10 September 2014 by Published in: Uncategorized 27 comments

It’s no secret to readers of my blog that one of the keys to having a sustainable career as an indie is to regularly release new work. The market is a hungry monkey with a short memory, and if you won’t feed it, someone else will.

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NEWS: R.E. Blake’s debut YA/NA romance, Less Than Nothing, gets a mega review from MBR.

BREAKING NEWS: I just hit the NY Times bestseller list at #5 with Eye of Heaven on hardcover print edition, and #2 on the ebook list, to be published Sept. 21. So I’ll be totally insufferable from here on out. As if I wasn’t already…
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So here are some tips for writing more efficiently, which is to say, producing more, higher quality work in less time.

1) Turn off the internet. Do it. Your productivity will increase 30-40%. “But I need it for research.” No you don’t. Why? See tip 2.

2) Do your research before you write the frigging book. Don’t research as you go or you’ll never get any momentum. If you must, make notes of items that need research and do them after you’ve hit your daily word goal.

3) Have a daily word goal. Hit it no matter what. I wrote JET – Ops Files with three broken metacarpal bones in my hand. And I hit my word count, every stinking day, even working at a third of the speed I could two-handed. If I can do it one-handed, what’s your excuse? Oh, and “life happened” or “but I have too many other obligations” are not reasons. They’re excuses. Put simply, you either want to make this happen or you don’t. If you have a bunch of excuses for why it’s too hard, take up some other hobby that’s less demanding, because this ain’t for you. People who have excuses when they’re drowning wind up dead. People who will do anything to stay afloat usually make it. Decide which you are and then be it.

4) Don’t edit and revise until you’re done with first draft. If you insist on going back and editing the previous paragraph while in process, you’re wasting your time and breaking your momentum. If you feel you must edit as you go, set aside time AFTER YOU HAVE WRITTEN YOUR DAY’S WORD GOAL to then edit it. Otherwise you’re trying to run a marathon carrying an anvil. You won’t win.

5) Insert placeholders for shit you don’t know. Don’t agonize over the perfect character name, use XXX or YYY or ZZZ and come back to it after you’ve hit your word count for the day. Same with locations, same with models of cars or equipment or anything you’re unsure of. Come back to it. Just write the story. Hit the details later.

6) Outline the book with single sentence chapter headings that clue you on what the point of each chapter is. Stuff like “Chpt 1 – Martin discovers he’s actually dead. Chpt 2 – Martin goes to hospital to find out why.” And so on. If you know in advance what you want to accomplish with the chapter you’re a lot further along than staring at the page hoping something comes to you. You’ll cut your production time by 50% if you do this sort of rudimentary outline. To those who don’t outline, I’ve done it both ways, and I speak from experience, and with love: if you’re anything like me, if you don’t outline you’re just being lazy, because you don’t want to have to think the whole thing through in advance. Don’t be lazy. It’ll cost you more in the long run in lost productivity.

7) Sit down at the top of the year and pencil out a production schedule, and stick to it. When I mean stick to it, I mean stick to it like someone will blow your head off if you miss it. Like you’ll be fired from your job as a writer if you miss it. Just like real writers with real writing jobs in Hollywood are fired if they don’t have their work done on time. If you want to do this as a career, develop discipline. Hollywood writers deliver every day, every week, regardless of whether their rugrats are crying or they have a booboo or they just aren’t feeling it today. Because they have to or their asses get canned. View yourself the same way and hold yourself to the same standards. Put your big girl or boy pants on and step up. If you look at your WIP and go, “but I just don’t feel like it,” understand you’re saying, “I just don’t feel like doing this for a living, so I’ll go back to working at Pet Boys or whatever, because I don’t have what it takes to do this.”

