31 March 2015 by Published in: Uncategorized 23 comments

I just typed “The End” on my 40th book in 46 months of self-publishing.

It felt pretty good. And I think it reads better than the first book I wrote, but that’s debatable, because that first one (Fatal Exchange) still sells well when I promote it, and still garners great reviews. It would suck if I’ve gotten worse, but that’s also possible. Guess I’ll have to wait to see how the reviews come out on JET – Escape to know for sure.

I’m taking a month off in April to recharge my batteries, and then will be knocking out another couple of novels in May and June.

A buddy of mine asked me how it feels to have written a solid 4 million words in about four years, not counting blog posts or message board missives, which probably easily brings it to 5 million.

I responded honestly that it feels like I’m starting to get the hang of it.

For those who’ve missed my prior posts on process, here’s a quick reminder of the habits I follow to write an awful lot of books in a relatively short period of time (BTW, there’s plenty of historical precedent for this output – look at some of the pulp greats, or even authors like Asimov, Cartland, Bloom, Inoue, Roberts, etc. There have always been, and always will be, prolific authors who can sustain reasonable quality at a rapid pace.). And before we get into the usual debate about quality dropping with speed, I’ll share this observation: Most who believe this are aspiring authors who can’t or won’t produce regularly, and who sneer at commercially successful genre fiction, or who can’t do it themselves and so assume everyone’s abilities must be similar.

Here’s the truth: If it takes you 250 hours to pen 120K novel first draft, it doesn’t matter whether you spread that 250 hours over 25 days of 10 hour writing days, or two years of navel gazing with a few words dashed out here or there. It still takes the same number of hours. So the quality shouldn’t suffer, unless it’s a function of fatigue, or lack of craft.

So my advice, from a message board post yesterday:

1) Plan on writing a lot, every day, whether your muse is working or not. I shoot for 7K a day, and on a lousy day force myself to write 4K. The reason I force myself is because, as with all jobs, I go to work whether I “feel” like it or not. I don’t go to work, I don’t get paid. Just as a Hollywood writer working on a series writes every day regardless of their mood. If you aspire to be a pro, behave like one, not like a teen girl on a shopping spree trying to decide which shoes to buy. Your job, should you decide to accept it, is to write well, and write a lot, and demand more out of yourself, regardless of your “inspiration” or your mood or your biorhythms or whatever. You want to be a writer? Then get to it, and stop whining about life getting in the way. Life will happen whether or not your write, and nobody’s holding a gun to your head, so you need to be your own motivation, and be unrelenting in your demands on yourself.

2) Outline. If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s going to take a lot longer to figure out how to get there. Couple days of serious thinking and knocking out a chapter by chapter single-sentence summary goes a long way, and speeds the writing along.

3) Turn off the internet when writing. Turn off the phone. The text messaging. All of it. It’s a distraction you can’t afford. Research after you’re done, or before, but when it’s writing time, write, don’t screw around.

4) Write as though your life depends on it. You only get one life, you’ve decided this is how you want to spend a few hundred hours of it, so do it like you mean it, or find something you can muster that zest for, and don’t bother trying to write. Life’s too short to do shit you don’t have passion for, and I guarantee you when you’re looking back at your existence all the soul sucking BS you spent time on won’t give you any satisfaction. If you’re going to do anything, keep it real, do it with 110% of yourself, and take no prisoners, or you’re letting yourself down, failing your obligation to yourself to be the best you can be.

5) Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. It’s a first draft. Lots of it will probably suck. That’s fine. Fix it on rewrite. Don’t try to edit as you go along, or you’ll lose your momentum. Edit on second draft, and then edit that on third. If you fixate on trying to get it perfect on first draft, you’ll kill your muse deader than Elvis before you’re at chapter two.

There’s more – a lot more – but these are the basics.

In closing, pretend you are working on a TV show, where every week you have to turn out polished product at a high quality level. Because that’s what pro writers in Hollywood do, day in and day out. If you’re busy rationalizing why you can’t or don’t work that way, or are unwilling to, or feel you shouldn’t have to because it’ll hamper your creativity or voice or whatnot, fine, but don’t complain when you aren’t able to compete in the marketplace with those who do. Because like it or not, in the new world of self-publishing, being able to hit the HNR lists with regular releases is a game changer for many authors, and to ignore that phenom is dangerous to any career aspirations beyond that of hobbyist.

And it wouldn’t be a Russell Blake blog without exhortations to buy my crap. If you’re looking for my newest, it’s JET – Ops Files, Terror Alert, which is moving a few copies. And Ramsey’s Gold, the first book in my new series, is also shifting a copy or two on pre-order. As is JET – Escape.

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Comments

  1. Tue 31st Mar 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Glad to hear you’re taking a vacation. I find those DO improve the writing, too. My ideas keep bubbling up during brief times off, and I’m ready and eager for the page again when I return. I’ve never tried a whole month off since this all began, though. I don’t know if I could handle that. I find myself anxious, now, if I’m not writing.
    Which means the self imposed program I’m on, much like yours, is working.
    And when you love what you do, working is fun. At least, much of the time. 🙂
    Aloha
    Toby Neal

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 31st Mar 2015 at 5:25 pm

      Well, truthfully, I’ll be writing an outline and three or four chapters of a dystopian trilogy I’ve been toying with, but that doesn’t really count, because it’s only a little here, a little there, to keep the mind clear and the idle fingers off the tequila.

