Writing Productivity

Realization time:  as a writer I’ve been trying to pick my own path up the mountain without learning from those who’ve gone before.

In a very Tim-Ferriss-like manner, I analyzed what I’ve been doing and found it lacking any kind of real plan.  If you’re going to climb Everest, you should know how the other guys did it, and also what killed the guys who failed.  So I started asking myself some questions, and for answers I decided to use James Patterson and Stephen King as a baseline (not because I idolize them, although I really dig King, just because they were the first two who came to mind and there’s a ton of info available about them online).

How long is the average best seller?  James Patterson averages 100,000 words, Stephen King 125,000.  My books seem to fall into the 60,000 word range, making them far too short.  The sweet spot for best-sellers seems to be in the 80,000 – 125,000 word range.

How often does a successful writer publish a new book?  In the last three years James Patterson (with the help of his famous/infamous team of assistants) has churned out over 30 novels.  Stephen King has released 6.  I’ve produced 3.

How many query letters does the average writer put in the mail each week?  I couldn’t get any reliable figures on this, but I’m fairly sure neither Patterson nor King sends query letters anymore.  Publishers call them.  I sent 5 last year.  By any measure, that’s way too few.

Anybody can run a marathon, a mile a day spread over a month.  A champion marathoner runs it in under two hours and fifteen minutes.  Anybody can write a book a year, muck around trying to sell it, and mope when nothing sells.  A master of his craft writes well, writes consistently, and actively hawks his wares.

So each week I’ve resolved to write 6,250 words and to mail at least one query letter — that’s 5 times the production and 10 times the sales effort.  And I will be coming up with stories that take a little longer to tell.

Everest, here I come.

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One response to “Writing Productivity

  1. Pingback: Writing Productivity Update | 808 Hackard Building

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