For Writers… How I Doubled My Productivity This Summer
When I first began writing fiction back in 2003-2004, I refused to set writing goals the way other authors did. I still had a demanding full-time job and two little kids who needed me for everything. I refused to set myself up to fail in my writing, which was supposed to be fun. I had a full-time job, I reasoned. If the writing isn’t fun, I won’t do it. So no goals, no charts, no plans. My “plan” was to just write the books.
That philosophy became a habit, and it’s how I’ve always approached my writing, even in the five years that I’ve been writing full-time. No goals, no charts, no plans, just write the books. This summer I decided to try something new, and that something new has been a game changer. I found out that more than fifty books later, you can teach an old dog new tricks.
The Fatal books tend to be the most difficult of all my books to write. I usually experience a lot of stress and anxiety trying to make the deadlines that I set with the publisher. There’s always a lot of teeth gnashing (and complaining) along the way. After writing ten Fatal books under those circumstances, I decided there had to be a better way, and I found out there is. My search for a better way also came from a selfish desire to actually have a summer while writing the Fatal book due Sept. 30.
The first thing I did differently this time around was to give myself three full months to write the book rather than my usual two months. Secondly, I wanted summer weekends off from the deadline schedule. To make that happen, I went through the calendar, added up all the weekdays between the first of July and the end of September, deducted a vacation week, my daughter’s birthday, Labor Day, etc. and came up with the number of days I had available to write a 90,000-word book.
I divided the number of days into the number of words and came up with a daily word count of 1550. Totally doable, right? Turns out it was. I often had my 1550 in by 10 am and check it out… the whole rest of the day to do whatever I wanted! And what I wanted was to write another book this summer.
That’s right—afternoons were devoted to Sex Machine, my first standalone novel in five years, which will be out on Sept. 26. I never could’ve produced this book at the same time I was writing the Fatal book if I hadn’t managed the writing of Fatal Threat the way I did.
Once Sex Machine was finished and off to editing, afternoons were devoted to the next Gansett Island book, Light After Dark, which is now up to 5,000 words and on track for release before the end of the year. I really love the way this new system is working for me. It’s not only helping me to manage the stress of deadlines, but it’s allowing me to effectively work on two books at the same time. Some writers will say they can’t possibly work on two projects at the same time. I say you never know for sure if you can or can’t until you try it.
If you want to give this strategy a whirl, I recommend a little break between morning writing and afternoon writing to reset your brain to the second project. Set achievable goals that make you feel productive rather than stressed. And when you reach your daily word count goal for book number one, STOP writing. Yes, you heard me right. Even if the writing is going well, STOP. Make some notes of ideas for the next day and then move on to other things for the rest of the day.
I’ve just gone over 50,000 words on Fatal Threat with 30 days left until my deadline. I’ve begun to step up the daily word count a bit after missing a few 1550 days due to unforeseen opportunities for beach days and other fun summer stuff. Hey, a girl’s gotta live, even when on deadline!
My author friend Lauren Blakely has been using my strategy for a few weeks and is marveling at how it has ramped upped her productivity. She has written a 35,000-word novella in two weeks. Go Lauren!
What do you think? Are you capable of writing two books at the same time? Do you think this strategy would help you achieve that goal? If you try my plan, let me know how it works for you. No matter how you approach it, I wish you happy writing!