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Topic of the Night: Ground Effect in Writing

Ground Effect in Writing

The definition of Ground Effect:

In fixed-wing aircraft, ground effect is the increased lift (force) and decreased aerodynamic drag that an aircraft’s wings generate when they are close to a fixed surface. When landing, ground effect can give the pilot the feeling that the aircraft is “floating.”

M.L. Buchman once said that when the writing is steady and going at a good pace, pulp speed pace, it feels so, so easy, as if there is a ground effect under the words being produced.

Wow, did he have that right. I felt this a few times last year, once in July, another in the fall during a month where I wrote over 100,000 words of fiction. Once I got up and writing regularly, it just felt easy.

And the feeling then is “Why can’t I do this all the time. It’s so easy.”

But alas, things in the world force the old metaphoric writing plane back onto the runway and back on the bumps and fits and starts and so on.

I know, a strange metaphor, but ground effect is what it feels like completely.

Writing in ground effect is FUN!

So last year, when I realized both times I was in ground effect writing, I worked to memorize the feeling. And how I got started, how I got the wheels off the ground. Now, I forget a lot of things, but I still vividly remember what writing in ground effect felt like.

The Plan

So tomorrow is the first of June.  There are steps I am going to take to get to ground effect writing once again and hold it longer.

Step 1…Look Ahead at the Schedule.

I have a few days in June that I will be away from the writing, which I have planned and am looking forward to, but that will make no difference. So schedule for June, July, and August is pretty clear.

I will still be working my regular day job at WMG, but past that, nothing major. I will go back to detailing out the time here so those of you with day jobs will see how this can be done even working a full-time job.

Step 2… Plan the Startup.

For me, starting is always easier with a set minimum word count daily. Sort of how I wrote that novel in seven days.

So I am going to start with 3,000 words a day and just maintain that as much as possible through the first couple of weeks. I will miss a few days, but with that as a focus, eventually it gets easier and easier.

Step 3… Set a Goal State of Word Count

My goal is to be feeling the ease and fun of ground effect writing. For me, that’s averaging around 4,000 words or more a day in fiction. I hope to be to that feeling by the middle of June.

That’s not much of a jump from the starting number, but that extra thousand words is a difference in focus for me. A focus that I need to maintain all day, meaning even when at WMG I know I need to give the writing so much time each night.

4,000 words a day is way over 100,000 words of fiction a month. Pulp Speed One, for those of you who remember that post, is 80,000 words per month. Pulp Speed Two is over 100,000 words a month. Pulp Speed Three is 120,000 words per month.

I hit ground effect writing between Pulp Speed Two and Three.

Step 4… Set Production Goals of Projects

My plan is to finish the novel I am working on, then finish a second novel in June. In July I am going to go after Stories From July (Take Two) where I want to write 31 short stories in 31 days and put them all together with the blogs. The first Stories from July is out now in both electronic and paper editions, all 32 stories and blogs.

I have a hunch that as I get up to ground effect in the middle of the month, I’ll be starting on a third novel before I fire on the short stories in July.

In August I plan on keeping the speed from the short fiction and take it into two more novels, more than likely jumping from stories I come up with in July. But we shall see on that.

Math on all this is easy. At 100,000 words per month minimum, that’s two of my 50,000 word novels per month or 31 short stories averaging over 3,000 words. Last year the stories averaged just under 4,000 words each, some shorter, some longer.

Step 5… Be Very Clear-Eyed in Your Plans

Now, those of you who have watched this over the last three years know that what I am proposing I can do. I’ve done it all before.

Now the key on this stretch is can I do it over a three month plus period? That’s my challenge.

And can I challenge all the fates and get through July once again without some life roll kicking it aside. No telling.

So if you are planning some writing through this time of great forgetting, be clear-eyed. Know what you can do, yet push yourself to new limits.

Challenge is important.

Remember, failing to success is always fine. Say I finish three novels and only 28 short stories in the three months. That would be failing to hit the goal, but clearly success by any measure.

I hope you will follow along here and maybe set some summer goals of your own. But follow the five steps above. It helps keep everything in perspective.

Here we go. One thing for sure, it will be fun.



  • Gnondpom

    I love your positive attitude, it is a great example, and not only about writing. Once you fail one of your goals it is so easy to think “What’s the point” and then just let everything go.

    As for you, after a full month almost not writing, you don’t brood on your failure, you just go ahead and set yourself some new goals – feasible but yet challenging.

    Good luck with restarting your writing, have fun! And thanks again for sharing your process, that’s really helpful even for non-writers.

  • Mark Kuhn

    Dean, how many words, for you personally, would you consider a great writing day?
    Also how many words is your personal record for one day?

    • dwsmith

      Mark, always happy with anything over a couple thousand. My best writing day? 22,000 plus words in a 24 hour period trying to finish a novel for a tight deadline. Thankfully, never had to do that again. Kris brought me food. That was damn silly. I wrote the words and they went right into print. Luckily I had trained myself to never write sloppy.

  • Dana

    I’ll be checking on you for inspiration.

    I’m trying to do 100k for June. I think 80k is the most I’ve done in 30 days before. Starting a long novel/serialized novel with lots of threads that can be written out of order. I am generally a pantser but have done some planning for this one. Maybe four hours, just enough to have a road map and at least a small handle on the many characters.

    Happy writing for both of us.

  • E. R. Paskey

    Dean, thank you so much for all the insight you provide about making writing a career that spans a lifetime. I don’t have trouble with the Time of Great Forgetting as such (nothing in my life has ever stopped/started with the summer season), but I’ve had some major life rolls over the past two years that have required some readjustment. One of them was getting married last September, and now I’m six months pregnant with our first child. I physically can’t do everything I used to in a day–which is occasionally something of a shock, let me tell you–and your reminders to not feel guilty about dealing with life and to keep the writing fun have been a tremendous help on the days when I’m frustrated.

    I love the bit about failing to success. 😀 Forward progress, however little, is still forward progress.

    Also love the ground effect analogy. I’m still nowhere near your consistent daily speed, but I have felt that floaty feeling on several occasions. I’d forgotten about that. Will have to work toward experiencing it again.

    Looking forward to watching you achieve your goals. You and Kris are wonderful inspirations.

    • dwsmith

      Thanks, E.R. And good luck with your new baby project. Important stuff there. Have fun and enjoy the time.

  • Victoria Goddard

    I am trying to get a handle on what I hope will be a new rhythm in my life. Summer is not so much a time of great forgetting for me as a time when the garden (what I could call my secondary artistic calling) is calling very loudly. I am creatively inspired–but I am having a hard time clearing away the actual space for writing. I am going to be following along and doing my best … I would love to get ground effect going. I am *sure* I am not writing to my potential right now. Not even close! And I have a ton of stories I want to know what happens in!

    • dwsmith

      Keep the writing a fun place to go to, Victoria. That will help you get back to it more often.

      • Victoria Goddard

        Yes! I keep thinking it’s like fencing–which I was very bad at, but no matter. You were always supposed to grip the hilt of the sword both loosely and in complete control … one of those paradoxes you can *feel* but are very hard to explain. Writing seems to be like that: it must be treated both seriously and lightly at the same time.

        • dwsmith

          Mostly lightly. After all, we are sitting alone in a room and making stuff up. And entertaining people if we do it right. Serious doesn’t seem to fit that except in English teacher’s minds, making writing and authors something special to justify their jobs and what they do all day.

          I know what I do. I make up stories and have fun doing it. Nothing at all serious about it.