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Between the lines

Developing your writer's skill set.

If you’ve been following my blogs you know we’ve been working on developing the writer’s skill set. Hopefully you’ve made some choices that fit you. Outlining a story or writing from the seat of your pants, choosing a place and time to write, and a method of putting down words. Pen to paper, typewriter, or computer. These all help establish your writer’s skill set, but now we come to a moment of truth.

Knowing how many words you write an hour can set you free or tie you down.

Hmm, writing fast? Let’s get something out of the way before we get into words per hour, and that is that writing fast does not equate to poor writing. Both Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald were fast writers. Walter B. Gibson, AKA Maxwell Grant, author of the Shadow mystery series wrote several episodes a month to the tune of over a million words a year.

Let’s say that you write a single manuscript page of 250 words in about 15 minutes. That’s one page in 15 minutes. Now, if you write 15 minutes every day for 365 days (one year) you’ll have your novel. That would make you a one book a year author. Just think that if you wrote 30 minutes a day you would have two books at the end of a year. Imagine.

So far your skill set has established your place, time of day, and method for writing your book. Now here’s an ugly question. If you’re writing 30 minutes a day what are you doing with the other 23 and a half hours? I’m sure that your boss demands an 8 hour day and a high level of productivity for that day. He or she might also expect an increase of productivity in that 8 hours over days, weeks, or years on the job. Would you ask any less of yourself for your writing time. The difference is of course, that your book will become passive income, while your day job stops paying when you stop working. Indeed, your book will be selling somewhere in the world while you sleep.

My argument here is two fold. Writing fast equates to more books, and more books equals broader marketing for greater passive income. This leads us back up to knowing how many words you write an hour. Time yourself. Dialogue is slow for me, and action is fast. I write between 700 and a 1,000 words an hour. When knowledge of your skill set includes knowing your words per hour you can adjust the number of hours you want to write out of 24 or the number of words/pages you want to produce in a day. That’s choice and I love it. Sit down and time yourself. Write one 250 word page of pure action, and then one with scene and dialogue, those numbers are the variable portions of your skill set because the more you write the faster you’ll be able to write.

15 years ago, 2003, I wrote Body Parts, 200 pages in 30 days. That works out to roughly 6, 250 word pages a day for 30 days, or 1,500 words a day, and that equates to an hour and a half of writing a day for one month. This wasn't a surprise because I knew my skill set.


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