      Reply
  2. Tue 31st Mar 2015 at 4:25 pm

    Wow. I’m in awe.

    Reply
  3. CB March
    Tue 31st Mar 2015 at 6:25 pm

    WOW! Am inspired. Where can one find the “more…a lot more…”?

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 31st Mar 2015 at 6:53 pm

      Search the site for a blog post entitled, “How To Sell Loads Of Books.”

      Reply
  4. Tue 31st Mar 2015 at 6:30 pm

    Compared to handwriting, or tapping away on an old typewriter and then all the subsequent hard copy editing, submission and everything else that traditional publishing involved before computers were available, the process of writing and publishing a book should not take years any more. But your publishing record is something else and your blog posts interesting and inspiring. I’ll always take advice from someone who walks the walk. Inspiring post, thanks !.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Tue 31st Mar 2015 at 6:54 pm

      Yep. The only question might be, how many hours should a first draft take? I type about 600 WPH. You can do the math. Most type faster than I.

      Reply
  5. Tue 31st Mar 2015 at 7:04 pm

    As always, Russell, your work ethic and professionalism inspire. Kudos on the incredible output.

    Enjoy the vacay.

    Reply
  6. Tue 31st Mar 2015 at 8:32 pm

    I love Fatal Exchange, but I think the romance trilogy proves you have grown through the years. It takes a lot to write outside the usual genre, and you did a great job.

    I get my highest word count done when a storm knocks my internet out. Proof what you said is true. I still suck at outlining beforehand, which slows me down.

    Reply
  7. Tue 31st Mar 2015 at 10:16 pm

    An inspiring kick-in-the-pants article! Thanks, Russell…

    Reply
  8. Wed 01st Apr 2015 at 9:54 am

    Great post, Russell. As always.

    Just curious – you mention outlining, yet in the past you’ve said you tend to rely less on outlining now and instead just do single sentence summaries of the first ten-fifteen chapters or so. Do you still do this, or do you lean towards outlining the full thing again nowadays?

    Not trying to trip you up over your own words, by the way. Just genuinely curious.

    Cheers!

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 01st Apr 2015 at 12:09 pm

      When I say outlining, I mean single sentence summaries of each chapter. I just force myself to do it for the whole book now as opposed to the first fifteen chapters.

      Reply
      • Ryan  –  Wed 01st Apr 2015 at 12:17 pm

        Cheers Russell. Great and timely post.

        Reply
  9. Robert Fael
    Wed 01st Apr 2015 at 4:12 pm

    Great post & congrats on the output, but WTF is HNR?

    I looked it up. Got a variety of things: Hit n Run, Human Natural Resources, and another that relates to latex nurses uniforms and adult recreation – but I’m guessing it’s none of those (except maybe the last…)

    Ta.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 01st Apr 2015 at 4:22 pm

      Hot New Releases list.

      Reply
  10. CGC
    Wed 01st Apr 2015 at 8:08 pm

    “In closing, pretend you are working on a TV show, where every week you have to turn out polished product at a high quality level.”

    Amen.

    Reply
  11. Fri 03rd Apr 2015 at 12:27 am

    Congrats RB. Great advice, as usual. Using your approach, I’ve found part-time authors (like me) can easily crank out 2 books a year. Keep at it. And try not to get arrested more than once while on vacation…

    Reply
  12. Niko
    Thu 09th Apr 2015 at 2:06 am

    Hello Russel,
    greetings from Switzerland.

    I’am one of the enslaved employe souls, how can write only one hour a day.

    So, in your lifestyl, you are an Idol of selfpublishing, entrepreneurship an writing.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  13. Mon 13th Apr 2015 at 6:25 pm

    I finally made it around to finishing all of your Assassin books and have now started on your Jet Series – having finished books one and two. I can honestly say that regardless of whether you are writing daily and churning out a book a month or not, your writing has vastly improved. Each book seems to be able to draw me more and more into the action. I had a marathon read this weekend and finished three books. Does that make me less of a reader? I think not.
    Thanks for all of the exciting books! I can’t wait to finish all 43!

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 13th Apr 2015 at 9:52 pm

      Glad you are enjoying the writing. I figure you do something enough eventually you’ll improve. That’s the hope, anyway!

      Reply
  14. Tue 14th Apr 2015 at 4:56 pm

    Congratulations, Russell!

    Reply
  15. Kirk Alex
    Wed 15th Apr 2015 at 3:45 pm

    Russell,

    It takes real balls to put it the way you do time after time––and that’s why so many of us love your posts, buddy.
    RE: plotting. Not all of us can work this way, but that’s quite all right, because whatever works (for any of us) is the way to go about it.

    Enjoy your well-earned vacation. Looking forward to future posts––when you get back.
    Kirk Alex,
    author of Lustmord: Anatomy of a Serial Butcher

    Reply
  16. Lynda Filler
    Tue 07th Jul 2015 at 6:21 pm

    I’ve finished first draft of JET-EXPOSED. What a wild ride! I cannot thank you enough for the opportunity to write in your world. I searched back thru your blogs for this article and the one on outlining. Now looking back, I see the challenges-internet breaks, research, not completing the outline until half way through.
    I’m printing this out.
    Putting it where I write.
    And promise to follow RB’s Commandments for Success.
    Thanks again,
    Lynda

    Reply

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