This is part II of a series. You’ll find Part I here.
Build a production schedule
Your production schedule is different than, but related to, your writing schedule. Your production schedule is a business document. It is a statement of what you intend to publish in the next year—or more, if you want to project that far out. It is also a statement of when you intend to publish those books.
I’ll be covering the details of a production schedule in coming weeks. For now, on paper, a spreadsheet, a notepad–any form of semi-permanent record—write a list of books you would like to get written and approximately when you will publish them.
This might take some guesswork if you’ve never consciously noticed how long it takes you to write, produce and publish a book. Guessing is fine—you can tweak your schedule as you learn more about your working habits and productivity, until it settles into a reliable predictor of your year’s activities.
Why does having a production schedule help you become more prolific?
The production schedule is, at its most basic, a list of deadlines. If it is true that what is measure is increased, then (given that you’re practiced at writing when you should) just by declaring you will finish xxx book by xxx date, you will either hit that deadline, or finish the book early (sometimes, much earlier).
The production schedule is also a benchmark document against which you can measure your progress. You’ll know when you’re behind and can take steps to catch up.
Write faster per hour.
This may seem like a d’uh statement, but writing faster is a choice. You can keep your fingers moving, or choose to tweak the sentence you just wrote. You can choose to pick up the pace a bit more than you usually do.
You can train yourself into a higher per-hour word count simply by writing faster. At first it feels like you’re hurrying, but once you get used to the greater rate, you’ll stay there, producing more words per hour and you’ll write cleaner than you did when you first strove to pick up your speed.
It just takes practice, although there are a few techniques that will help you lift the rate initially:
Plot just ahead of where you’re writing
Even if you’re a pantser, scribble out just ahead of the cursor a few plot points to cover the next scene or two. Have it settled in your head, then get back to writing and the words will flow far easier. This is the primary key to Rachel Aaron’s 2k To 10K book on prolificacy.
Chris Fox’s word sprints (from 5,000 Words An Hour) will also raise your word count. I’ve called them in the past “Pomodoros on steroids”, for that’s what they are: Pomodoros with the gas pedal floored.
You can always fix it later. For now, don’t use the delete back key. Don’t read through what you’ve written. Just keep going. It takes willpower at first to not look back or tweak, but you can train yourself to keep going and to notice when you’re glancing back at what you wrote.
Keep telling yourself it can all be fixed later. If you’re afraid you’ll forget to fix something, you can put a note to yourself right there in the manuscipt. I mark comments to myself with ***around the comment*** and just search for the *** later. Other writers will drop down to a new line, mark the comment with bold or a different colored font which makes them stand out well in the manuscript, but they’re more difficult to search for (although not impossible).
Tell the grammar nazi that sits on your shoulder while you write to shut up.
Don’t research or look things up
This one will net you a lot of extra words. If you forget a secondary character’s name, call him or her xxx until you remember. Don’t stop to check farther up the manuscript, or your plot notes.
Ditto with fact checking. If you’re not sure, guess. Or drop in xxx’s to mark stuff you need to find out…later.
Write more hours per day
You can increase your speed per hour, and you can increase the number of hours you write.
The primary tool for this is your writing schedule. When are you going to write, each day? It’s a simple weekly schedule that blocks out pure writing time (and we’ll get into the nitty gritty on building one, in future weeks).
Where the training comes in, is making sure you write when you say you will. As there is no one standing over you with a switch or a boss looking at their watch, it’s up to you to make sure you write when your schedule says it’s time to write.
Of course, this is a lot easier to say than do. Whole books and courses are out there to help authors overcome resistance and kick procrastination to the curb.
If you can aim to hit your writing schedule 10% more frequently than you have in the past, and do it, you’re training yourself. Next month/quarter/year, aim for 10% higher and don’t let yourself backslide. It’s improvement by increments.
The writing schedule will also help you identify more time pockets when you can write. If you can rearrange a couple of commitments, or drop one or two off, and free up an extra 30 minutes, that’s three extra pages a day, or 21 extra pages—5,250 extra words—a week, or 273,000 words a year. That’s very nearly five extra 60K books a year, just for an extra 30 minutes a day.
Watch for opportunities to snare a few extra minutes each day. You’ll train yourself to notice them and take advantage of them.
Cracks and margins
You’ll also train yourself to notice where the cracks and margins of your day are—dead time where you can’t do anything else. Public transit is the classic one. But even if you self-drive, you can always problem solve while commuting.
You can learn to write on the go—thumbing text on your cellphone, or into a notebook you always carry, to transcribe next time you have a keyboard.
You can settle for sleep, then think about the current manuscript—what problems or issues need solving? What comes next in the story? When you wake next morning, you’ll likely have the answers to those questions. Scribble them down.
Standing in lines, waiting for cash registers, waiting for anything, are all thinking time for the current story.
Stealing moments like these comes easier if you teach yourself to think not as a person who writers, but a writer whose entire life contributes to the writing process. When you make this mental switch, you’ll find that everything does contribute to your writing. Ideas flood you daily, a rich ocean of possibilities.
Read about prolific writers
There are dozens of biographies and autobiographies and hundreds of how-to books that examine the lives and working habits of prolific authors. Get in the habit of reading them and reflecting on how you can adopt those writers’ attitudes and work ethics, and their systems for writing quickly and well.
Here’s some of the writers I love learning about:
Any of the classic pulp fiction writers.
Earl Stanley Gardner
Kevin J. Anderson
By learning about other prolific writers, you’ll be inspired to emulate them, and you’ll be training your mind to think as they did/do. Changing your attitude about prolific writing will help you think of yourself as a fast writer (the first point in the first post).
And yes, this really is a self-feeding system, once you immerse yourself in it.
It just takes a bit of training.