The Fastest Book I Ever Wrote

Today we have our first guest post. It’s from Matt Forbeck, author of the Blood Bowl novels, Deadlands, Guild Wars: Ghosts of Ascalon and many, many more.

I’ve been friends with Matt for more than 20 years. We met in my first week at the old Games Workshop Design Studio in Low Pavement in Nottingham. He had just graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and come to Britain on a 6 month student work visa. He walked in off the street carrying a huge backpack and just asked for a job. I thought this jaw-dropping audacity. And all credit to the management at Games Workshop for their foresight, they gave him one. They knew talent when they saw it. Since we were both looking for a place to stay, I ended up sharing a house with Matt in the Meadows for the rest of his stay. Since then Matt has gone on to create a dazzling array of projects such as Deadlands and Brave New Worlds. He has also worked on some of the biggest properties in the games industry from Blood Bowl, to Magic: The Gathering to Guild Wars to Dungeons and Dragons.

I know I am simply repeating what everyone who has already met him or read his work knows but I feel compelled to do it anyway. Matt is an all around great guy, a brilliant writer and a devoted father and husband. When I heard about his 12 for 12 plan I was gobsmacked by the sheer boldness and ambition of it and I knew that if anyone could pull of this insane scheme it was him. He has the combination of talent, energy and dedication to make it happen. I pledged money on the first day.

Anyway, enough of the build up. Here’s Matt…

The Fastest Book I Ever Wrote

By Matt Forbeck

On November 2, I launched a project I call 12 for ’12, for which I hope to write a novel every month for the entirety of 2012. I set up a Kickstarter drive to help fund the first trilogy of 50,000-word novels, which is based on my Brave New World Roleplaying Game (which has zip to do with Huxley’s book, other than that we both seemed to have enjoyed The Tempest).

The first question most people ask is if I’ve gone insane. It’s impossible for anyone to write that many books so fast, right?

Not at all. Walter Gibson, creator of the Shadow, famously wrote nearly 1.7 million words in a single year at the height of his output. Of course, I’m not Gibson, but I have written a full novel — 91,000 words — in two weeks.

It was Death Match, the third book in the Blood Bowl series I wrote for Games Workshop’s Black Library. In the middle of November of 2005, my editor emailed me and asked me how the book was coming along. This surprised me because he’d never given me a deadline for it.

When the Black Library first hired me to the write the first three Blood Bowl books, I hadn’t had a mass-market novel published. They hadn’t wanted to hand me an advance for all three novels at once, so instead they’d paid me for the first one and promised to send me the paperwork and the money for the each of the other books after I’d finished the novel before it.

I’d finished the second book in the series, Dead Ball, in such a rush that my editor had forgotten to get the paperwork for the third book off to me. I’d been too busy with other projects and had neglected to ask for it. When he finally came around to check on the book, the Black Library’s internal deadline was looming over us like a tidal wave about to come crashing down on our heads.

“If I don’t have it in two weeks, we’ll have to resolicit,” he wrote. In other words, they’d have to cancel the book and reschedule it for later in the year. Having been a publisher (I helped run Pinnacle Entertainment Group as its co-founder and president for four years in the ‘90s), I knew that could only hurt the book’s chances, and I didn’t want that to happen.

I did some quick calculations and fired off a couple emails to other editors asking them for a bit of wiggle room on concurrent projects. Then I told my editor I could do it, if he’d give me just two more days. This happened to be over the Thanksgiving holiday, and I had family coming in, so I needed to be able to spend some time with them.

He agreed, and I went to it. I locked myself in my office and wrote. I kept track of my running word totals:

November 15: 7,000

November 16: 14,000

November 17: 21,000

November 18: 24,500

November 19: 31,500

November 20: 34,500

November 21: 39,500

November 22: 43,500

November 23: 50,500

November 24: 55,000

November 25: Thanksgiving!

November 26: 63,000

November 27: 69,000

November 28: 76,000

November 29: 80,000

November 30: 91,000

I averaged a bit over 6,000 words per day, and I capped it off with an 11,000-word dash over the goal line. I was beat when I finished, but I got the job done. The book even got solid reviews.

I had the benefit here, of course, of already having an outline for the book in hand. On top of that, I’d been writing about the main characters in it for two whole books already, so I knew them cold, and I’d been leaving plotlines dangling all over the place in both of those earlier tomes. All I had to do was gather them up and tie them into a nice, big bow.

How fast I tied that bow up had nothing to do with whether or not I did it or even how pretty it looked when it was done. It depended instead on my determination to use all my skill and speed to get the work done as fast as I could.

You can expect me to put at least that much determination into 12 for ’12. Stop on by the Kickstarter drive for the first trilogy and dare me to try it.

Matt Forbeck is the author of countless games and many stories. His Magic: The Gathering comic launches from IDW in December, and his 16th novel, Carpathia, hits stores in March. He also has a mad plan called 12 for ’12, in which he plans to write a dozen novels in 2012. His first Kickstarter drive for his Brave New World Roleplaying Game novels hit its first funding level, so he starts writing the first book in January.

4 Replies to “The Fastest Book I Ever Wrote”

  1. That’s terrifying, and I used to write with Carl Sargent who was reputed to be able to knock out a trilogy of YA fantasy novels in a month. I don’t think I’ve ever managed more than 4000 words of usable fiction in a day, and that was a long time ago.

    Among other things I run the Paige-Turner Project, a methodology I devised that lets a team of five writers create a 100,000-word novel in ten days—in other words 10,000 words a day. We’re working on a commission for a client right now. If we ever get more work than we can handle I’ll launch the ‘Paige-Turner Project Methodology 2’. This will be, in its entirety, ‘phone Matt and see if he’s free’.

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