8) Demand more out of yourself than anyone else expects. Push the bar every day. Find greatness within yourself and force it to become your norm. If you don’t, nobody else will. Understand that most people will never do this. They’ll never be great at anything. That’s not you. If you’re going to add to the millions of books clogging Amazon, do it because you’re producing top level product, not because you want to be one of the other million mediocre screeds that nobody will ever buy or read. Aspire to more than that, even if the odds say you won’t succeed. At the end of all this you’re dead, and what you do between now and then is what will give your life meaning. Make sure it’s something you will go “That was awesome” about when you’re taking your last breaths.

9) Don’t tell crappy stories. Demand that your stories set a new bar for yourself every time. Every. Single. Time. Go big or go home.

10) The power of questions: Ask yourself, “How can I make this the best chapter I have ever written, and be excited and have fun doing it?” before you sit down to write. Asking yourself questions that empower you determines your perception of what you do, and will affect how you do it. Ask good questions. “How can I turn out the best book I’ve ever written and do it in less time than I dreamed possible while enjoying the process” gets you a different answer than “Why can’t I keep up with those other authors” or “What am I thinking, even trying this?” If you believe you can, you’re right. If you believe you can’t, you’re right. If you believe, “I’ll find a way,” you’ll have a different career than “This will never work.”

11) Up your game every time you write. It’s like any other craft. You are either stagnating or you’re improving. View every chance to write as a chance to improve and grow. Thousands of incremental forward steps will land you in a far different place at the end of a few years than sitting down and churning out the same ol’ each time.

12) Set reasonable goals. If you only have an hour a day to write, figure out how to generate 700-1000 decent words a day, and do it, every single day, no exceptions. If you do, you will generate 300+K per year. That’s three-four novels a year. If you can’t even manage an hour a day, stop reading my blog and watch some TV instead, because this isn’t your calling, and you’re not even close to serious enough to do anything but waste everyone’s time. Sorry. But it’s true. Don’t try to compete with people who are serious about it and expect anything but heartbreak. Just accept that this is an occasional hobby and do it as such. For the record, hobbies don’t pay. You pay to have them.

These dozen tips will help you create quality work faster. If you pick and choose which tips resonate with you and leave the rest, your effectiveness will drop with each tip left by the wayside. It’s a cumulative thing. Like getting ready for a road trip, you can skip putting gas in the car or ensuring you have air in your tires or packing food and water or bothering to look at a map or ensuring you have money in your pocket, but each step you skip will ultimately reduce your odds of successful travel. This blog is for those who want to be successful travelers.

Now go forth and multiply, and never forget to buy my crap.

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Comments

  1. Wed 10th Sep 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Boy, this is a good one, Russell! Every single tip is critical. And I know this, but I often don’t follow through because it’s easier not to.

    Thanks for the inspiration. I am reinvigorated!

    Patrice

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 10th Sep 2014 at 5:43 pm

      Often, the difference between success and failure is doing, not knowing. Smokers know they should quit smoking. But not enough do it. Knowing’s not enough.

      As you…know.

      Reply
  2. Wed 10th Sep 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Great advice, Russell. Thanks for the kick.

    Reblogged and linked at http://matthew-iden.com/2014/09/10/russel-blakes-craft-tip-3-how-to-write-more-faster/.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 10th Sep 2014 at 5:43 pm

      Thanks, Matt. Glad it resonated.

      Reply
  3. Wed 10th Sep 2014 at 5:26 pm

    Great set of tips, thank you.

    A little thing that I find helpful:
    While writing, I’ll leave notes in [brackets] for things I need to check or do more reasearch on later. After a draft is done, I’ll do a CTRL+F search for “[” (as those have no place in a manuscript) and find each note.
    This way I’m not jumping to the internet to do resarch during writing time and don’t get sucked into click bait or read an article that demands I troll the liberal commentators.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 10th Sep 2014 at 5:42 pm

      I just write (CHECK) and move on, then on reread, I know I need to check it. Same thing. Like minds and all…

      Reply
      • Drew Gideon  –  Sun 14th Sep 2014 at 4:43 am

        I use the @ symbol, as it also has no place in a MS. Usually a couple of them with a note behind.
        Like:
        @@@(whatever his mother’s name is)
        @@@(this isn’t smooth enough. re-write this paragraph)

        Reply
  4. Wed 10th Sep 2014 at 5:49 pm

    Love the tips, dude. Love your passion for this and in that we’re both similar. Next week I will publish my fifth book since January. I figure I can do another before EOY. But every day I come over here and nose around, reading current and past stuff.

