Being a Prolific Writer
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but at the age of 33 I still consider myself more student than master. I’ve self-published a book, have another in the final drafts stage, one more is in the writing stage, and there are dozens of ideas waiting in line for a little attention.
Even so, a Facebook post by friend and fellow writer, Earl Chessher, blew my mind. He wrote that writing 500 words a day would produce a book in about 6 months.
Expounding on that, 500 words a day will give you roughly two books per year, depending on length. 1,000 words a day, 4 books. 2,000 words a day, 8 books. You can do the math from there.
Every writer is different in their abilities and available time. For me, with a full-time job and two kids, 500 would be easy, 1,000 wouldn’t be much problem most days and 2,000 is doable more than once a week. Once I realized that, I had to ask myself: Why haven’t I been writing more?
My first and only book, Secrets of Retail, was self-published in mid-2010. Nearly four years later it’s still my only published novel, self-published or otherwise. From the simple math above, I should have at least seven published books by now.
Okay, seven books in under four years is a little unrealistic for me, especially since there are so many other components in the process. The manuscript goes through various drafts, editing, beta-readers, more editing, more readers, then editing, editing, and more editing. Then, if you take the self-publishing route, there’s still cover design, layout, distribution and much more. So seven is wishful thinking, but one is kind of embarrassing.
The task of completing a book, whether you’re self-publishing or not, is daunting, but achievable. Hundreds, if not thousands, of writers are producing a book, or two, or more every single year.
Appropriately, Earl didn’t only inspire me to be a more prolific writer, he’s a major generator of the written word. In the past five years he has written and published 19 titles including non-fiction books, anthologies, short stories and novellas. Two more are being professionally edited during the writing of this post, soon to be set upon the world.
Another of my most prolific friends is Kelvin V.A. Allison. Since 2008 he has churned out 21 novels even though his time is split between writing, work, family and full-time university.
Earl isn’t a full-time writer and neither is Kelvin. How can they manage every day life and still maintain the output that they do? What’s the secret?
The secret is simple. Some would call it hard work, others drive, but I think the most appropriate word would be discipline.
Earl sits down every day, whether it is first thing in the morning or late at night (sometimes both) and aims to add 3,000 words to the project he’s working on.
Kelvin makes notes everyday on the bus to and from university, and once his household is asleep he sits down to write until 3 AM, consistently aiming for 3,000 words.
The key isn’t the goal of 3,000 words. The goal can be any number of words. The key is consistency. Earl writes every day. Kelvin writes every day. It’s part of their daily schedule and through that discipline it has become part of who they are.
You may ask: How does one stay so disciplined? Since I’m obviously not the best person to ask, I’ve found some answers from writers that never seem to stop producing.
Get Motivated – This could be the most important part. If you don’t have something burning inside of you to make you sit down and write, it’s going to be very difficult. Find things that inspire you to write.
Read and listen to interviews with authors. A lot authors tell their story about being a regular person and succeeding through hard work and perseverance. Find a hero and keep him or her in mind.
Clip out inspirational sayings, quotes or lines from your favourite authors and books. Keep them someplace where you’ll see them often. A personal favourite of mine comes from Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk: “This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.” Sounds grim, I know, but it reminds me not to waste too much time.
Set a Schedule – No one says you have to write every single day. However, if you want your writing to become a habit, a discipline, set a schedule and follow your schedule.
Three days a week, five, one. Set it and follow it.
Set Reasonable Goals – If you’re just starting out and you don’t know what a reasonable word count is for you, start out with an amount of time. 30 minutes, an hour, two. Start with an amount you know you’re going to be able to commit.
Record how many words you write during each writing session. Once you’ve done 10 – 15 sessions you’ll have a fairly accurate idea of how many words you can handle per day. At that point you can decide to change to a word count goal, or keep going with an allotted time. It’s all up to you.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up – If you miss a writing session don’t beat yourself up, no matter the reason. It’s a sure path to failure.
Beating yourself up is negative reinforcement and, unless you respond well to that, it’s best not take part. Feeling negatively toward yourself may cause you to feel like you’re not a real writer and that you never will be. That negatively could spiral downward until you ask yourself, “What’s the point?”
If you miss a session, just resolve that you will complete your next scheduled session and then do it!
Join a Community – If you’re not already part of a writing group of some sort, join one. Even if you don’t want to meet with a group in person there is an endless list of groups on the internet that discuss writing on a daily basis.
Nothing gives you a kick in the rear like hearing about how much writing your peers are getting done. You’ll want to be able to stand with them and say, “Me too!”
Why not start today? In six months, or less, you could have a finished manuscript on your hands. Then you’ll have a new question:
I wrote a book, now what?