The New Year is coming at us like a bullet train. I couldn’t be happier to get on board and see where it’ll take us.
The other day I started working on my Trello boards to plan out next actions. I mentioned some of my projects in my last post. What I didn’t talk about much was my writing.
Follow along on my Massive Reboot board if you want to see what I’m working on right now. I’m diving into the work with the review of the first Moreau Society novel, Dark Matters. Right now I think I may just focus on that series first. Partly because I’d like to start Synthetic Pain, the latest book in the series soon. I have books I want to write in each of my primary series. I also have unreleased new novels to publish. I don’t imagine that I can get it all done in a single year! It’s going to take time to create the new editions of the existing titles (including republishing books previously released under pen names). I’m going through all of the books looking for mistakes, planning the new design, and need to create new cover art. The books will be released in new hardcover editions, updated ebook editions, new large print editions, and updated trade paperback editions. Sign up for my newsletter to get the latest news.
As mentioned, I have several unpublished novels to bring out. I also have a number of novels to write that includes new books in existing series, new series, and stand-alone titles. In one case, my Land Lubbers series, I’ve written the first two books already and plan to release the books after I write the third book. I can’t wait to get back into writing the novels. It’s going to be fun!
In addition to the novels, I’m working on several nonfiction projects. One currently underway is a book for writers. The others are my political satire projects. I plan to publish Capitol Day Care books once I have enough content.
I’m also jumping back into writing short stories. I want to produce new stories each week. Some of the stories will be for Drive-By Stories, my flash fiction site. Others will go out to various magazine and anthology markets. I’ve always loved short fiction. It’ll be fun to get more stories written after relatively few the past couple years.
Nonfiction and Screenplays
I’m also launching several nonfiction projects. The first work-in-progress is a book for fiction writers. Plus, I’m planning on working on a variety of other projects (NoVotes.org) and library-related writing projects.
Finally, I want to start writing screenplays as well. I’ve completed one screenplay. I don’t know if I still have it anywhere. It might be around somewhere. I’ll likely start by writing screenplays based on my novels. I’d like to publish the screenplays alongside the other editions of my books.
Managing My Time
With so many projects, how can I manage my time? I’m still working full time so the time I have available to write is somewhat limited, and I have other creative tasks to do including design, artwork, etc. I plan to focus on 2-3 major efforts and adjust as necessary.
The thing is: writing doesn’t take as much time as people tend to think.
It isn’t hard to figure this out. The math is pretty simple.
w = min * wpm
w (words) = min (minutes) times wpm (words per minute). Set aside anything else for a moment and just consider this really simple concept. A standard manuscript page has about 250 words. So if we want to know how long it’ll take us to write the page we need to know our how many words we write in a minute, however you choose to write. Let’s say that it takes you a minute to write 10 words.
Okay, so at that rate, you’ll write 600 words in an hour—or a bit over two pages. Let’s just say two pages or 500 words.
“Kid, you’re kinda slow, but I’ll give you a shot. You’re hired.” The Editor points his cigar at a desk in the corner of the room. “But I want 4,000 words by the end of the day. I’ll pay you .10¢ per word. Now get to work! You give me less than 4,000 words and you’re done!”
That’s your job. You’ll work eight hours each day, an hour off for lunch, a couple fifteen-minute breaks, and the boss expects that you’ll get 4,000 words written. You’ll get paid $400 dollars for the day, or $50 dollars per hour.
Wouldn’t you take that job? Sit and make shit up and get paid fifty bucks an hour? And you can do it with only ten words each minute?
What if you turned in 6,000 words? You’d make an extra $200 dollars! How much faster would you need to be to get that extra 2,000 words written? You’ll have to kick in an extra 2.5 words, increasing your total per minute to 12.5 wmp, or 750 words per hour (or three pages instead of two).
Alternatively, you could bump up your rate to three pages per hour and finish your day earlier. Instead of spending eight hours writing 16 pages, you could finish that in five and a half hours (a little effort and you could probably get it down to five hours easily).
Either way, it boils down to the sort of consistent work ethic that is expected in many work environments. If you’re pulling 6,000 words per day ($600), five days a week, you’re making $3,000 per week, or ~$12,000 in a month! Oh, and in the process, you’ve written 120,000 words—equal to several shorter novels or one long novel depending on how you want to split it.
