Does that word bring to mind a Ford factory line churning out hundreds of perfectly identical Model Ts? Does Henry Ford’s famous (mis-)quote, “You can have any color, as long as it’s black,” give you—a creative writer—hives?
Welcome to the club.
I was once a member of that club. Creativity inspired my writing, and I would write as much (or as little) as creativity demanded. Productivity I reserved for my corporate America career—delivering projects as efficiently and effectively as possible.
My perspective changed in June 2012 when I released my debut novel, Perfection Unleashed, and embarked down the path of making a living off my writing. The chances of my solitary novel becoming a #1 New York Times bestseller rated somewhere between fat luck and thin chance. Even if it did become a bestseller, I wouldn’t be able to live off its royalties for the rest of my life. My best bet was doing what most professional authors do—write lots and lots of books.
Three years and twenty published novels/novellas later, I’ve concluded that productivity and creativity are not mutually exclusive. Neither is quality; on Amazon, my lowest-rated novel is my debut novel, sporting 4.3 stars. I’m not quite making a living on writing, but publishing is no longer an expensive hobby. My writing income fully covers related expenses, including my editors, cover designers, website, social media tools, and marketing, with enough left over for date nights with my husband. It required more than a mindset change to accelerate up the productivity curve; I use a variety of techniques to manage my time and deliverables.
Daily word count: My target is 1,500 words a day. If I’m feeling the pressure to meet a deadline, I increase the goal to 2,000 words. I do most of my writing early in the morning before I tackle the demands of my day job in corporate America. My mood noticeably lightens once I nail my word count for the day. It’s my writer’s high.
Annual planning calendar with monthly goals: I can write and edit a novella in a month and a novel in three months. Based on that realistic scope of work, I put together an annual plan of what I expect to write each month. On that calendar, I also factor in time for my editor and book releases.
Deadlines: My editor’s schedule fills out months in advance. I reserve her time, and the date on my calendar tells me when to send my final draft to her. Book release dates also inevitably mean deadlines. I perform better under pressure, and deadlines really hit the sweet spot for me.
Have a plan: I plot my novels. I didn’t always, but experience has shown me that I write a great deal faster when I have a clue of what’s supposed to happen next. While going about my daily non-writing activities, I’ll plan my novel, including key scenes and major conflicts. The story unfolds like a movie in my mind, and I’m the director, yelling, “Cut! Who came up with that stupid script? Do it over, from the top, and do something different!” The movie takes shape, each scene tugged and tweaked into place, and I’m ready to write it out the moment I sit down at my computer.
Flexibility: Now, here’s an odd word in light of how regimented my writing life must seem up to this point. In fact, writing is a transformative activity—the act of creating the novel changes the novel. Characters develop minds of their own and derail the plot. (If you’ve ever met my characters, you’d realize that it comes as naturally to them as breathing to us.). The conflict escalates and suddenly, the world is about to end (for the seventh time in three years.) Or real life decides to kick back hard and writing takes a backseat for a few days or (gulp!) weeks. I roll with it and revisit the annual planning calendar when I come back up for air.
The techniques I utilize won’t work for everyone. That’s why FWA has invited three highly prolific, best-selling authors to share their personal tips with you at FWA’s next webinar, Maximize Your Writing Productivity. This seminar isn’t just for the aspiring professional author; it’s for anyone who wants to develop a habit of writing regularly and well. This FREE webinar takes place on Saturday, November 14th, from 11:00 am to noon. Register today to reserve your spot.
p.s. If you are unable to attend on November 14th, but are interested in the topic, please register anyway, and we will send the webinar recording to you after the event.