Who hasn't, at some point, dreamed about mastering the art of spead reading? Imagine being able to zip through hundreds of pages of memos, magazines, or books — and maybe even remember some of what you read.
Dan Hurley, 42, puts a twist on that dream. Better known as the 60-Second Novelist, Hurley has pioneered a new skill. Call it "speed writing," or "fast fiction."
Sixteen years ago, when Hurley was working as an editor at the American Bar Association, in Chicago, he decided to try his luck at something new: In the middle of the sidewalk on Michigan Avenue, he sat in a director's chair, dressed in a three-piece gray flannel suit, holding a sign that read "60-Second Novels Written While You Wait." His mission? To meet strangers, to ask them a series of probing questions, and then to write their "life story" on his 1953 Royal manual typewriter. By the end of the day — 7 life stories later and $14.95 richer — Hurley had discovered his calling.
A year later, Hurley quit his editing job to become a full-time speed writer. Since then, he has written more than 22,000 speed novels — most of them for complete strangers. A sampling of his work appears in his book, "The 60-Second Novelist: What 22,613 People Taught Me About Life" (Health Communications, 1999). And Hurley has since expanded his act. He also does corporate and private events, and he is the man behind Instant Novelist, a popular Web destination that claims to be the world's largest writing site. Instant Novelist receives an average of 5 million hits per month, and it has archived nearly 1.25 million stories, essays, poems, and confessions.
What has the art of fast fiction taught Hurley? "I've realized that it's easiest just to sit down and start doing what you want to do, rather than sitting around thinking about it," he says. But he has also realized a more critical lesson about performing on the edge of speed: "You've got to let go of your second-guessing — of that voice that makes you question what you're doing. You don't have time to listen to it."
Contact Dan Hurley by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or visit Instant Novelist on the Web
A version of this article appeared in the May 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.