Writing and Productivity

By Bruce Blake


One of the most difficult aspects of being a writer–any kind of writer–is churning out the words. No matter whether you are traditionally published or self-published, whether you write fiction or non-fiction, the words just ain’t gonna write themselves.

wake_up_call-b9d5fcf0af27e5611e92285c9034f311I stopped working and became a full-time author back in Oct., 2012. Before that, I was like most writers, fitting in a few words whenever I could find the time. Mostly, that consisted of getting out of bed early and doing an hour or two before work. If I got 1500 words out 4 or 5 times a week, I felt pretty successful, and with good reason–I’d used my time productively.

When October rolled around and  my employment situation changed (check it out here if you’re curious), I had more time on my hands but, strangely, my output didn’t increase in proportion to my extra writing hours. I wrote more, to be sure, but I my average only increased to about 2500 words/day. Not exactly ringing the bell given 3-5 hours more writing time/day. Why didn’t I write more? The first reason was that I let myself get distracted too easily…did you know that Facebook is operational at 2pm on a Tuesday? I didn’t, either! Turns out Twitter and Hotmail also make themselves available. Who knew?

Not me until it was time to write, the it was a light bulb and I was a moth.

The second reason my productivity didn’t increase as much as I wanted it to was because my frame of reference was seriously lacking. When you’re used to writing 1500 words a day, 2500 looks good, doesn’t it? Definitely better, but productivity isn’t about the total number of words you write in a day, it’s the amount you write in the time you have. 1500 words in two hours is far more productive than 2500 words in six hours.NaNoWriMo

Enter November and my first time as a NaNoWriMo participant. I accomplished the task set out and wrote 50000 words in a month. Better, right? No…still only 2500 words/day based on a five day week.

Not enough.

Without a plan, I pushed myself harder. I set goals and attached rewards (mmm…ice cream). I shamed myself when I didn’t reach my target (bad writer!). I tried everything I could think of and still only upped my average to around 3300 words/day. Sometimes I’d tickle as much as 4500, but not often.

A couple of months ago, someone mentioned a book to me, the title of which caught my attention–2000 to 10000: How to write faster, write better, and write more of what you love, by Rachel Aaron.

519bL-lkqoL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-64,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_The first simple method she suggests is to take five minutes before you write and plan what you’re going to do. Not just ‘John talks to Judy,’ but what do they talk about? What are their moods? Where are they? What else is going on? For five minutes, really plan what you are going to write (even if you’re a pantser!). We all plan it at some point…mostly in the midst of writing it.

So, does it work? I’ve only tried twice and, in those two sessions, I’ve written 16000 words, or an average of around 1500 words/hour (I wish I could type faster). I’m feeling great not only about my production, but also about what I’m writing. I haven’t quite reached the 10000 words promised in the title, but it’s a great first step.

Now I’ll go back and read the rest of the book, maybe that will get me there (I’ve never been very good at reading all the instructions).

As an author, do you set a word count goal for each writing session? How do you go about making sure you hit it?


Bruce Blake is the author of five fantasy novels, including On Unfaithful Wings, a semi-finalist for the Kindle Book Review’s Best Book of 2012, and the epic fantasy Khirro’s Journey, awarded the Life Changing Read Award by author/editor/blogger Ella Medler. His sixth novel will hit the electronic book shelves in July.


5 comments on “Writing and Productivity

  1. Interesting. I do something similar to the 5 min prep, and that works brilliantly. Usually, I hit a music mix on youtube that may set the mood for the scenes I’m about to write and allow that music to run through my head while I open up my document and timeline/planner (which is on a spreadsheet this time around). By the time I lift my fingers over the keyboard, the music has primed my brain and I’m ready to go. Eventually, I shut it off. It can be distracting. And it never works on re-writes or editing. But just for that one shove in the right direction, it’s great!

    • It’s funny about music…I like to have something playing in the background (like at the coffee shop where I write), and I’m inspired by it when I’m not writing, but I find that having a play list I’ve selected of songs I know (and like) distracts me.

  2. I’m an outliner, so I usually look at the segment in the outline and tease out a few of the finer details (like emotions and the relationship between characters in a scene) before I begin writing. I agree that it does help me to stay focused and write more quickly. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Thanks for your comment, Morgen. I am also an outliner, but each of my chapters or plot points have always just said things like “Icarus meets the bad guy” and that’s it. By spending the extra couple of minutes before I write with a pen in hand to look a little deeper, it’s making a big difference to my productivity.
      Keep on writing!

  3. Pingback: Blogger Interview ~ Come meet Ella Medler! | fuonlyknew

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