Writing Productivity–How Do You Improve It?

I came away from the Colorado Gold enthused and energized from being around other writers, the only people who truly understand that part of my life. Even the best friends and closest family members don’t really get it, unless they’re also writers. I also came away with the realization that I have to find a way to be more productive. I’m convinced all the great marketing in the world is of no use if you don’t publish frequently and consistently.

Not only have I’ve heard this write-faster, publish-faster refrain on writer blogs and at conferences, but I’ve seen evidence of its truth in my experience maintaining a library fiction collection. I’m currently weeding, culling out books that haven’t checked out in four or more years. The majority of books I weed are either one-book wonders or older books that may have checked out well in the beginning, but now just sit there because the author hasn’t released anything new.

Facing this “inconvenient truth”, that I need to finish books faster, I’ve struggled to find ways to increase my productivity. It seems there are two strategies: to spend more time writing and/or, to write faster.

One way to spend more time writing would be to spend less time on email loops and social media. The downside of this plan is that if I give up on the relationships and contacts I’ve built on-line, I won’t have anyone to help me market when I finally do have a book published.

Another idea I had was to change my writing schedule to give myself more productive time. I’ve always written in the mornings. But that inevitably seems like the best time to work on social media. If I wait until evenings after work, I tend to miss things. But maybe I could write at night. I used to do this, especially once I got deep into a book. So, that’s something to pursue.

Then there’s the idea of writing faster. To do this, it seems like I need to change the way I write. I believe I used to write faster, before I was so conscious of the mistakes I was making. My rough drafts these days are usually not that rough, at least in term of the writing. Although I sometimes leaves holes for names, research terms, or information I don’t want to look up right at the moment, my first drafts are fairly clean and detailed. That’s the reason I’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo. The idea of super-fast writing and just getting words on paper seems impossible to me. While I don’t carefully craft each sentence, I do try to make sure my sentences vary in structure and length, as well as editing out my known over-used words and other bad habits.

But maybe I’m taking too much time crafting my prose the first time around. Maybe I should let myself write a little sloppier, in the interest of getting through the first draft faster.

You could argue that that self-editing has to be done at some point, so it all comes out in the end. While that is true, because I plot as I write (Stupid, stupid, I know; but plotting never works for me), taking time to craft my prose slows down the development of the story, which makes the whole first draft take longer. So, one of my strategies to get faster might be to stop self-editing as much. Simply get the story down and worry about the details later.

These are my ideas for trying to increase my writing productivity. I’d love to hear from other writers. How about you, what strategies do you use to get yourself to the end of a book quickly?

Of course, as I ask this, I wonder if the truly productive authors maybe don’t take the time to read writing blogs!

Mary Gillgannon
Mary Gillgannon writes romance novels set in the Dark Ages, medieval, and English Regency time periods and fantasy and historical novels with Celtic influences. Her books have been published in Russia, China, the Netherlands, and Germany. Raised in the Midwest, she now lives in Wyoming and works at a public library. She is married and has two grown children. When not working or writing, she enjoys gardening, traveling, and reading, of course! More about Mary on her website.

2 thoughts on “Writing Productivity–How Do You Improve It?

  1. Haha, Mary, good point! Plot issues will stop me dead in my tracks. I *must* settle those before I go on because great scenes and dialogue are useless if they’re not properly motivated, if they’re author contrived and not believable, if they don’t ring true to my characters and their arcs, or they don’t fit the existing outer story.

    That said, if my plot points are solid, I’ve found I can “write on” (I prefer that to “write sloppy, haha). I wrote on with my last book, and I was faced with a much larger task to whip it all into shape once I wrote “The End.”

    With my current WIP, I’m back to editing as I go.

    The best tip I can share is to write every day. When the story is fresh in my mind, I can really rock and roll forward. If I allow the story to get cold, it’s daunting to get back into it, and takes considerable time.

  2. Good post, Mary. I’ve always thought of myself as one of the slowest writers around, though I picked up a bit of speed with the latest, All In Bad Time. I began letting my characters talk through chapters, recounting what they were thinking and what was going to happen next. Since I’m a pantser, not a plotter, I found this a useful way to get on with the plot. In the revising process I was able to build on these conversations, setting them like jewels in a chain of action. This was effective because the book was the third of a trilogy, so I did have a fair amount of backstory already in place, but I plan to try this technique as I begin the next work, hoping the new characters will be chatterboxes who will speed me on my way.

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