Even more relevant in this age of indie publishing! – t.
Should you? Shouldn’t you?
As an Anchored Author, yes, you should.
Your day job takes up eight hours of your day. Sleep should take another seven or eight hours. That leaves eight or so precious hours out of your 24 that you have any control over.
There are essentials in your life that must be taken care of, but if you’re constantly on watch, paring down time wasters, and consciously choosing not to do things, then you’ll end up with a few hours you can dedicate to writing your novels. Perhaps even only two hours. After nearly a decade of working at this, I have found the only way to get along with the rest of the world is to keep it to two hours a night for my writing*, even though I could push for more if I really wanted everyone to hate me…a lot.
(*This does not include lunch breaks and weekends – both of which are a whole different discussion. This is just week nights we’re considering – the spare eight hours you have after working the job, whenever they fall during your day. For most people, that’s the evening.)
How much writing can you get done in that time?
Plenty, if you’re bloody-minded enough.
“Prolific” means highly productive, and it’s not necessarily the end count (how many books you produce) that makes you prolific, although this is certainly going to be a factor in how fast you make it to quitting the day job.
Consider it: If you’re putting out one book a year, there’s an awfully long time period between books, when fans drift off to new authors, and forget your name. You can’t keep up impetus.
One of your primary aims as an anchored author is to increase your readership from book to book. This, in turn, increases your earnings per book (which get poured into your escape stash), builds momentum, and helps you reach THE day. If you’re only putting out one book a year, it means you’re starting from scratch with each new book, having to build a fresh new set of readers. Momentum = zero. And no momentum will probably mean no increase in earnings from book to book, either.
Two books a year is a stretch, too. You have to remember the distracted, totally overwhelmed reader’s state of mind. With so many titles coming at them every single week, you’re risking losing readers who simply forget you over a six month period.
Three books is getting better and four books is even better still. That’s a new title every three months (assuming your publisher is happy with this rate of production. If they’re not, you could always adopt a second one).
And yes, four books a year is entirely workable on an anchored author’s schedule, if you lift your prolificacy rate. If you can write more words per hour, you’ll make a significant difference in the long term. Simple progression takes care of it.
Look at the math for yourself:
Over 48 weeks a year (four weeks get chipped away by vacations and public holidays), five nights of each week gets used for writing. If you’ve arranged things so that you get two hours a night to write, that’s 480 hours over a year, just for the evenings.
How many words an hour do you write? You don’t know? Better start keeping track. This stuff is important.
I write around 1,350 words an hour, on average. Let’s drop that to 1,000 words for the sake of simplicity.
That’s 480,000 words, just in the evenings. That’s 4.8 big, honking books a year (which are the kind I write, unfortunately – I sometime wish I wrote the skinny 50K things that I could spit out like a popcorn machine).
Remember, the numbers I’m laying down here don’t include wordage you produce during lunchtimes, weekends and vacation time.
Yes, I know that this model is unrealistic – you’re not going to be able to write every single night, without fail, and you have other writing tasks, like editing and plotting, that can chew into actual production time. I’m manipulating a simplified model here to demonstrate a point, so hang in there for a minute.
What if you could increase your writing rate by a lousy page per hour?
1,250 words an hour.
That’s 600,000 words a year. Six books. All for a single page more each hour.
Now do you understand the value of prolificacy?
There are dozens of writing experts and authors out there who maintain that writing fast doesn’t mean crappy writing. Some of them insist that fast writing is often good writing because it by-passes the internal editor. Mine never shuts up, so if you’ve been writing for a few years, I’m guessing yours is a bickerer, too.
Who says fast writing works? Try:
Are all these people out of their gourds? If you read their books, you’ll begin to understand that they’re on to something.
Okay, so let’s get realistic for a moment: There’s no way in anyone’s paradigm of realism that you’re ever going to write every single weeknight without fail, and continuously chunk out 1,250 words each and every hour. I know that. You know that.
Remember that your rate of prolificacy is an average. You could actually write much faster than that. I do. I can actually spit out six pages an hour without breaking a sweat, when I’m on a roll. And I’m sure I’ve done better than that in the past, except I was moving to fast to take notice at the time.
So what you’re really aiming for is increasing two vital components that make up your prolificacy rate:
- increasing your average rate per hour.
- increasing the number of times you do write when you’re scheduled to.
We’ll look at ways to improve both of these, in later posts.
For now, without doing anything special or different, try:
- Keeping track of your word rate (make sure you’re using the industry standard 250 words a page and not your computer count, which inflates it)
- Simply reminding yourself to write faster, every time you sit at the keyboard.
- Writing at the times you’ve chosen to write, more often than you have in the past (keep track of this rate, too, if you’re not sure how well you’ve done in the past).
- Reminding yourself that every little session counts, even if it’s a miserly fifteen minutes. It really does add up.
Let me know how it goes.
First appeared on Anchored Authors on May 30, 2008