    BTW, your podcast with Hugh was terrific. Your phone-in connection was a less little than perfect. I heard you were having or near a hurricane, so it figures. But thanks for that. As usual, I got lots more out than I put in.

    Reply
  5. Wed 10th Sep 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Thanks for listing these awesome tips. I need to pin this post to my laptop!

    I will buy more of your crap as it becomes available. 🙂

    Reply
  6. Phyllis Humphrey
    Wed 10th Sep 2014 at 6:49 pm

    Thanks for the great tips. I’m adding them to the ones I learned in the book “2000 to 10,000” about how three ideas raised the author’s level from 2000 words a day to 10,000 without working more hours. I love writers because they always try to help their fellows. With style and humor too.

    Reply
  7. Wed 10th Sep 2014 at 11:59 pm

    Gave you a major shout-out on this post, cuz you inspired mine!
    http://tobyneal.net/2014/09/10/writing-fast-hard/

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Thu 11th Sep 2014 at 1:14 am

      Great blog. And yes, you captured the essence. Sometimes tough love is the only love that will work on your muse. So far so good.

      Reply
  8. Thu 11th Sep 2014 at 7:13 am

    Hello Blake,

    Very good, Blake.

    Obviously you are a man who understands that being an independent businessman means cleaving to a life of having only himself to fall back on, answer to, and stay the course. It all comes down to what everyone is individually responsible for: survival.

    As to buying your crap–I hate to admit it, but I’ve bought some of it. Even read it.

    Very good, Blake.

    Reply
  9. Thu 11th Sep 2014 at 7:24 am

    Thank you! This whole tough-love thing is the advice I need the most. I know these things, but sometimes I need that good, swift kick in the butt…over and over if that’s what it takes. Just shut up and do it. And when you’re finished, sit back down and do it again. Rinse and repeat.

    Reply
  10. Giselle
    Thu 11th Sep 2014 at 10:19 am

    But, but, but…

    Are you telling me I must abandon my creative hour every morning? The one where I write pages and pages about how I can’t get down to writing?

    And what about the hours I spend on Amazon trying to find that perfect book about procrastination?

    Must that go too?

    Now – I must go and look up your crap before I … er … write.

    Reply
  11. Thu 11th Sep 2014 at 9:29 pm

    One of my new favorite quotes “The market is a hungry monkey with a short memory, and if you won’t feed it, someone else will”

    The other I heard recently “Perseverance trumps talent”

    I’m not waiting for the new year to set my new goals. Sept 1 started with goals to finish novella 1 and on to book 2.

    Keeping the clowns at bay.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Thu 11th Sep 2014 at 10:54 pm

      Good luck with the writing, Doug. It’s all good.

      And I’m the poster boy for perseverance trumping talent…

      Reply
      • Scott  –  Thu 18th Sep 2014 at 12:37 pm

        I think you are selling yourself way short on the talent thing, Russell. I’ve read several of your novels -you’re a darn good writer. I’m guessing Clive wouldn’t have invited you to write with him if you were mediocre.

        Reply
  12. Duncan
    Fri 12th Sep 2014 at 9:09 am

    Hi, I figured since you’re one hand typing you might have looked into Dragon Naturally Speaking to dictate your books instead. I’m looking to up my daily word count and thought it might be good for the first draft at least. Have you ever used dictation software?

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 12th Sep 2014 at 10:26 am

      Nope. I’m visual. The way the sentences flow, the paragraphs roll onto the page, is a big part of my approach to cadence and prose.

      Reply
      • Duncan  –  Fri 12th Sep 2014 at 5:21 pm

        Yes, That’s part of my hangup too. I guess we’re no John Milton.

