Here comes the halfway mark

Welcome to June; almost half the year has now gone by. How are you faring on those goals you set at the beginning of the year? This is a good time to evaluate, regroup, and start again. For those of you who are or want to become full-time authors, and even those of you who don’t, now is a good time to put down your author hat, pick up your business manager hat, and answer a few questions for yourself.
1. What is your total word count for the last 6 months? For each month? Week? Day?
2. What is your average word count per month, week, and day?
3. How many hours did it take you to write the last story/novel? (Hours actually spent writing, not calendar time from start to finish)
4. What was your average words per (actually writing) hour?
5. What time of the day is the most productive for you to write?
6. Was that increase in productivity at home or away?
7. What other factors led to it?
8. How many hours a day do you spend on writing business other than actual writing (including research, billing, marketing, etc)?

If you haven’t been keeping track, then how do you know what will help you, what works best for you, and just how good you can be when everything is awesome? How can you plan a production schedule if you don’t know what it takes to produce your product? If your method of creating new work is to sit down at a keyboard, sometimes, and hope that a novel shoots out of your fingers… hope is not a business plan. Keep your day job a while longer, and get ready to quantify your creative side.

If you have been keeping track, or you can pull some rough numbers off files and blog posts, now is a good idea to take a look at the story that the numbers tell. Are you more productive in the morning or evening? When you have 4-hour blocks to write, or when you have an hour to squeeze in? When you’re at home or at the coffee shop? (Or, in one writer’s case, in the van at the grocery store’s parking lot, getting “one last thing I forgot” and really finishing a chapter without the kids interrupting?) Do you write better with music or without? Does it go faster if you can write every day for multiple days in a row? How often did you lose a week to being sick, or other emergencies?

This isn’t about forcing you into a rigid schedule. This is about helping you realize what you need to be at your best, and about how much time it really will take you if you’re trying to plan out the next book, the next series, the next year. It’s about “The cover artist needs at least a month, so between the beta readers, the copyeditor, the cover artist, etc. I’m looking at a release roughly in this month… and I can reserve a slot roughly by then, because I’ll know if I’m on track, which means the final draft won’t have to sit waiting for ‘next available’ slot with anyone else.”

Writing is a very personal thing, that takes place a lot in solitude and in our own heads. This means that the immediate moments, and the low points and high points, tend to overwhelm all the day-to-day, and the story we tell ourselves of how we’re doing and what works best for ourselves… may not actually match reality. This is why I like numbers: they take all of the crisis-of-the-moments and the unique cases and let you step back and get a bigger, broader picture. They also let you focus on things you can change, and do better – because what you measure, you can alter.

Sometimes they say things we don’t want to hear, like “You’ve only averaged one day a week at the gym in the last 3 weeks. This is why you’re not getting any better. It doesn’t matter what the reason is this time, last time, the time before… you’re not going to get better until you go three times a week.”

Sometimes they say things that we really didn’t expect, like “While you feel more productive writing at the coffee shop, you really are only pulling the same numbers as you do at home, and have the driving time and the extra cost of lattes.”

Sometimes just tracking forces a change in habits, like “If I start writing with my first cuppa, I can get 1,000 words in. If I check the news first, it’s hit or miss if I write anything at all… oh, look, I realized this and now I’m skipping news in the morning, because otherwise I have to record a big fat zero in my daily word count…”

And sometimes it’s simple little things like “My writing speed doubles when I get to the scenes I’m really excited about. Huh. Maybe I ought to find or make something about each scene that’s cool and interesting, or skip ahead… because if they’re boring me to write, are they going to be just as boring to read?”

You’ve got a little over half a year til 2018. What are your goals and plans for the second half? What are you going to track?

For an awesome goal accomplished, Tom Rogneby got three novellas rolled into an omnibus: Quest to the North, Lost Children, and The Lady of Eyre are now all available for only $4.99 in Coming Home!

