I just read an article about Nora Roberts. Aside from the author’s awe that Nora still lives in the same house she’s lived in since she was married at 19, one of the other impressive facts reported is that it takes Nora about 45 days to write a book.
I’d heard that Nora often wrote between 4 – 6 books a year, but I’d never done the math. 6×45=270 days working/year. That means she writes all week and some weekends too, producing a minimum of eight pages a day (2000 words x 45 = 90K). Plus editing, don’t forget.
I know other authors who write fast. John Vornholt and Mike Stackpole come to mind. Dean Wesley Smith is also a proponent of how fast writing can also be good writing. He says most people who make a living at writing are prolific, writing much more than one or two books a year.
Okay, so we know there are people who write like demons and produce gazillions of books, blog posts, and articles every year. Their stuff is good, not dreck.This is one of the oft stated keys to self-publishing success: high productivity. And generally speaking, the more you write, the better you get.
Given her success, this is true for Nora as well. Just like any athlete who trains daily to perfect their reflexes and skill, Nora writes all day, everyday. Because she does, her brain is trained to develop character and story structure. Writing isn’t something she struggles to squeeze in between other things. On the contrary, it’s the other things she squeezes in, like developing craft stores and bed & breakfasts.
Can we become like these authors who write volumes? As much as I like the advice that we must each be true to our own process, if my process is a slow one, shouldn’t I try to speed it up? I know very well that the choices I make about what I spend my time doing affect my productivity. Instead of reading email, blogging, and reading others’ blogs, I could be writing my next novel. I do think that “refilling the well” is important. I enjoy finding out what’s going on “out there.” I enjoy reading others’ books. (That is what inspired most of us to write isn’t it? Our love of reading?) What’s the right balance for productivity and refilling? And does it change as we become better writers?
Chris Guillebeau wrote in his book The Art of Non-Conformity, that it was only when the discomfort of remaining in his old apartment became greater than the pain of moving that he altered his circumstance. I think that’s true of most of us. We have to get to a place where we can no longer ignore the discomfort of not getting the work done, before we can say, “I’m going to change the way I work.” There’s a saying, “If you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve already got.” If you’re satisfied with your productivity, then keep doing what you’re doing. If not, change it up.