        Reply
  13. Fri 12th Sep 2014 at 1:17 pm

    First, congrats on hitting #5! Huge! Amazing! Effing stellar!

    Now, onto other stuff. This is excellent advice, Blake. Toby Neal pointed me in your direction several months ago, and then again in her latest blog post about productivity and writing fast. You both have inspired me and though I don’t write nearly as fast as either of you, I have completed over 70k in two months on my second novel, so I’m going at a good pace. Especially considering I didn’t write more than a grocery list for over 3 years. Writer’s block may be all in our heads, but it sure felt like some creature had inhabited my body during that time. Like Mike Noonan in Stephen King’s Bag Of Bones, every time I sat down to write I’d feel sick. Happy to say I’m over that nonsense now. In part, because of people like you and Toby. Your output is astounding and inspiring.

    I just pre-ordered Less Than Nothing and I’m excited to read it when it’s released. Congrats on the great reviews already. I write YA so it’s a bit more in line with the genres I like to read than your other work (which I’m sure is awesome, just not my cuppa). Thanks again for a great ass-kicking post. Now off the internet I go to write. 🙂

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 12th Sep 2014 at 1:26 pm

      Glad it’s working for you. Toby is indeed an inspiration.

      Hope you like LTN. It’s getting raves, so I may be writing a lot more YA/NA mashups in my future!

      Reply
  14. Drew Gideon
    Sun 14th Sep 2014 at 5:08 am

    In response to #12, there’s a quote from Jim Butcher that I love to mimic:
    “I don’t have a muse. I have a mortgage.”

    He’s been dropping that line at writer’s workshops, genre panels, and author readings for years. (Btw, watching any/all of these on YouTube is great inspiration/learning – AFTER you’ve hit your daily word count.)

    Reply
  15. Mon 22nd Sep 2014 at 10:51 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever commented here before, but your whole approach to writing is such a huge inspiration. I’ve spent the last year following the ‘write a lot, build a backlist, work at it’ approach, and it’s slowly starting to pay off – thank you!
    Great tips, all of them. Now, I have another 500 words to crank out, so I better go do it!

    Reply
  16. A.K. Morgan
    Fri 26th Sep 2014 at 6:26 am

    Russell,

    Your words are pure gold and you’ve helped me so much over the past few years when I’ve listened to your written advice as it’s the wise truth.

    Thank you from the bottom of my soul for writing such helpful, inspirational words.

    I had a tear in my eye when reading what you said in point 8: “Aspire to more than that, even if the odds say you won’t succeed. At the end of all this you’re dead, and what you do between now and then is what will give your life meaning. Make sure it’s something you will go “That was awesome” about when you’re taking your last breaths.”

    ~~

    All the points you made are brilliant and so inspirational, and the truth, and point 8 really touched me and caused my heart to swell with pride because in our final precious moments, how satisfying will it feel to know without a shadow of a doubt that we really did do our very best, and we can respect ourselves for that, for being a professional; giving it everything we had, no matter what the effort involved that we made, all the sacrifices, working through pain or other difficulties – we can say that we did it, and never ever gave up and, in doing that, we created magic and made many readers in this world happier as a result.

    I’ve shared your blog so that many others can see how fabulous you and your advice are. Here’s what I wrote:

    “Listen to this wise man for he writes not just amazing books, but very wise, inspirational and helpful words too; going out of his way as a decent nice person to help other writers through his wise words in his blog to achieve and to be the very best they can be, despite Mr Blake having a very busy workload, he motivates and teaches others how to succeed.”

    “He’s brilliant and deserves total respect and all the success in the world as the excellent author that he is and a downright nice person also. Please share this, thanks.”

    Reply
  17. Sat 18th Oct 2014 at 11:46 am

    Russell, these are fantastic tips. The only way I’ve ever been able to increase my productivity is to stop trying to find time to write and instead stop letting other things get in the way of writing. THIS IS MY JOB. If I treat it like my occasional hobby, I get nowhere.

    Reply

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