It’s a good set of tales – if you haven’t been following the saga, and you enjoy heroic fantasy and the antics that small boys (and their dogs) can get up to, check it out! You don’t even have to pick up the earlier books in the series to enjoy this set – but once you read this, you might find you want more…


  1. Just started in the end of March really. Managed to complete two short stories (one novella length) and have a bunch more ‘in progress’. Hard to find a good time to write. I tend to do my best work on weekends that I have free. A good day is 2k words, Meh day about 500. Poor day is zilch. Still plugging away. The two stories are needing rewrites at least.

    1. One thing I’m curious about: sometimes I work on paper, sometimes the computer. Obviously, the computer is faster (even before I have to transcribe). But certain scenes feel like they want the deliberation of paper.

      I’ll have to see what happens if I computer a paper scene

      1. I tend to use a combination of the two. There are times when I am out and about I can’t use a computer or electronic device. So out comes the notebook/pad and I start scribbling. Sometimes I will do a direct transcribe, other times I will expand on what was written. I understand about needing paper to write. Some of my better thoughts have been scribbled down as they come to me.

      2. When I write blurbs, I have to use pen and paper. It just works better for slowing things down to think about how they sound. Also, when I’m at my Day Job, I write on notebooks with pens I bring in because 1.) I’m not going to be getting anything on or off dedicated systems easily, and more importantly, 2.) It then, in my employer’s view, falls into “an art or craft to occupy downtime”, and thus is completely ignorable.

        I have already checked the fine print on the employment contract, and my employer does not lay claim to any non-related intellectual property produced on work time, but… making things very easy to keep separate reduces the chances of any friction.

        For keeping track purposes, the standard handwriting estimate is 250 words per page. (Makes it easier on yourself than trying to count, and the point of keeping records isn’t to suck up your time and be a bother – so make it easy!)

        1. Ugh, blurbs. I’m banging my head on writing them at the moment, since the headaches won’t let me look at computer screens for long while I’m ill. My health and RL busy stuff have been singularly responsible for getting in the way of creativity; and depression just chews on what’s left.

  2. Don’t have the word count, but I’m on par with last year, which was my busiest writing year to date.

  3. I’m well behind my goal of a 1000 words a day, but I’ve finally caught up the editing-polishing-fomating-publishing on all the incoherent scribblings from last year. So even though some of the stories are short, I feel very accomplished.

    My productive times are evening through the wee hours, and having alpha/beta readers expecting around a thousand words a day is my best prod.

  4. Here’s a question you forgot to ask: Are you working for yourself yet, or still paying taxes? That’s a worthy calculation to be doing.

  5. When I’m actually writing, my average of 1000 words/day is very stable. Pushing to do more changes the distribution but not the result – I can write 7000 words in two days and spend the rest of the week sticking straws in my hair and babbling, or I can plod along at about 1400 words a day and accept that real life will use up a couple of writing days a week.

    1,000 words a day is plenty if you keep at it. What brings my calendar-time writing average down is the fact that I can no longer plot the next book in the evenings while writing the current one in the mornings. I find that I’m putting in four to six weeks research and plotting time between books. I don’t think there’s any fix for that, unless somebody has an elixir of youth: at nearly seventy I get tired, mentally and physically, faster than I did at forty.

  6. Early November, 2016. “All I have to do is write three last chapters in the next week, and I can have a box of authors’ copies back from CreateSpace in time to send out as cheep Christmas presents for my family and friends!”
    Early June, 2017. “I might be able to have a Kindle version up next week…”
    The gods laugh whenever I try to work out a timeline.

  7. “Maybe I ought to find or make something about each scene that’s cool and interesting, or skip ahead…”

    The first is generally better than the second because the second requires a cold gimlet eye for whether you’ve set up the interesting scenes properly. Is the brutal murder of your hero’s comrade in arms effective when you haven’t properly set up that this man was like a brother to him, and how devasting it will be. Etc.

  8. You didn’t mention it, but staying OFF social media helps… 🙂 And I’m about the same pace as last year, too.

  9. Ouch. This makes me realize I’m behind where I was last year. With the old day job gone, this is really inexcusable. I’m at about 90k in the next book of my series, which means I’m behind in drafting.

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