The Journal: I’m All About Productivity

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Well, I’ve been remiss
* Topic: I’m All About Productivity
* Today
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“If, after that time, you feel stifled by your quota, don’t give it up. Just reduce the number to something easy. Like 250 words. Your ficus tree can write 250 words in a day. Don’t be shown up by your ficus tree.” James Scott Bell

Well, I’ve been remiss recently, failing to welcome the few new folks who have joined us in the past couple of months: Ralph R, Rob G, Theron M and Martha E.

I hope you all will find your decision to subscribe fruitful, and I invite you to check out the archives. You can use the search box in the sidebar to find specific topics. So, welcome! (If I missed anyone, I do apologize, and I welcome to you too.)

I hadn’t planned to write a topic today, but with our new friends on board, maybe this is a good time to post a refresher about who I am and what I do.

Topic: I’m All About Productivity

In this revived golden age of writing and publishing, you’re either prolific or you’re a hobby writer. (And I don’t mean that derogatorily. Nothing wrong with being a hobby writer if that’s what you want to do.)

But before I talk about the benefits of being prolific, let’s assume you know to avoid traditional publishing (except magazine markets for short stories) for these reasons:

* tradpubs take all rights for the life of the copyright (in the US, that’s your life plus 70 years). That alone should be reason enough to avoid them, but also

* tradpubs never allow a reversion clause in a contract, or they include that it kicks in only when a book “goes out of print.” Only these days, with epublishing, books never go out of print. So your rights never revert to you.

* tradpubs don’t care either way whether your book ever gets published. Your copyright (your IP), which they now own, goes on their spreadsheet and enhances their bottom like, valued at what the IP MIGHT earn over your life plus 70 years. The valuation can easily run into the millions. For one IP. Do the math.

* most tradpubs require submission via a literary agent. Literary agents are not required to be licensed and are not regulated. (I personally would never use an agent, but then, I don’t sign over 15% of the deed to my house to the guy who mows my lawn either.)

* tradpubs won’t allow you to be prolific. At most they’ll publish two books per year under your name. Much more often, only one.

* while tradpubs plead constantly for “original, unique works,” they simultaneously run your work through a battery of rewrites and editors, each of which moves your work farther from your original vision. And finally,

* if I were locked in with a traditional publisher, I would have written and published 5 novels in the past 5+ years. (Been there, done that, won’t go back, although my traditional small publisher DID revert all rights to me when I asked them to.) As it is, because I’m prolific and an indie publisher, I’ve written and published over 50 novels and novellas and almost 200 short stories (and the attendant collections).

I could go on, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

How Am I Prolific?

First, the definition of “prolific” lies in the eye of the beholder. Though many have called me prolific, my production pales in comparison to the likes of the old pulp writers of the ’30s through the ’60s, and even to comtemporaries like Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Stephen King and several others.

So the key to being prolific is to know what you can realistically do, and then doing it.

My goals this year (for the next 18 months, actually) include finishing a new short before Saturday midnight each week and finishing a new novel before midnight on the last day of each month.

These are actually easily obtainable goals for me because I follow Heinlein’s Rules pretty avidly. When I fall off, I climb back on.

I achieve my goals by

1. showing up most days to my writing ‘puter, putting my fingers on the keyboard and letting the characters who are actually living the story move them, and

2. I keep coming back. When I’m called away for a chore or other time-consuming effort, I consciously remind myself tht if I want to keep being a writer, I have to keep coming back. Writers write. It really is that simple, and that difficult.

So What Is Being Productive?

I write 1000 to 1200 words per hour (a blistering pace of 17 words per minute), which leaves me plenty of time for staring off into space or cycling back to correct typos, plot holes and other glitches. (grin) So I write one clean draft, send it to my first readers, make the corrections that I agree with, and then publish. And readers buy my work.

Because of my writing pace, a short story (up to 8,000 words) takes 2 to 7 hours to write, and a novel (40,000 to 80,000 words) takes 40 to 80 hours to write. At 17 words per minute. Ask yourself, how fast did you type in your typing class at school? (grin)

I have no problem coming up with ideas because I practice exercising my idea muscle. Practically anytime I see, hear, smell, taste or touch anything, I think “What if…?”

If the “What if” sticks until the next time I sit down in the chair at my writing ‘puter (many don’t, and that’s fine), I write an opening for a short story (which often turns into my next novel) and go from there.

