I strongly believe that the more books you are able to write each year, the better chance you have of making a living as a self-published author. After all, the most successful self-published authors usually all have one thing in common: An extensive back catalogue of books.
And this is not necessarily because they have been writing for many years. More often than not it is because they are able to write 4, 6, 8 and even 10 books a year!
Once you have written a number of books, especially a number of books in the same series, you are able to implement certain marketing strategies and propel your career as a self-published author.
Strategies such as offering the first book in a series as a perma-free and offering the second book as a free lead magnet.
You can also cross-promote your books within the books’ front and back matter.
And yes, if one day you do get discovered, and one of your books is particularly successful, you will benefit from the ensuing sales of your library of books.
The key here then is to write a lot of books.
The video below is a short lecture taken from my online course, Writing Productivity Habits, which discusses the simple formula behind writing productively and highlights the importance of writing quickly.
So how do you write fast, without having to compromise on quality?
Personally, I have found the following seven factors have helped me increase the number of words I write, without having a negative effect on the quality of my writing.
(1) Learning how to use Scrivener properly
One of the best pieces of advice I can give you when it comes to increasing your writing productivity is to purchase a copy of Scrivener. However, an even more important piece of advice is that once you have made the financial investment and bought Scrivener, then go away and learn how to use it properly!
Read the article Scrivener and Why She’s A Self-published Author’s Best Friend for more details.
And if we take a look at the remaining six factors that have helped to increase the number of words I write, you will see that it is through using Scrivener that I am able to put each of these factors into practice.
(2) Thoroughly researching my story before I put pen to paper
Scrivener has a whole area built into the application, which is set aside for your research. Here you are able to save text, images, websites and even videos to help you organise the research of your book.
I have found that investing the time to thoroughly research around the story I plan to write, not only means that I am able to write with more confidence, due to my story being more authentic, but also that it helps the story to flow more easily.
For a non-fiction book, quite apart from the obvious of acquiring a substantial knowledge of your topic, it may be that you need to research case studies and/or anecdotes to back up your points, or quote other experts and their opinions on a particular subject.
You will of course need to research that your facts and figures are correct and make sure that you are up-to-date with the latest trends, tactics and best practices in your industry.
Meanwhile, getting your facts right is just as important within fiction, as this will help make your story far more believable.
If your thriller includes a black ops soldier using state-of-the-art weaponry, you’d better be certain that you have researched exactly how that weaponry looks, sounds and smells, because you can rest assured that there will be those among your hardcore thriller readers, who WILL know and will be waiting to pick you up on any errors that you make in their review of your book on Amazon.
Readers can be especially picky about an author getting their facts right in certain genres, such as thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy, and heaven forbid if you get something wrong in historical fiction.
So it is up to you the author to research the minutia and ensure that your book is as authentic as you can possibly make it.
I have gone to such lengths to make sure that I got everything authentic in my Time School series of novels that I decided to write non-fiction books, and even online courses, based on the research that I made.
Perhaps this was a little bit overkill, but it means that I am able to write the historical scenes in my novels with a great deal more confidence and am able to write them a lot quicker than if I was worried about getting my facts straight all the time.
Your research for fiction should also include the settings in your book, as well as the creation of your characters. And I actually set up my research folder in Scrivener to include subfolders entitled General Research, Characters and Settings.
(3) Creating Characters and Setting up Locations before I begin writing
When writing fiction, within my General Research folder in Scrivener, I file all the information I have gathered relevant to my story. While in the Settings folder I shall actually file the locations for each scene in the book. Finally, in my Character folder I shall include each character that appears in the story, with a label for recurring characters in the series and new characters that only appear in that particular novel.
Scrivener has a great feature called Split Screen, which allows you to view a researched item (for example the interior of a room in a cottage where your scene is taking place), in one pane, and the manuscript where you are writing the scene, in another pane.
And you can either split the screen vertically or horizontally.
This means you are able to see an image of your setting as you are actually writing the scene, which I find to be really useful when I am describing a scene.
However, it is of course important that you remember all of your senses when writing about a particular setting; as well as describing what your characters can see, describe what they can hear, smell and even touch, as well.
An important point to remember is that the detailed descriptions of the locations and characters that you store in Scrivener is as much for your benefit as it is for the story’s.
It is important that you know everything about the characters, but it is not necessarily the case that the reader needs to know the characters and locations in such depth.
Use only what you need for the story from these detailed descriptions in your research folder.
You may well use more in later books in the series, but don’t be guilty of just copying all your research into your novel, just because you have taken the time to find out all that interesting stuff.
You should only ever pick out what is important in the telling of that particular scene in a particular story.
I find that the split screen feature in Scrivener can also help the relationship with the characters and their settings. For example how a character interacts within a particular room.
(4) Going from being a Pantser to a Plotter
A Pantser is a NaNoWriMo term, which means that you ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ when you are writing your novel.
Now although I was never quite a complete pantser, I was by no means a plotter either, I was probably something in the middle – a Plantser if you will.
However, it was only when I became less of a pantser and more of a plotter that I saw my writing productivity shoot up.
A story that is not outlined may well end up as a rambling, muddled yarn that lacks pace and direction. If it even gets completed that is.
I now strongly believe that the quickest way towards writing a completed book is by planning it first. And this is equally true of both fiction and non-fiction.
