In my first article about imitating the prolific writer Martin Caidin, Prolific Writing Using Caidin Methods, I made the assumption that Caidin did no revision at all. He said the way he wrote books was to sit down and write them in one draft and that’s what he sent to publishers.
The Caidin Methods article encouraged you to practice his method with articles and short fiction by writing several versions without looking at previous versions when writing the next one. Eventually you would develop the ability to write a good article or short story in one draft. I still believe that is a great writing exercise. But, I also see another way to write in one draft and have no revisions; prolific revision.
What is prolific revision?
When you do prolific revision, you revise as you write. Writing is a skill and you can learn to use as many methods as you are willing to practice. Revising as you write is possible because, with enough practice, you don’t need to be in the right mood for each type of writing (rough, second and final draft). First, a brief note on where I got this idea.
Two very prolific writers are Ryoki Inoue and Martin Caidin (there’s an article on writing like Inoue too). Inoue has written up to three pulp fiction novels in one day. Caidin has written higher quality science fiction in as little as five days. This begs the question, “If both have the same high speed writing skill, why is Inoue 15 times faster?” His books have mostly been 100 pagers, so we could cut that down to only five times faster. My guess is that Caidin may have revised each page as he wrote.
Caidin wrote using a typewriter. One advantageous disadvantage of a typewriter is that one mistake requires retyping the whole page. When we write on our computers, spelling errors, missing words, poor composition, and other errors are no big deal. We can fix these in a few keystrokes or with some drag and drop. In the old days, they had to learn to write without mistakes or typing up a final draft could take forever. So, if a prolific writer is using a typewriter, the fastest method would be to combine revisions and retyping.
Keep your revisions close
If you spread the end of the final version and the place where you’re writing the first draft too far apart, you’ll be back to writing multiple drafts. Too much time passes between the first time you write a section of the book and the final revision. If you can keep the first writing and final revision within two pages of each other, you’ll be more on track with prolific revision.
Ideally, you should work on making every paragraph into a final draft before moving on to the next. But, a series of thoughts or a scene will often run on for more than a paragraph, so finalizing one paragraph at a time will not always be practical.
Caidin Method 102
There’s no need for a 202 or 302 of this. Once you can use the method for articles and short stories, you will already be able to use it for books.
To recap the method, you write a first draft paragraph or two and revise it into the final draft immediately. To really make this boost your writing up to the prolific level, you must write the first draft the same as any other first draft; quickly, without any concerns about what people will think of your writing. With the normal multiple draft process, you write fast and sloppy to get what you want to say on the page knowing you will revise it at a later date. With this method, the difference is that you know you will revise it at a later minute or two.
Once you get good at using prolific revision for articles and short stories, you’re ready to practice it writing books.
I’ve been using Caidin Method 101, from Prolific Writing Using Caidin Methods, and have been finishing a lot more articles. The reason I wrote this article is because I realized that I have been using this Prolific Revision method rather than following the stricter guidelines of Caidin Method 101. I know I’ll need to proofread the final drafts anyway, so I’ve been doing it while writing. With practice, I may be able to switch to Caidin Method 101, but the real secret to prolific writing is to use whatever methods give you the best results.
Be warned. This is the opposite of the usual way to write a novel fast; a quick sloppy first draft followed by several revisions. It may be that Caidin’s method is a natural progression of writing ability after passing the 10,000 hour expert stage (i.e. 10,000 hours of anything makes you an expert). With enough practice, that quick sloppy first draft may become quality material even when you try to be a bad writer. Wouldn’t that be something?