(The difference between a short story and a novel? The short story is short because it’s about One Event. Seriously, that’s it.)

The Benefits of Being Prolific: Practice and Discoverability

It’s harsh but true: Writing is the only art form in which practitioners are actively taught (by non-writers) to hover over one work rather than finishing and moving on to the next work.

The more you learn and the more you practice your craft, the better storyteller you’ll become.

The longer you hover over one work (revising, rewriting, “polishing,” etc.) the less time you have for practice. Writing is putting new words on the page.

(By the way, hovering is a fairly new phenomenon. It mostly came to rise in the 1970s about the time university professors were first told to “publish or perish.” Traditional publishing is a fairly new phenomenon too, having begun with the advent of mass-market paperbacks in the post-World War II years. But that’s a topic for another time.)

If you want to become a better storyteller, follow Heinlein’s Rules. Write. Publish. Write the next story. Don’t allow yourself to remain mired in the myths of hovering.

Which leads us to discoverability. Admittedly there is a glut of new stories being published every day. But the cream really does rise to the top. If you are actively practicing your craft, your storytelling ability will improve and your readership will grow.

And the more titles you have out there with your name on the cover, the easier you are to find. Again, do the math.

Which leads us back to being productive. It takes a lot less time to read a novel than it does to write one. Your readership will continually want your next book or your next short story or your next short-story collection. Don’t let them down.

Show up. Do the work. Reap the benefits.

And most of all, have fun!

Today again I rolled out early, planning to get straight to the novel in progress. Then I sidetracked myself with the topic above, and here I am.

It’s 6:30 and I haven’t written a word of fiction. I’ll go there now to finish up my cycling and reverse outline. Then I’ll take a break for breakfast, and through the day I’ll Keep Coming Back. (grin)

Yesterday, I overstimated my fiction writing. I wrote only 1132 words yesterday. I made the correction on Day 9 in the numbers below.

Missed my daily goal by a little today, but it’s Sunday. Gonna spend the rest of the day doing mostly nothing. (grin)

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “How to Conduct a ‘Competent’ Hanging Execution” at This post includes a warning: “Warning: The Following Graphically Details How Hanging Executions Are Done. Some Readers May Find This Information Offensive.”

See “Getting Serious About Your Writing Career” at

See “Saturday Night” at For the record, I do not “mess with writers” even for the sake of imparting a lesson. I tell them (sometimes) harsh truths and then let them accept or not as they will. We all have to learn in our own way.

See “Ears Are Important, Too” at

The Numbers

Fiction words today…………………… 2704
Nonfiction words today…………… 1430 (Journal)

Writing of The Cazadores Lounge and Lonely Place (novel)

Day 1…… 3044 words. Total words to date…… 3044
Day 2…… 3189 words. Total words to date…… 6233
Day 3…… 2145 words. Total words to date…… 8378
Day 4…… 1301 words. Total words to date…… 9679
Day 5…… 3248 words. Total words to date…… 12927
Day 6…… 3180 words. Total words to date…… 16107
Day 7…… 1363 words. Total words to date…… 17470
Day 8…… 3799 words. Total words to date…… 21269
Day 9…… 1132 words. Total words to date…… 22401
Day 10… 2704 words. Total words to date…… 25105

Writing of “” (short story)

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 28283
Total fiction words for the year………… 28283
Total nonfiction words for the month… 13000
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 13000
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 41253

Calendar Year 2020 Novels to Date…………………… X
Calendar Year 2020 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2020 Short Stories to Date… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 45
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 198
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

2 thoughts on “The Journal: I’m All About Productivity”

  1. Hi Harvey! I’ve really been enjoying the Writing Into the Dark audio lectures. Good stuff. Thank you. 🙂

    I wanted to share a quick note about how sneaky my Critical Voice is. I just stated working on novella #2 yesterday and had every good intention to just suck it up, cupcake, and write off into the dark. In reality, though, before that session was over I had managed to do some “pre-writing” in a composition notebook so I could, ya know, get going.😱 An hour later I had some odds and ends of story notes – but no closer to getting the beginning of my novella started. I had to laugh at myself because in the time and effort it took to scribble down my notes I could have finished the first entire scene of the book! 🤯 Sneaky Critical Voice. 😳

    • Absolutely, Maggie. That’s exactly how critical voice stops you from writing. And it’s all fear-based. If you don’t write, you won’t publish, and others won’t be able to form or express opinions of your work. 🙂 Silly, isn’t it?

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