I want to continue sharing some of the tips and advice I picked up from the RWA Annual Conference (partially because it helps me remember them too *grin*). So far I’ve covered Sylvia Day’s insights on failure, RWA’s new stance on self-publishing, and Liliana Hart’s publishing technique.
I’ve been a fangirl of Courtney Milan since before her debut, so one of the workshops I most looked forward to was her “Slow Writer’s Guide to Making a Living” presentation. The workshop was in one of the biggest session breakout rooms in the hotel (maybe the biggest), and it was packed.
I’ve often called myself a slow writer, and I know I’m not alone. Judging by the crowd, a lot of writers struggle with the pressure to write faster and worry that our slowness will prevent us from reaching our goals.
What Is a “Fast Writer”?
Courtney defined a “fast writer” as an author with a new release every 90 days (or less). Those new releases don’t have to be full novels (novellas sometimes count too), but authors who release something new at least every 90 days tend to find success more easily.
Obviously by extension, a “slow writer” would be anyone with a slower-than-90-day release schedule (i.e., us mere mortals). She then discussed two approaches for dealing with that situation. We could tackle one, the other, or both approaches to improve our chances for success.
Approach A: Take Advantage of the Elements that Make Fast Writers Successful—Any Way We Can
She identified three main reasons fast writers succeed more easily:
- Amazon’s 30-day and 90-day algorithms for its New Releases pages offer high visibility.
- Fast writers build backlist more quickly (and as we discussed last time, backlist is hugely important for reaching a tipping point of sales), which allows for more income streams.
- The frequency of exposure keeps authors at “top of mind” and prevents readers from forgetting about the author or the story.
By being aware of those elements, we can try to incorporate them into our situation, no matter how fast or slow we write. Courtney’s suggestions included:
- High Visibility: Do something every 90 days to increase visibility, such as putting a story on sale or making one free.
- More Income Streams: Maximize the income for our completed stories by releasing onto more platforms (Kobo, Apple, etc.) or by adding more versions (print, audio, etc.).
- Top of Mind: Use author newsletters to make readers remember us and why they enjoyed our stories, as well as to promote our upcoming stories.
Approach B: Make the Most of Our Writing Time
Many of us struggle with limited writing time. We might have day jobs or family obligations that prevent us from writing as much as we want. But we also might not use the time we do have as efficiently as possible. *raises hand*
How many of us spend too much of our writing time catching up with social media or blogs? Or maybe we start researching and get distracted by interesting tangents. Or maybe we spend far too much time reinventing the wheel on a writing problem instead of asking for help.
Courtney confessed that, like many writers, she didn’t always use the writing time she had very efficiently. So she shared a few tips for writing faster—which sometimes simply comes down to using our writing time to get words on the page instead of filling it with non-writing activities:
- She recommended the book 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron for helping her increase her word count. I haven’t read this book yet, but it’s on my list.
- Track time spent on non-writing activities, such as accounting or ebook formatting, and ask ourselves if it would be better (more economical in the long run) to outsource those activities—especially if we’re not good at or hate the activities.
- Pay attention to habits that trigger non-work (distraction) activities, and change the habits.
Our Habits Can Help Us or Hurt Us
I want to focus on that last bullet point because this one spoke to me the loudest. Courtney went so far as to hire a Productivity Consultant to help her identify her habits and triggers, and she shared the gist of what she learned so we all can benefit.
When we find ourselves distracted,
figure out what habit “triggered” the distraction
and avoid that habit in the future.
For example, Courtney found that much of her writing time was taken up by research tangents (she writes historical romance and needs to look up historical details). Once she interrupted her writing to go online, she’d often get distracted by non-relevant historical tidbits or by checking social media, etc.
Now, Courtney makes of a note of any historical research she needs to do and saves that for the last half hour of her writing session. Ta-da! She enjoys solid writing time and still completes her research, but at a time when accidental tangents and distractions will interrupt less.
She also blocks access to the internet during her writing sessions, the better to avoid the temptation of distractions. Popular programs include Freedom, Cold Turkey, Focus Me, Anti-Social, Self-Control, LeechBlock, and StayFocused. Some are free, some aren’t, some are for Mac only, and some are for specific internet browsers—this post compares most of those productivity programs.
Do Your Habits Help or Hurt Your Writing?
For me, I have a hard time writing first thing in the morning. I live in the western end of the U.S., and I’m not a morning person, so everyone is awake before I am. Because of that, I first want to check my email in case of issues. But once I start down the path of email, replying to comments, checking Twitter and Facebook, etc., it’s hard to know when (or how) to stop.
In other words, that’s a horrible habit for my productivity. Luckily, once I’m serious about writing, I know how to reduce distractions (I minimize non-writing windows and start my “writing music”), but I need to learn how to get into serious mode without arm-wrestling myself. (I’m open to suggestions for that trick. *grin*)
My point is that just as Courtney said, if we notice we’re getting distracted, we can stop and mentally rewind our actions until we figure out what the trigger was. If we then change our habits to avoid that trigger, we’ll automatically (and relatively painlessly) prevent many of our distractions from ever occurring.
Hopefully something in Courtney’s advice can help us. I’m not in the position to worry about sales yet, but if others are anything like me, there’s always something we can do to maximize using our writing time to actually, you know, write. *smile*
Are you a fast writer or slow writer by Courtney’s definition? Do you worry that being a slow writer might affect your career? Could any of her Approach A tips for adapting “success elements” apply to your situation? What about her Approach B tips for making our writing time more efficient? Do you have bad habits that sabotage your writing time? Do you use internet-blocking programs or have other tips to share?Pin It