Sunday, October 09, 2005


I always get a grin out of articles by the literati, who are appalled at the idea of an author writing a book every year. As if writing novels was the same as having illicit sex; and the more you do it, the more of a slut you are. As with all sorts of talent, those who don't have it are always stumbling over themselves to tell those who do how they should use it.

And as the song goes, it's in the way that you use it, not how little or how often.

There is some weight to this argument for the writer; if not for the reasons the literati would wash our brains with. Most of the published authors I know would be overjoyed to slow down. Wouldn't we all like to live the life of Lethem, and have a half a million free bucks to blow on good equipment, research, promotion, and all the other expensive stuff? Not that such a thing ever happens to writers who actually need the money.

Thing is, without a bankroll, or a very patient family or partner willing to support you, a writer hoping to keep writing full-time can't afford to slow down. And then there's the competition, which is getting outrageous. The working writer has to put out his or her best at least once, preferably twice, yearly simply to stay in everyone's little black book.

If you want to do that, you should start making some time commitments.

Work up a writing schedule based on what you want to accomplish over the next twelve months. Let's say, for example, you want to write two books a year, and that means producing 200K. If you write five days a week, and do your research, outlining, editing and rewriting on the weekend, that requires writing about 770 words per day, or three pages. At an average of an hour a page, that's three hours of writing time. Double that, write six pages, and you can produce four books a year -- if you can devote six hours per day to writing (for those who want to pace me, you need to produce three to five pages per hour, or thirty to forty pages per day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.)

This is not possible for everyone, and I wouldn't presume to say it is. For some writers, writing to a schedule is simply impossible because their lives are too erratic. Others can only write when mental/physical/spiritual conditions are perfect, and I understand those conditions can't be scheduled. You guys really have it tough, but I imagine all that chaos and spontaneity pays off in other ways for you all.

I'll be talking more about ways to increase your productivity this week, but in the meantime check out SF author William C. Dietz's article How to Write a Book A Year (.pdf file format) here. He has some good pointers on how to handle the work of writing one book per year while holding down a job, hanging with your family, having a life, not going insane, etc.


  1. Standing by with pen and paper.:-D

  2. Well, this is perhaps the clearest way of putting a writing schedule - and the funny thing is it's almost exactly my own - 3 - 4 pages a day, 4 books a year on average. lol.
    I would like to pick up the pace, but I'm afraid of getting burned out.
    There is NaNoWrimo coming up soon though! On your mark, get set...

  3. I've been doing what's called fast draft writing for a romantica fantasy. It's been interesting. If all goes well today, I will have written half the book in 3 days. Not bad.

    Of course it needs a ton of editing.

    But it does have a plot. I think.

    Needs more sex though. The plot keeps distracting me.

    Anyways, the whole thing has been an interesting exercise in productivity. I can plot by the seat of my pants--amazing.

    I could probably handle rough drafts of 2 books a year, but I don't know if I could polish them and have them ready for an editor too.

    I'm still learning though. I still write a little too short, I would like my roughs to get up to 80k and grow in edits to 90-100k.

    I hate that I'm an organic writer. I wish I could outline. I've tried. It doesn't work for me. I have to create as I go which really slows me down. I have to take all this time to think.

    OH and I bought a copy of Blade Dancer and LOVE it, stayed up til 1am last night and still have about 100 pgs left to read. Is there more Jory to come in the future? Please? :)


  4. May I ask where the editing process works into the writing scheduling for you? Do you find that your stories are more or less ready except for some polishing with the first draft, due to your experience? Do you edit as you write or cram all the editing in before sending the story out?

    Thank you! I'm heartily enjoying your blog.


  5. Anonymous10:24 AM

    Very helpful. I hope you include tips for those of us who work full-time and are trying to write a book.

  6. Anonymous10:27 AM

    Ahh, wonderful. The Dietz article is exactly what I was looking for!

  7. Anonymous12:07 PM

    One of the things I've noticed is that those that don't plot often think of the plotting/outlining as a seperate process, something outside of the book. But for me, a die-hard plotter, that is a central part of the finished book. It's a distinction that works for me, so that I don't ever feel as if I've shot my wad, so to speak, before I write the second draft. First draft - detailed plotting, second draft - writing the chapters, third draft, editing the chapters. This is the only way I can keep to my very tight scheduling.

  8. Anonymous4:30 PM

    Thanks for posting this! I was wondering if you (and maybe some of the other commenters) could talk about your outlining process and how you came to develop it.

  9. Okay, after reading the article, I just want to say in defense of us pantzers that not all of us are writing aimlessly.

    To date, I haven't cut any large sections out of my stories or had problems finishing. My problem is writing short and creating a sequence of events so interdependent that adding to my wordcount can be problematic.

    I can plot just fine, but I can't outline. I need to be in the story, working with the character before I can make decisions. I always know my premise and who the antagonist, protagonist are. I have a good idea of the opening and the core conflict but not much else which is why I spend a lot of time thinking before I write that next scene.

    I'm hoping that outlining will come with time and experience. I am getting a better sense of how plot events and twists equate to word count, so the writing short issue should eventually resolve itself. I hope.


  10. Thanks for the link, PBW. Food for thought.

  11. Lethem got a MacArthur. Wow. The dude is younger than me.

    Thanks for the link!

  12. Anonymous2:40 PM

    I'm still working at finding something that suits me.

    Today, I just made my most drastic change from full-on pantzer in my writing method.

    If it works, I may find some of my sanity back.

  13. The breakdown is a great reminder, PBW! Thank you.

    I need to get my butt in gear!

  14. Anonymous11:21 PM

    Again, sorry I'm lagging behind on comments -- deadlines, teaching, the usual chaos situation here.

    Michelle wrote: Is there more Jory to come in the future? Please? :)

    Originally I had eight books planned for Jory and the crew, but the publisher only bought the first one. It did very well, and continues to sell (and thanks for investing) but after the Ace/Roc changeover my new editor was more interested in buying two new StarDocs. To be honest, I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my SF after this contract. A lot depends on the science fiction market, and what I think I can swing next year.

    Also, one thought on the Dietz article -- some plotting writers tend to think organic writers work aimlessly, the same way some organic writers think plotting writers are too regimented. I'll confess to thinking the same thing until I got to know some organic writers and realized that the process is completely different on their side of the fence, and should be respected. Just my two cents.

    Anonymous wrote: I was wondering if you (and maybe some of the other commenters) could talk about your outlining process and how you came to develop it.

    I've got a general breakdown of how I outline over in the sidebar links to how I write novels, but I'll see if I can't write up a more specific post about it later on this week.

    Ris wrote: May I ask where the editing process works into the writing scheduling for you? Do you find that your stories are more or less ready except for some polishing with the first draft, due to your experience? Do you edit as you write or cram all the editing in before sending the story out?

    Ris, you might want to check out the series of posts I wrote on how I write novels (see right sidebar, down at the bottom, for the links.) I edit the new material I write every day, and don't look at it again until I do my final read-through when the book is finished. On average my books tend to be in fairly good shape on the first draft, and judging by the revision requests I'm getting from my editors, they're happy with what they're getting, too. I edit as I go along because cramming all the editing in at the end of writing the book doesn't work well for me.

  15. Anonymous6:24 PM

    Now I know why the only book by PBW I've read seemed kinda rough and raw. There was hardly any time for editing, was it? ;-)


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