The Secret to Being Prolfic

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Topic: The Secret to Being Prolfic
* Of Interest

Quotes of the Day

“If you wish to advance into the infinite, explore the finite in all directions.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Sure you can, Harvey. ‘Can’t’ never did anything.” My stepmom, about 65 years ago when I complained that I couldn’t do something. I owe her my Marine Corps career, and I owe her my writing career.

“May your future be limited only by your dreams.” Christa McAuliffe

Topic: The Secret to Being Prolfic

First, the secret to being a prolific fiction writer has nothing to do with typing speed. Let’s put that myth to rest right up front.

Most fiction writers who are focused on Story instead of being focused on words or sentences write about 1000 to 1500 words per hour. That sounds fast, but it isn’t. It’s only 17 words per minute at the low end and 25 words per minute at the high end. My own speed ranges from 1100 to 1300 words per hour.

I know one fiction writer who, on average, generated 3000 words per hour. Even that is only 50 words per minute, so there’s no fear you’ll start a wildfire at 1000 words per hour.

If you’re writing much slower than 1000 words per hour, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re writing from the critical mind. Let’s talk about that for a moment.

The Trap of the Critical Mind

The first thing to know is this: The conscious, critical mind can create nothing original.

Those who are unable to trust themselves call upon it to construct safety nets that don’t need to be constructed (character sketches, outlines, signposts, etc.) and to correct the creative subconscious, which needs no correction.

The urge to “improve” what you’ve written with the creative subconscious or “correct” your characters’ perception of the story that they, not you, are living is a function of the conscious, critical mind’s primary purpose: to protect you.

If you second-guess and correct your characters often enough, they’ll stop bringing you story ideas, and soon they’ll stop telling you stories too. Show me a writer who has trouble coming up with story ideas and I’ll show you a writer who’s steeped in the myths.

Every time writers invoke the conscious, critical mind to correct what they wrote with the creative subconscious, it moves them farther from the authentic story and from their own unique, original voice.

It’s the worst kind of creative self-sabotage, and the writers’ fear of failure wins. For a great deal more, see Quiet the Critical Mind (and Write Fiction).

Time and Time Again

As I wrote above, becoming prolic as a fiction writer has nothing to do with speed or how fast you type. It has everything to do with how much time you spend in the chair. And believe it or not, it’s all simple math.

For most jobs, you’re expected to work 8 hours per day, maybe with up to an hour off for lunch. That’s still 7 hours per day, usually five days per week.

If you did that as a writer and took an hour off for lunch, you’d produce 7000 words per day. Even if you took weekends off, that’s 35,000 words per week. That’s a short novel.

To be clear, that’s if you spend the time WRITING, which means putting new words on the page. This does not include time for revision and rewriting and all the other myth nonsense.

But we writers are blessed. If we turn out even a 60,000 word novel twice a year, we’re considered “prolific.”

Again, it’s all math. There are 52 weeks in a year. If we write five days per week, that’s 260 days per year. So to write two 60,000 word novels in a year would require us to show up to work five days per week for a half-hour per day (462 wpd). Not a bad gig, is it?

If you want to actually BE prolific (vs. simply being considered prolific by those who don’t have a clue), you can do that too.

But let’s back away from spending 7 or 8 hours per day in the chair. After all, as too many of us say, we don’t have a “real” job and we have a life.

So let’s say we go half-time. We show up and do our job only three or four hours per day. Even if we still only show up five days per week, that’s 15,000 to 20,000 words per week, or 780,000 to 1,040,000 words per year.

Yes. That’s over one million words per year, working only 4 hours per day, five days per week.

But I’m not recommending you sit for three or four hours at a stretch. Take a break at least once every hour, even if it’s only to get up and walk away and back.

Likewise, if you have non-writing chores to do, you can attend to those too. Write for an hour, do something else, then come back and write for another hour. The lesson here is to Keep Coming Back. Show your chosen profession the respect and dedication it deserves.

Goal Setting

If you want to be a prolific fiction writer, I strongly suggest you set a daily word-count goal. Beyond learning to trust my characters, no other single act has helped me more.

Then develop the discipline to keep coming back until you reach your goal each day or until you’re literally too tired to go on.

Your daily goal should make you stretch. If you reach it too easily, raise it by 500 or 1000 words. If you never reach it, lower it in 500 word increments. Ideally, on most days you’ll struggle a little but reach it.

I’ll use the example of 3000 words per day. When you reach or exceed your goal, you’ll feel wonderful. And the next day you have the potential to feel wonderful again.

But if you don’t quite reach your goal, say you write only 2745 words one day, at least you’ve failed to success. You’ve still written 2745 more words than you had before. And tomorrow your goal resets to zero and the potential to meet or exceed it is there again.

Fiction Lengths

In traditional publishing, they have inflated and often padded page counts to provide false value so they can reach a profitable cover price.

Anywhere else on Earth, a novel can be anything from 25,000 words on up. What matters is Story. Don’t worry in advance about length. Just write and let the story be the length it needs to be.

For pricing purposes, here’s how I break down fiction lengths:

15000 to 24999 Novella
25000 to 44999 Short novel
45000 to 79999 Novel
over 80,000 Long novel

Again, it’s all simple math.

To write a 120,000 word novel in 3 months requires no more than an hour and a half of writing per day. That’s 1333 words per day on average for 90 straight days or 1464 words words per day on average for 82 days (taking weekends off).

So why aren’t all novelists writing at least 4 novels per year? I really can’t tell you. If you trust your characters and enjoy recording the story as you watch it unfold, the sky’s the limit.

If you don’t trust your characters, well, then while you’re hovering in place over that one novel, second-guessing your characters and moving farther from your unique, original voice, prolific writers will be turning out 4 or 6 or 12 or 24 novels per year.

It really is all up to you. Remember, Can’t never did anything.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “13 tips to write persuasive landing page copy that converts” at

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1250 words

Writing of The Jury (novel, tentative title)

Day 1…… 2488 words. Total words to date…… 2488
Day 2…… 0789 words. Total words to date…… 3277

Total fiction words for September……… 3277
Total fiction words for the year………… 69708
Total nonfiction words for September… 1660
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 129890
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 199598

Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 67
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: Along with discussing various aspects of the writing craft, I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. WITD is “the only way” to write, but it is by far the easiest, most liberating, and most fun.