I begin by writing a detailed synopsis of the book, which gives an outline of the plot, as well as information about the major characters in my book.
From this synopsis, which should be a few paragraphs long, I try and condense the heart of my story into a couple of sentences at the most.
This is known as the story’s pitch, also known as an elevator pitch.
As a self published author you are probably not going to pitch your story to any potential publisher. However, this is still good practice. And it will help when you come to write a description of your book for the promotional copy on your book’s sales page.
A good pitch should consist of an opening hook, followed by a couple of sentences to build on that hook. It is hard to achieve and will probably take you some time until you have nailed it.
Interestingly, most writers find it is easier to write a pitch based on the original synopsis of a story, rather than the completed story itself. And you can always come back and modify your pitch if the story changes too much in the meantime.
The most important reason to write your pitch before you actually begin writing is that if you are not able to quickly describe your story in this way, then the chances are that your idea isn’t going to really work as a story.
Once you have written your pitch, it is also a good idea to learn your pitch off by heart.
As I said before, you probably won’t need to sell your story to a book publisher, but when friends, family and colleagues ask you about your story you will be able to coherently tell them the heart of the story in a couple of sentences, rather than rambling on for ages and not making a lot of sense.
This is actually extremely important for a new author, who is just starting out and has not yet got a mailing list of readers and hasn’t developed a Street Team.
If your friends, family and colleagues “buy” into your book at an early stage, they may well be invested in the success of your book, and indeed the success of you as a self-published author, and some of them could well form the basis of your future Street Team.
Once you have finished both the synopsis and pitch for your book, the next step is to create a detailed outline of your book.
Based on your initial idea, your research, characters and settings, as well as the synopsis and pitch, you should begin mapping out the scenes or chapters of your book.
For my non-fiction books I actually use mind-mapping software for this task.
But for my fiction, I create a sub-folder within my Research folder in Scrivener called Outline and then I set about writing a summary of what each scene is going to entail from the beginning of the book until the end.
Throughout this process, I ensure that there are enough exciting incidents to move the story along, scene by scene, leading to an eventual climax.
Once every scene in my book (or sub-chapter for non-fiction) has been sufficiently outlined, I am at last ready to begin writing that first draft.
It may have taken quite a bit of time to get to this point.
But I know that I shall easily make that time up and much more through the writing of a focused first draft.
(5) Distraction Free Writing
Distraction free writing was also quite an important factor for me, as I found that I was always stopping to check emails, or replying to instant messages or even researching something relevant to my story in Google.
Now the simple answer to this problem is of course is to come off-line and avoid all of these distractions (which I highly recommend you do), but Scrivener takes this one step further by having a mode (called the Full Screen Composition Mode) that blocks out everything else and just lets you write on a blank piece of paper with no other distractions at all.
You are literally left alone with your words.
What’s more, you do not have to worry about formatting your text at all (Scrivener deals with styles, fonts, margins, indents, etc., etc., later on within its Compile Feature), all you have to be concerned with is getting your words down on paper as quickly as possible.
(6) The Setting of Daily Writing Targets
The Setting of Daily Writing Targets is also an important habit to get into, as it gives you a mini goal to achieve each day and these mini objectives soon add up.
The writing target that you set should be realistic and based on a number of things:
- The time that you have allocated for your writing
- The speed of your typing
- How quickly you are actually able to write your story
I suggest that you begin by setting a target that you feel is totally achievable and then slowly, but surely, increase that target over time, until you reach a word count that is more challenging, but still very doable.
And once you have reached your optimal word count and are achieving it day after day you will be surprised (and no doubt delighted) to discover how quickly that first draft is getting written.
Now Scrivener has a number of tools built in to help you achieve your word count targets.
The Project Statistics feature shows you the statistics for your entire manuscript, as well as the statistics for the document (usually a sub-chapter in non-fiction and a scene in fiction) that you are currently working on.
You are shown the number of words that you have written for both, as well as the number of characters and the number of pages (for paperback and print).
The Text Statistics from the current document then go into further detail. As well as showing the Words and Characters, it also shows you the number of paragraphs, lines and the word frequency, which is a great feature to make sure that you are not using a particular word too many times in one scene.
Meanwhile, the Project Targets feature shows you the word count target that you have set up for your entire manuscript.
The following lecture about Scrivener’s Project Targets feature is taken from my premium online course, Scrivener Book Writing Software:
(7) Having the confidence of knowing that this is just the first draft
The final factor I have found helps with the speed of my writing is having the confidence to know that after writing the first draft, the next stage is the polishing of my manuscript.
I no longer expect my first draft to be perfect. Instead, I just try to write the words as quickly and as spontaneously as I can.
Don’t worry if your words are too simple, or if you are repeating words, or if you are not 100% sure with your facts. Things like this can be checked and revised when you re-write your manuscript later on.
And what I mean by this, is that you should concentrate on getting the words written down as fast as you can (in the Full Screen Composition Mode of course), without having to worry about being a perfectionist.
I find that this mindset is the most effective way of eliminating the dreaded Writer’s Block, because I know that if I just write and let it flow that, once I have completed the first draft, I am still going to go back to re-write, revise and polish what I have written.
And Scrivener can even help out here, as it provides a great facility for making labels, statuses and document notes, so that you are able to tell your future self in revision mode (or a writing collaborator for that matter) what you were trying to say, or what needs to be researched, etc., while you were in full flow writing that first draft.