Habits of Prolific Writers

Okay, I said I was going to look into the writing schedules of effective, disciplined authors. Here’s what I found.

Nora gets up, exercises, checks her email, works till noonish, checks her email, eats, works till 4 or five. She writes one book at a time. She credits her incredible discipline to going to school with nuns.

Lucy Monroe, who had TWENTY books out this year (some of them novellas, but STILL), and at least FOURTEEN coming out in 2006, has a similar schedule, though she has school aged children. She checks email for an hour or so, edits her previous day’s work, eats lunch and writes till 4, after which she handles the business end. She also does online classes. She had 13 manuscripts written before she sold, so that may have given her a boost, but still!

I googled “prolific writers” and came up with Alexander McCall Smith. He has three books a year. Kind of a shame after Lucy.

Sherrilyn Kenyon had 8 new books and an anthology come out this year, under Kenyon and under Kinley McGregor. She can write 25-35 pages a day. I think I read in an RWR interview that she’s been able to write 100 in one day. Some days I can’t write 100 WORDS. I couldn’t find what her schedule looks like.

Lisa Kleypas gets up at 4 AM to write. She's now writing for two genres, and has little kids.

Who else can you think of? I was kind of hoping for someone who also works fulltime. Any ideas?

And frankly, only Nora and Lisa seem to have balance.

EDITED TO ADD: Okay, Julie Kenner wrote a billion books while writing fulltime. She had charts and stuff.

And Stephanie Rowe was also a fulltime lawyer when she started writing. I know she said her husband did almost all the housework while she was pursuing her goal of publication. Riiiiight, like THAT'S going to happen.

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Stephanie said...

It's always great to hear about how other people work and keep a balance, but I think it's very important that we clarify "prolific." To my way of thinking, it's a great accomplishment to write 3 STs a year. Sometimes we see people like Nora and Lucy and are in awe, but I've read books from both of those authors that did zilch for me. I'd rather write 3 great STs a year, than 14 so-so books. As writers with full-time jobs, we need to cut ourselves some slack and be realistic. Are we striving for great, or for volume?

BTW, look back at what you've written and the many contests you've finalled in... you have all the reason in the world to be extremely proud of what you've achieved to date. Keep on writing, Mary!


MJFredrick said...

You're right, Stephanie. I'm equating prolific with disciplined, looking for a hint somewhere here that I might have overlooked. I'm terribly undisciplined, and when I look at my goals for the year, I need to work on that or I won't find the balance I'm looking for.

Stephanie said...

To add to that, I think it's key that you have enough experience under your belt to have a good sense of which projects are worthwhile to pursue. When I began writing, I wasted so many evenings and weekends on books that were destined to die. When you're floundering with an idea, it's very hard to be disciplined and productive -- it's more aggravating than anything else. But when you have a good grasp of whether or not the idea will fly, and how it will come together as a cohesive book, you are much more likely to stay disciplined while writing it.

My only tip would be to establish a weekly word or page count goal. There will be days when family demands you can't write, but on a weekly basis, you should be able to stay fairly constant. Oh, and a corkboard. I use it to keep details of my wip right before me, like a one pager of my themes, sub-themes and main character arc.

Bosey (who will shut up now!)

Anonymous said...

Great post Mary. Very informative. I wonder what Gena Showalter's schedule is like.

MJFredrick said...

Bosey, my plan (thanks to evil Trish and Stephanie Rowe) is a certain number of revised chapters a week, for the beginning of the year, and a certain number of new chapters in three weeks for later in the year.

And I know what you mean about wasting time. I revised Where There's Smoke twice, knowing I'd never write another book like it, not really knowing what to do with it because it had no big external plot, and it died. I may revise it later, after I have some bigger books lined up, but I'm not wasting time on it now.

MJFredrick said...

Mary Beth, I'm off to find more info on La Gena!

Anonymous said...

Mary--I'm often in awe of full-time writers, and it makes me feel uncomfortable with my own production level. Then I remind myself that I can only do what I can do. But this year I'm going to try and write faster and stronger from the get-go. I've written some lousy books, but I learned so much, that the time wasn't truly wasted even if the books will never sell.

MicheleKS said...

I think it's about finding what works for you. And I think that's an ongoing process. I'm not too fond of schedules but I'm trying to overcome that. Also, I'm a 'fast' writer (some days) and I know that a lot of people aren't. Find the pace YOU'RE comfortable at and work from there.

For all of you who have full-time jobs and families I salute you. I think it takes a tremendous amount of energy to try and balence all that with writing. I'm just a single gal with a part-time job so I know I should be more productive than I am.

Stacy Dawn said...

I know she said her husband did almost all the housework while she was pursuing her goal of publication. Riiiiight, like THAT'S going to happen.

100% behind you on that one!

I'm horribly undiciplined myself and I feel even more guilty because I don't work outside of the home so I would think I'd have more time to devote to writing. Unfortunately it doesn't always work that way and having young children is not much of an excuse so I really really have to get myself organized this year.

MJFredrick said...

Stacy, having young children is an excuse, and let me tell you why - they grow up WAY too fast. Yes, if you want to be a writer, you have to write, but you'll just have to find a time that works for you.

Michele, so far I haven't found anything that works for me consistently, so I'm looking for inspiration.

Michelle, you have little kids too, and you've accomplished a LOT. But I know what you mean about no writing being wasted writing.

I couldn't find anything on Gena. I'm too shy to ask her. Where's Jill when we need her???

Trish Milburn said...

Hey, I'm not evil. Really, I'm not. :)

I think we all strive for balance and feeling like we're making the most of our time. If I have a day where I don't really do anything, even if it's after I've finished a big project, I feel like I've wasted it. Just how I'm wired.

MJFredrick said...

LOL, Trish, after I saw that you put deadlines on your goals, I thought I should do that, too. Scared me.

Amie Stuart said...

MaryI think Gina's got a slew of books coming out next year. no idea what her scheduel is though. Why not just post the q on her blog?

Happy New Year BTW!

MJFredrick said...

Cece, I thought about posting the question on her blog, but I'm shy. I was kinda hoping Jill Monroe, her buddy would come around.

I may get the courage up to ask her myself.


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