I am friends with many productive writers, people who publish two or more good, high-quality books a year. One thing they have in common is discipline. They have a grip on time management. They understand that if you set aside a block time that is just for writing, it becomes less of a chore. It becomes part of your daily routine, habitual. Some writers have office hours, others must carve time outside work and family obligations.
Productivity is relative. I feel productive if I publish one book a year and sell a short story or two.
I write every day, and I also work on other aspects of book production every day. But I am not prolific. I always have several manuscripts in various stages of completion, which is why I can get one out the door every year, even though it takes me four years to write them.
Barbara Cartland dictated over 700 novels, and her secretary typed them up. In 1976 she published 23 novels. I think that’s crazy dedication to the craft, and I don’t have that many ideas, lol! Productivity depends on what you decide you want to achieve for your writing career.
Author Simon Wood writes to an outline. He publishes regularly, but not as often as some authors do. He gets at least one book published every year, sometimes two. Simon keeps to his production schedule, which is why he publishes regularly. He was kind enough to talk about how he plots his novels for my post in September of last year, Author Simon Wood on Plotting. In that post, he offers some awesome advice on how he uses pre-planning to keep the momentum going.
For Indies, writing involves more than just laying words on paper. It requires a work ethic and the commitment to doing the dirty work as well as the fun stuff.
- We must find time to write,
- Find editors to work with,
- Carve out time to make revisions,
- We format our books,
- Arrange for cover art,
- Arrange for tablespace at conventions and book signings, and market promotions and appearances.
- Purchase swag (I use bookmarks as my business card) to give away, banners to dress up the booth, and make sure we have a reasonable stock of hardcopies of our books to sell at personal appearances. (Yes – we do have to pay for this.)
Each of these tasks requires discipline, sitting down and doing it.
It’s a time consuming business, and while you are doing these things, you aren’t writing. SO that must be fit into the process too.
Goals are good.
Many authors set deadlines, arbitrary dates for each aspect of the book to be finished. Be warned—to achieve your deadlines, you may have to establish firm boundaries to limit incursions into your writing time by friends and family members.
Consider establishing a dedicated working space—someplace where you aren’t bothered by the TV or ambient neighborhood sounds. Also, it should be strictly off limits to others, if possible. This will protect your files.
- Finish the work, whether it’s a novel or short story.
- You aren’t productive if you never finish the work.
One final thing I’ve noticed—productive authors are also dedicated readers. As a young adult I read every sci-fi or fantasy novel that came out in paperback, budgeting for books the way others of my acquaintance budgeted for beer. I’ve never stopped reading and researching great literature.
Reading for entertainment is my happy place. In the old days I jonesed for new books by the great ones, Anne McCaffrey, Jack Chalker, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Tad Williams, Robert Jordan, and Roger Zelazny, reading and rereading them until they were shreds held together with duct tape. Now I have the Kindle eReader and I still read two or three books a week.
Self-discipline and love of reading are common traits that the most productive authors of my acquaintance have in common. Realistic expectations and the ability to set goals and achieve them are also common traits.
We will be talking with two highly productive authors about how they work over the next few posts.