Come December I will have written and released nine books over eighteen months. That’s a book every other month. I thought you’d like to see how I do it.
For reference, I write Urban Fantasy books in a big complicated high-magic world. I write in a number of series, all set in the same world. What I say and do, applies to those facts. If you write contemporary romance standalones, then not everything I have to say will be relevant. Still, I hope it helps.
Why do I write/publish so quickly?
Because this is my full-time job, this pays my bills. Having a large back catalogue with a number of different series and thus entry points for readers to get into my work, makes paying said bills much easier. The quicker I can build that back catalogue, the sooner I’ll be in a stronger position.
How do I do it?
The real key here, is organisation and focus. Now believe me I know how hard the focus part is, I have ADD. I cannot sit and write or focus for more than ten minutes. This brings me into the first step – finding out what works for you. If you don’t know how to create the conditions that allow you to write at your best pace, then you’re going to struggle.
It’s taken me a good while to figure out what I need to be able to tune out the world and write as quickly as I can. I need music playing – it usually takes me about a week to create or find a suitable playlist on Spotify. I also need Twitter open, something to drink close at hand, and somewhere comfortable to sit. Twitter and music provide controllable distractions. I check twitter between scenes, that gives my mind the frequent little breaks it needs to be able to cope with the intense focus that comes with writing.
Experiment, figure out what works best for you. Keep in mind that discipline and a strong will are absolutely key. If you’re like me and you need controlled distractions, work really hard to actually control them. You can’t afford to lose precious time due to shiny object syndrome.
Once you’d got your conditions down and you can reliably sit down and write, you can work on your writing speed and productivity.
It’s really mentally draining writing lots of words every day. I’m not going to tell you that you need to write every day, you need to do what works for you. I regularly have days I don’t write, I just make sure to make up those lost words on the days I do write. That’s done through focus and writing sprints.
You’ve probably heard of writing sprints, they’re hailed as a godsend – they certainly are for me. The idea of sitting and writing 8,000 words straight through, of sitting and writing for four hours with no break, is awful. What I do is write scene by scene. When I’m struggling I use the pomodoro technique – set a timer and get into your ideal conditions. Write for the entirety of that time, I usually use five minutes. You can use something like the forest app (where a little tree grows for as long as you don’t surf the internet and write), write or die, there are lots of Pomodoro timers out there. Again, figure out what works for you. The key is short bursts of intense focus that produces a good number of words. This method helped me a lot too – personally I use playing cards.
This is where people are probably rolling their eyes and muttering about how writing quickly means writing shitily, and so on and so forth. About that… you need to put out a clean first draft if you’re going to publish this quickly. You cannot afford to produce a first draft that will require intense edits or rewrites, there is not enough time for all of that.
My first drafts get a very light developmental edit (from a professional) – he goes over them with a fine-toothed comb but I very rarely need to do more than tweak a couple of sentences. They get three rounds of copy editing and proof reading. There is no point in doing this if you’re going to publish low-quality books – you’ll end up with no readers.
If you plan on writing series, particularly in a genre that requires a lot of world-building, then I strongly recommend taking the time to do all of the relevant world-building before you start writing. That will speed your writing process up wonderfully. I used to waste far too much time having to stop and figure things out, now that I create a loose outline and make extensive notes on the world before I start, I can keep rolling.
Whether you choose to outline is up to you. Personally, I find I write quicker if I have a loose outline. Knowing what I’m writing next helps keep me moving forward. I don’t need to worry about writing myself into a corner, or spending three days trying to figure out what happens next. You could find that you rock being a pantser, that’s fantastic, do what works for you.
If you do choose to outline, then I recommend checking out 2k to 10k by Rachel Aaron, and Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker. You might not agree with everything they say, but I found that they’re helpful.
Next thing is deadlines. I’ve found that setting hard deadlines keeps me focused and on track. As an indie it’s so easy to let those deadlines slip on by as you have no one to hound you. This goes with the next point I’m going to make which is to plan ahead. I book my editor months ahead. I write those dates in my planner, put them in my Google calendar, and everywhere else I might stumble across them. They are set in stone. I also used to set up pre-orders the full 90 days out, that meant the book had to be ready to publish three days before that date otherwise I’d have a lot of very angry readers.
Plan and work ahead. You don’t want to find that you can’t hit a deadline because you didn’t give yourself any breathing room. I have the next two book covers already made and paid for, the next two covers have been commissioned and will arrive in my inbox a good four months before the books will be published. Life has a way of being a dick and going wrong – prepare for that. I ended up moving country and having so many health and financial issues over the last year – planning and determination kept me on track and allowed me to hit those deadlines. Don’t shrug it off and think it won’t happen to you.
So at this point, you’re probably disappointed and think I’m a pretentious <insert your preferred insult here>. I’m afraid the simple fact of the matter is, that there are no short-cuts. You need to put in the time and work to pull this off. It’ll take practise to get into the habit and to built your writing speed up. It takes time and hard work to figure out how to get into your flow state and build your limits so you can write 4k or more per session.
It also takes self-care and understanding. You need to know when to take a break, when to step back and breathe. You won’t be able to pull this off unless you look after yourself.
Oh and for the record, I only write when I’m inspired. I just grab onto that inspiration and make the most of it, often writing 8k+ in one chunk. 😉
- Figure out what works best for you, so that you can write quickly and to a high standard.
- Use techniques such as writing sprints to help you write quicker. Check out pomodoro timers, the Forest app, Write or Die, and other related aids.
- Get your world-building and character notes down before you start writing to save time and be more efficient.
- Remember that you need to produce a clean first draft, something that only needs a copy edit.
- Plan ahead, and work ahead.
- Make the most of hard deadlines. Don’t allow those dates to slip unless keeping them is going to damage your health.
- Put down-time, relaxation, and self-care into your schedule. You’re not going to be putting out your best work if you don’t recharge your batteries regularly.
Sorry if this wasn’t what you’d hoped for, but the simple fact is that while writing is an art, publishing is a business. If you want to publish at that pace you need to streamline and become as efficient as possible without allowing it to harm your art. It’s not easy, but then nothing worth having/doing ever is.