The release of Scrapyard Ship changed a lot of things for me. It was like a switch being flipped on and all of a sudden I was a Science Fiction writer with a healthy following. But I needed to find a way to keep the momentum going. I reached out and got a lot of great advice from authors like Hugh Howey, B.V. Larson and other SciFi masters. One thing became abundantly clear, I’d have to work hard, but more importantly, work smart. I’d have to constantly strive to improve my craft while upping my marketing skills. Please God … don’t let me be a one-trick pony!
In the end … I learned a bunch of tricks, thankfully, and I now try to engage with as many new / beginner writers (of all ages) as my schedule permits. I also moderate a weekly class (Writer’s Idea Factory) here in the Boulder Co area. A lot of the questions /queries I get are the same. Where do you get your ideas? How do you stay motivated? And the big one … how do you find the time to finish a book and still have a life too?
In less than two years, I’ve pounded out seven more novels. Each of them has done well and I make a very respectable living doing what I love to do … making shit up and entertaining a boatload of people along the way. Hundreds of thousands of people, who I don’t know from Adam, but deeply appreciate their interest in my stories. Roughly, that comes out to a new book being published every three months or so. I know, that sounds a bit daunting, but it’s really not. The simple mathematics of writing (that many books) needs to be broken down into manageable, bite-sized, chunks. Simply put, I try to write about 1,600 to 2,000 words a day — five or six days a week. Basically, a chapter a day. Doesn’t that sound a lot better than a new book every three months?
So how much time is that per day that I’m sitting there at my computer writing? No more than a few hours. That’s right … and did you know that (for most people) they have a bandwidth of approximately two and a half hours of optimum productivity? After that, things start to go south … quality of your work goes way down. There are also times of day that will work better for you … like for me, it’s 6:00 AM to about 9:00 AM. I think mornings are best for most people but some people come alive late at night, too. The important thing is to figure this out for yourself and use that segment of the day to do your writing.
Once you have the mathematics worked out and when you’ll be getting down to writing, you’ll need to address the biggest/badest obstacle. Procrastination. We all fight with procrastination, but there are a few rules of thumb that you can enlist to kick it to the proverbial curb …and, ultimately, realize amazing productivity.
Mark’s Three Rules for Writing Like A Maniac
1) Make a commitment to yourself you will keep your commitments. I know, this sounds juvenile … but it’s here at number one for a reason … it’s HUGE. Become a flippin’ maniac about keeping your inner as well as outer commitments.
2) Dedicate a minimum of two hours a day, five days a week, to writing. Select this time to coincide with your productivity bandwidth we talked about earlier. Now this next part is important. Remember Rule number 1? Once you settle into your writing schedule, you don’t flake on it. If you do, you’re a liar and a cheat and will burn … yikes! Sorry, I got a little carried away there. That may be going overboard, but you get the idea. You can’t let yourself off the hook. Ever. Your writing is the highest priority (other than family and friends and maybe your dog … definitely not your cat).
3) Come to realize that discipline is your friend. Be proud of the fact you are a disciplined writing machine. In time, habit takes over and discipline is not such a big factor anyway. But it’s there when called upon.
So that’s basically it. As you can see, much of it comes down to your own personal integrity. Keeping promises you make to yourself. No buying into any of your own lame (or even really good) excuses. All that BS needs to stop right now.
There are a thousand and one other things I (personally) make a point of doing to ensure (I use that word loosely) that my books becomes successful. That includes choosing the right cover art, to the right blurb, to the right line and developmental editors … it’s all crucial and the list is a long one. I’ll talk more about those over time. But start with the three rules listed above. They need to come first. After that you’ll have a super strong foundation to build your career from.