How to write smarter in 2016


Happy new year! Did you achieve your goals in 2015? For me, the past year was more successful than I’d dreamed. My goal was to make a living writing romance novels full time and stay out of debt, and I not only achieved that, but did it with extra to put into my savings and emergency fund. I actually have an emergency fund for the first time in my life!

love that

(Yes, I’m a total geek about finances. If you’re interested in great, no-nonsense advice about getting your shit together, check out Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s site.)

In 2015 I published four novels, one novella, a short story for an anthology, revised and repubbed a novella, and had three translations published: one Italian and two French. (I still need to add those to my website! It’s on my ever-growing to-do list.)

The second half of this year was emotionally very draining as my dad got ill and passed away. By December I felt super burned out and honestly hardly worked the last few weeks. But now I’m recharged and ready to go! And this year, I’m resolving to be more effective about how I work.

Write smarter and faster

My friend Leta Blake‘s father has a saying: Any task will expand to fit the time allotted it. Meaning, if you give yourself all day to do something, it’ll take all day to do it. I’ve always written with daily word-count goals of 3-5,000 words, depending on the project. And too many times, it’ll take me alllll day to get those words done. I’ll start at 8 a.m. and not finish until 8 p.m., by which time I feel burnt out and like I’ve been working for 12 hours.

But I haven’t.

I go to the gym at lunch for an hour-long class and then come home and shower and have lunch. So that’s a good two-hour break in the middle of my day, and a break I think is really important. I’m not giving that up. But if you’re like me, you can somehow fritter away hours on social media and the internet. “Oh, I’ll just look up that thing…” “Oh, I’ll just check Facebook…”

Then I look at the clock.

hermione shocked

How do the minutes and hours go by so quickly when you’re online? Wish I knew the answer! All I know is that I need to stop wasting so much time faffing around and be more effective and strategic. I found Rachel Aaron’s blog post on going from 2K to 10K a day extremely helpful.

In early December, I put myself on a strict writing schedule: 9-11 a.m., and then 2-5 p.m. These were hours when I had my phone off in the other room, and I was only writing. I wasn’t doing promo or blog posts, or the other admin work that comes with being an author. If I had to research something, I put a note in the manuscript for later. If I absolutely had to Google something then and there, I was not allowed to open any other sites. Especially not Facebook or Gmail.

And you know what? The words suddenly started adding up. I realized I’d been going backwords by having the word count be my daily goal. Now I’m flipping it to make the writing time my must-do. Put in the dedicated, undistracted time, and the words will follow.


I feel like I’ve unlocked some ancient mystery that really should have been glaringly obvious. And maybe I’ll never get to 10K a day, and maybe some days will only be 2k. That’s okay. If I put in the focused time, I’m confident I’ll write smarter and better in 2016 and will be less burned out at the end of work days. If I can be more focused, I can take more time to relax in the evenings and cook/read/watch TV and recharge my batteries instead of feeling like I’m working all the time when I’m not.

What about you? What are your new year’s resolutions? Here’s to a happy, healthy and productive 2016!

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  1. That’s exactly what I want to do this year. I’ve always focused my word count as well, but each day is different for me. But, when I focus solely on making my manuscript better, then I feel that I’ve accomplished something despite how many words I’ve written (or deleted!). So, for the first time, I’m counting hours instead of words. Maybe I should get a time card. 🙂

    1. Glad to hear I’m not alone, Tricia! Exactly — every day is different. I think putting in the focused, dedicated time is what will yield the most success and not have us beating ourselves up. Some days when you have to rework a scene, the word count can do down, but it’s still been a productive day. Yes, maybe we should get time cards. 😉

  2. a daily word count only multiplies stodge and we all have had enough of that even though editors are too gutless or indifferent with known authors to cull them when necessary. so churning out words is just that and leads to readers left deflated

    1. Definitely don’t want to churn out words thoughtlessly. For me, it was a way of keeping myself accountable and on track, but I really think time is a more effective metric. Thanks for commenting!

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