I know. Some of you are asking now where you can find an editor that’s going to consistently pay you .10¢/word five days per week. It doesn’t matter. You could make more than that or less. Are you figuring it based on immediate payment, or factoring in your rate across the length of the copyright? Say you spend a day and write a 5,000-word story and an editor offers .06¢/word (considered a pro-rate in some circles). You get $300 for that publication. Later you sell reprints, or publish it as a standalone ebook, or find other revenue streams. Let’s say that you manage to get $300 each year off that story.
In five years you’ve made $1,500 off the story without spending much time on it at all. The initial sale meant you got paid essentially $37.50 per hour that you spent on the story. After five years of payments, your hourly rate is up to $187.50 per hour for writing the story. That’s one of the amazing things about copyright.
Does it always work? No. Maybe you write a story and it doesn’t sell. No one wants it. You need to get better. Okay, so write the next story. Only you never know for sure if no one wants the story, so you keep giving people a chance to buy it. It’s always possible it will sell in the future.
We’ve gone down into that rabbit hole a bit. Let’s get back to the point. A writer who can manage 12.5 words per minute will write 120,000 words per month if they put in a regular work day, five days per week. On Dean’s Pulp Speed list, this is Pulp Speed Three. If you don’t take weekends off you can do it with 4,000 words per day.
The fact is: most writers won’t make it.
It’s a fucked up head game that we get into as writers. Everyone is different, I don’t know anyone else’s situation. But when I take a step back and look at this, I have to ask what’s going on?
Let’s say that I write a 90,000 word novel in 2018 (maybe Synthetic Pain).
Suppose I type slightly faster than 12.5 wpm, bumping my speed up to 16-17 wpm (compared to the ‘average typing speed’ of 41 wpm). Even at this much slower than average speed (after all, I have to make up the story as I go), I’ll get 1,000 words or four pages written each hour. My 90,000-word novel then takes 90 hours to write.
I’m a full-time librarian by day. I have a family. I spend time painting. Playing video games. Sometimes I’ll watch TV or a movie. I don’t have all day to write. I can find fifteen minutes here or there to knock out 250 words. Most days I manage to get in 1,000 words. Impressive, right?
Given my limitations, it takes me 90 days to write the novel. Three months. Wait? What happened to the other nine months? Okay, so I must not have actually written every day. I managed to hit my 1,000 words on half the days, so despite my speed, my actual average was only 500 words per day and it took me 180 days to finish the book.
Wait, I still have six months left to account for, don’t I?
You’ve got me. I didn’t work much on the book for a couple months when I got distracted with some other projects, and I was mulling over the ideas for the book. I didn’t realize that as much time passed. So, really, looking back, even on the days when I did write I didn’t get 1,000 words written, I only managed about 500 words. Given that I only worked about half the days, that pulled my average down to 250 words per day and it took me all year to finish the book.
In that scenario I didn’t spend more than a half-hour writing on the days I did write, not writing at all on half the days out of the year.
The point: I don’t have to write fast. I can take my time at half the average typing speed. I just have to put my ass in the chair and write. The more days I do that, the more I write. If I only carved out 15 minutes each day, every day, I’d still have a completed 90,000 word novel at the end of the year. I wouldn’t be anywhere close to Dean’s Pulp Speed figures. This is strictly thrusters. Spend a bit more time writing and I might get up to impulse speed—say around 1,000 words per day (one hour). That gets me 365,000 words for the year to divide out however I like among novels and stories.
Full impulse to bump it up to 1,750 words, under two hours, gets me up to 630,000 words.
The jump to Pulp Speed One takes adds another hour, taking it up to 2,750 words per day—and I cross the million word threshold.
Sure, but I don’t have three hours a day to spend writing.
That’s fine. It’s all up to you. I don’t plan on spending that much time writing because I do have other things I want to do. I’m working on this for my own benefit to remind myself how much time it actually takes to get writing done. I could aim for 500 words per day and complete a book in six months.
That sounds possible. Which means I might finish 2018 with a couple new books.
And with the other time that I have, I’ll work on my other projects. I’ll see how it goes. I accomplished a lot of work over the past two years of focusing on my MLIS degree. I know what I’m capable of doing. I want a healthy balance.
So you know what?
I’ll go for the 500 words per day. Let’s see if I can do that much for starters. I’ll adjust as I go. And I’ll figure out a way to post my progress on the site for those curious about how it is going. That’s certainly something I could share in my newsletter for the curious.