OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
In the last 3 years, I've written 3 novels. On one hand, this is fantastic and I am celebrating my achievements. But on the other hand, it just isn't good enough if I want to make it as a successful fiction author.
NY Times bestselling author CJ Lyons is writing 4 books this year. Joe Konrath, Bob Mayer, Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch all put out more than that. Nora Roberts / J.D. Robb produces a book every 45 days and shifts 10 million books per year (romance books are shorter but that's still impressive!).
Before you all start shouting, check out this post on the myth that writing fast means skimping on quality.
Also consider the list of the most prolific authors. Isaac Asimov wrote over 500 books in his life, Enid Blyton 600+. I'd better get cracking if I want to join them 🙂
Now watch the video below, or here on YouTube, about how I have increased my writing output.
In the video I discuss:
- How I’ve always been more of a binge writer, prefering batches of bigger word count and days set aside for fiction and other days for marketing, speaking and the rest of the entrepreneurial stuff. But this doesn't cut it if I want to focus on fiction as my primary income (it's about 50% right now and I am NOT earning like Nora!)
- It’s important to learn from the pros who are actually doing this, so when I read a post by Dean Wesley Smith on production schedules, I listened up! Dean and his wife, author Kris Rusch have some fantastic advices on their sites so I absolutely recommend you go check them out.
- Basically you need to decide how much you want to write e.g. 3 x 80,000 word books in a year = 240,000 words . Obviously there’s an editing cycle but the first thing is to get the rough draft done and Dean advocates a regular amount of new fiction writing in order to meet production schedules – so to meet that, I need to write ~666 words per day, every day of the year. That’s not actually too much as it takes me about 30-45 mins to write 500 words (if I know what I want to write about).
- Then decide how you will accomplish that word count e.g. weekly or daily goals. I decided to break out of binge writing and make writing a daily habit, and through that to up my monthly output of words. But I have never managed this – until now!
- See my behavioral chart for January 2013 right. It works! It's like the star chart you do for your kids to modify behaviour and adults can use it too! I only missed a couple of days due to traveling and being ‘present' with my husband on a trip to Italy and then speaking in Zurich. But I want that pink tick every day and I want to see the word count and I want it to be at least 1000 words per day. In January I wrote 36,556 words on Hunterian, my current WIP, the best writing month I have ever had. So watch this space for whether I can keep it going all year!
- Yes, it is really hard every day to get this done and I don’t think writing gets any easier, but I definitely feel the need to do it every day now. I also have a sign by my desk “Have you made art today?” which challenges me. Read The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin and you will get your ass kicked too! Stop watching TV and write something!
Do you write every day? Or do you have weekly writing goals? What kinds of writing habits do you have? Please do share your thoughts in the comments below.
Alistair Birch says
Hi Joanna, very helpful stuff – now that you’re a year down the line, how’s this new regime working out in practice after that great first month?
Linda, thanks for the scene goal idea too 🙂
Paul Mostowyj says
I’ve always had the same problem as a writer: I never finish anything.
The problem is that I always get hung up on getting it perfect instead of getting it done, which leads to severe writers block and scrapping everything. I did it as a kid trying to write short stories and I do it now as an adult starting one blog after another.
I’ve admitted to the problem and I’m now using this technique to focus on building a writing habit. I’m only writing 150 – 300 words a day by answering a question and posting the answer on my blog. It seems to be working and I’ve now completed 7 days straight.
I’m not sure how I’m going to build on this habit next month or even what my long term goals are, but you’ve given me some food for thought.
Kinza Sheikh says
I am also thinking to set some daily word count goal. Right now, my only goal is to finish the darn thing before the New Year. So I have new projects to work on then.
Okay, lets see. I have a 60,000 words novel, which I want to finish. I have calculated that there are almost 98 more days left in this year. 613 words per day. I thinks that will be manageable. Thanks, I finally got an idea how to finish it up finally. 😀
Anna Read says
I hope that worked for you, Kinza!
Thanks, Joanne, this was a really helpful post (and I loved the linked article to Dean Wesley Smith’s blog post). Just the sort of thing I need to kick-start my 2015! I’m starting a low goal of 1000-1500 words a day, 5 days a week, and hopefully I’ll get somewhere with that!
Thanks for the encouragement.
I started using your calendar method and so far it’s been working! Been keeping track of my progress. Also I have a support system on twitter and with other minded authors/writers we encourage each other to write daily by checking on one another. It’s been really helpful 🙂
I just wanted to say that your site has really helped me. I’m one of those people who has been writing since I was pre-teen, I have no shortage of ideas but I have no focus and write a bunch of different things at once and because of that, nothing gets finished. I would also call myself a binge writer! One who has weeks of no activity and one day of 20,000 words. I have vague dreams of publishing but wouldn’t let myself think about it until my husband encourage me to pursue it (telling me to work part-time as a nurse and pursue writing the rest of the time). I don’t know if I have the courage to leave my full-time job for part-time, if I can be successful at looking at this like a job and writing everyday. I may go for it! On another note, I just got Pentecost, it sound right up my ally, currently my kindle is split between thrillers and supernatural/paranormal novels, I like how your novels are a mix of both.
Joanna Penn says
Hi Sara, It’s fantastic that you’re focusing on the writing – and as for leaving your job, it will likely take some time. There is an arc to this author life as well – I have covered it here: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2014/07/08/arc-of-the-indie-author/
I do hope you enjoy Pentecost – I also love thrillers and the supernatural!
Jalandhara Bhim says
Just bought your book on Amazon – The Successful Author Mindset. I really appreciate your clear and simple style. I haven’t tried any of your fiction yet but soon will. I am a 47 year old Indian woman having dreams of becoming a writer someday. For reasons too complicated to be dealt with here, I’ve been pursuing my writing seriously only for the last three years. I’ve a collection of short stories and a novel in progress. I hope to be able to publish the short story collection by next year. I was wondering if you know about any professional Indian editors who charge in Indian Rupees (for obvious reasons). I’d be very happy if you respond.
Joanna Penn says
Hi Jalandhara, I’d suggest listening to this and checking out the resources Rasana suggests: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2016/04/25/self-publish-india-rasana-atreya/ All the best!
Azizah Idris says
Your blog and articles have been of great help for me. To me, I found out that focusing on one project at a time takes me into the mindset of great productivity. I worked on my last book of 180,000 words within 6 months.
Sometimes writing many pages in a day, sometimes going over it to be in line with what I’ve already written. Now, I have to work on just writing and keeping my editing claws at bay till I achieve a lot. I think not doing that is setting me back a bit.
Thank you for your time and great info. I always come back here when I’m stuck and I must say I’ve never here left disappointed. Though I write in my native language, I’m now working on my second English fiction.