On Productivity

Over the past few months on one writing blog I follow – Magical Words, where a collection of traditionally-published midlist+ fantasy authors blog together about writing and the business – there have been a series of posts admonishing writers to “write fast”.  (For example: here, here, and here.)  The publishing industry is changing, they say, and one consequence is that publishers are demanding more than the typical one-novel-per-year rate that used to be the norm.  You’ve got to write fast, they say, to produce 2 to 3 novels per year, and a handful of short-stories, and so on.

I mused, in one comment to these posts, that as considering what first-time authors typically make on writing (see, for example, Tobias Buckell’s Author Advance Survey)… giving up a day-job to write full time, which is what many of us would have to do to achieve that level of productivity, wouldn’t make economic sense.  Does that disqualify us from this career path?  I don’t know.  Certainly, there are some authors who are still making a writing career work, while holding down a day job and outputting a book every year-or-so.  So the door hasn’t closed on that… yet.

My own personal productivity last week, however, got me thinking about this again.

As I mentioned on my weekly wrap-up, I generated the vast majority of last week’s generally high wordcount on a single day.  To wit: more than 3,500 words that particular day.  I wrote for a total of about 4-and-a-half hours that day.

I noticed something as I wrote that day.  The first hour I sat down to write, I wasn’t terribly productive.  Maybe 500 words, or a little less.  But as I kept writing, my rate of writing got faster, getting up to just north of 1,000 words in an hour before I took a short break.  After the break, my rate started higher than before and went back to that roughly 1,000-words-per-hour.

As I thought about it later, I realized that around 1,000-words-per-hour is my theoretical maximum rate of writing productivity.  I wondered.  What would that mean for me if I could write full time? Continue reading