I’m in an ideas profession. So are you. Getting ideas is an every day occurence, so the arrival of a new idea is something we’ve got used to noticing and recording for later use, then getting on with our day.
Except, a week ago, I got an idea that smacked me between the eyes and made me sit up and pay attention.
The reason why I didn’t just record-and-dismiss was because the idea resolved a pair of niggling, long-term problems that I’ve been struggling with for a while.
I don’t remember if I was a fast writer when I first started writing fiction. I don’t think it matters if I was. As I started writing stories when I was 14, and started writing seriously for publication in 1994, that was quite a while ago.
One thing I can tell you: I’ve got a lot faster over the years. I have the records to prove it.
I blame Asimov
Isaac Asimov was the catalyst for my interest in prolificacy and productivity. One of my favourite books of his was Opus 200, which celebrated the publication of his two-hundredth book.
200 books. Wow. Just…wow.
The best part of Opus 200 wasn’t the excerpts from many of the 199 previously published books. For me, the most interesting part of the book was the interstitial essays, where Asimov spoke of his love of writing, and his work processes.
All through the essays was the underlying joy of being able to write fast, in order to write more and get to tell more stories.
I’m pretty sure Asimov nudged me in this direction.
Over the years I’ve gradually acquired a massive collection of books, blog posts, podcasts and other resources that help writers write faster, for longer, and with greater ease.
I’ll talk about some of those books and resources here on this blog, in the future.
In October 2016, I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting Joanna Penn, the author and owner of The Creative Penn, a site and podcast for writers, particularly indie writers.
During one conversation, Joanna said something extraordinary. She said: “You absolutely should write a how-to book – one about writing fast.”
That comment has stayed with me for over a year now.
I contemplated the idea on and off, but didn’t do anything about it because I was inflicted with one of the most common writer’s inhibitions: imposter syndrome.
In my case, who was I to write a book about writing? I’ve never hit the NYT best seller list. I’ve never sold a million copies of one novel. I’ve never had a book made into a movie, or even had one shopped around Hollywood.
I am part of that invisible segment of the publishing industry: the mid-list indie author. It also happens to be the biggest demographic of the publishing industry. There are far more of us making low-to-middling-to-very comfortable livings from indie publishing, than there are super sellers and star names.
And although I have not seen a demographic breakdown of numbers, I suspect there are far more of us than there are traditionally published genre fiction authors—of which there are fewer every year.
However, I have written nearly 100 books. By the end of 2018, I hope to by-pass that milepost. In 2017 alone, I wrote and published 12 novels, seven novellas and novelettes and various short stories.
If you’re crying right now: “But you write full-time! I have a job!”, I will also add that in 2015, when I was working a full-time day job, I wrote and published 12 novels and novellas. So it’s not simply that I’m sitting around all day communing with my muse. I’ve learned how to write fast, and how to keep my butt in the chair.
Writing a book about productivity is not a ridiculous idea.
But still, but still… It’s hard to shut up the little voice in my head. The one that says I’m nothing special.
That’s when the big, honking idea hit me.
Before I get to that, though, I need to explain the two niggling problems.
I’m almost afraid to outline this problem, because it’s a petty thing. A stupid thing.
I’ve been writing full-time for two years now. Originally, I was producing a novel and a short story every month.
On the second Thursday of the month, I would release a short story, novelette (usually) or novella.
On the last Thursday of the month, I would release a full length novel, usually around the 70K mark in word count.
Sales and reader feedback told me that the shorts, novellas and novelettes were not going over all that well.
Therefore, in May of 2017, I switched to a single novel every 28 days, thereby meeting Amazon’s preferred publication rate (they favour authors who publish every 30 days or less).
I’ve been refining the publication schedule since then. Only, the change-over meant I was writing less than before and I felt like I was stripping gears trying to slow down my production rate. It gave me spare time…something I do not handle well.
That’s the problem.
I can maintain a steady rate of a-book-every-three-weeks, over the long term.
I can easily produce 10,000 words a day, for several days in a row, if I have to.
I have written a 55,000 word novel in seven days – which included two days to plot it. That’s not something I would like to do every week of the year, but I can do it.
By the way, you can do it, too. That’s part of what this blog is about—helping you understand how do-able this pace of writing really is.
A book every four weeks is a sedate stroll for me. I’m tripping over myself maintaining it.
There’s also an Asimovian-type seething impatience because at that pace, I can only write 12 books a year, while my list of stories I *want* to write grows longer and longer….
Only, to write and publish more than twelve novels a year would risk burning out my readers–even in Romance, where some readers read more than a book a day.
The solution, of course, is to develop another pen name, disassociated with romance, and write in another genre.
Which is exactly what I decided to do.
My usual work-day production schedule currently allows me to write a book every four weeks.
Spread over three series, that means each series acquires a new book every 90 days, which also helps the series avoid the dreaded Amazon 90-day drop-off in sales, as a new book in the series stimulates sales in all the previous books.
The problem is, I really, really want to write all three books in the new Thriller series, under the new pen name, and fast-publish all three of them within days of each other, if not on the same day. There’s a huge number of advantages to fast-publishing in this way.
To begin, it gives the new series and the completely unknown pen name a real boost upon release.
Also, my sales records show that the release of the third book in a series spikes sales of all the books, on a scale that the release of the first and second books completely fail to realize.
Readers of fiction like to see a good solid list of books in a series before they’ll fully commit.
To stockpile three books, plus all the associated plotting and series development that goes along with a new series and a new genre, would put a seriously large hole in my 28 day/90 day cycle.
It was only when I contemplated both problems, in conjunction with the idea of writing a book about productivity and writing fast, that the solution hit me.
Here is the big idea:
- Maintain my currently day-job writing schedule of a book every 28 days, over three romance series.
- Write the Thriller series in my spare time. This is the equivalent of writing books in the hours outside a day job, just as many writers are doing.
- Blog about my productivity experiment, to give other writers insights into how such a production schedule can be built and maintained. (This blog is it.)
- Also maintain the blogs for my romance books, and the new thriller pen name.
- When I have successfully written and published the new thriller series, the writing of additional books will be inserted into my day-job (so to speak) production schedule.
- In my spare time, I will write a productivity book for indie fiction authors, based on this blog and insights from the productivity experiment.
The experiment resolves the two nagging questions I’ve been struggling with for a few months now.
The challenge to successfully complete this ambitious schedule is just what I need to get rid of the blah sensation that has been building over the only-12-stories-a-year schedule, and I certainly won’t be twiddling my thumbs anymore.
Doing the whole project in public keeps me accountable, and ensures I’ll work my ass off to make it happen.
So you tell me. Have I lost a marble or two?