Lamb for reminding me of my goal. I want to entertain you, to make you my readers smile, cringe, […]

  8. […] Write FAST and Furious! Learning to Outrun “The Spock Brain”.  Kristin Lamb has the best twist on the importance of writing fast now and editing later.  In […]

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  10. […] I recommend checking out another of my posts: Write FAST and Furious! Learning to Outrun “Spock Brain.” […]

  11. […] And speaking of writing that first draft, here is an excellent post by Kristen Lamb herself about turning off your inner editor during NaNo – Write Fast and Furious! Learning to Outrun “The ?Spock Brain.“ […]

  12. […] nothing better to shut down your “Spock Brain” as Kristen Lamb puts it in her excellent article, than having to put out 50k words in only 30 days. That’s roughly 1.7k words a day, which can […]

  13. […] I came across an article today that expressed really well how I’ve been feeling: Write FAST and Furious! Learning to Outrun “The Spock Brain”. […]

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