Monday, April 13, 2015

Borrowed: Revisiting the 500 Club

This article is reprinted by permission of the author.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 9,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Organization: Revisiting the 500 Club
In April, I wrote a column titled The 500 Club that got quite a lot of attention. Plenty of writers found it a compelling idea and began trying it out.

The basic concept was that you commit to writing 500 words on your novel every day for the rest of your life.

At first glance, that sounds like too small of a commitment to be useful. 500 words is not a lot. At that rate, it would take 200 days to write a novel of 100,000 words.

But the point is that it isn’t a lot of words. It’s doable. You could do it every day, probably in half an hour to an hour. And once you’ve done 500 words, you’ve greased your inner genius and you just might write another 500 or 1000 or even 2000 extra words. 

And that’s significant. Stephen King says in his book On Writing that he writes about 2000 words every day. Which is why he gets so many books written every year.

The 500 Club was a good idea, and I’ve been trying it over the last few months. It works very, very well at ramping up your productivity, but there are some speed bumps I’ve found along the way. Here are some of them:

Speed Bump #1: Travel Craziness

Whenever I travel, my schedule goes right out the window. I find it impossible to work on airplanes, so I’m likely to fail to write on the travel day.

Furthermore, once I get there, my schedule is usually packed from early morning until late at night. This is especially true at writing conferences, where it’s not uncommon for me to be talking with other writers from 7 AM until well after midnight. And if I have a choice between talking to writers and working, I’m going to talk to writers. Yeah, that’s a personal weakness, but it’s the way I’m made.

Since I travel about half a dozen times per year, usually for about a week at a time, I’m going to have giant holes in my writing schedule. I haven’t found any way to beat this. I’m not very disciplined.

My answer to this speed bump is to just plan for it. I plan to NOT write while traveling. I plan to get back in the groove of writing immediately after the trip.

I also have learned to limit my travel to just a few trips per year. This is one reason that I regularly turn down invitations to teach at conferences. Because I can’t do them all and still have time to write.

Speed Bump #2: The Daily Grind

Writing every day, seven days per week, 52 weeks per year, is a grind. After a while, it feels like a routine. It stops being fun.

And writing is supposed to be fun. Writing is a vacation. Writing is pleasure. Writing is a grand escape from life.

If writing stops being fun, then all is lost.

My answer to this is to plan for a weekly break. Normally, this is Sunday for me. That’s my day off from writing. Sometimes I also take Saturday off, when there’s a major project to be done out in the yard. Which is often during the summer.

A weekly break makes writing fresh and new again on Monday morning. 

Speed Bump #3: Production is More Than Just Writing

The point of the 500 Club is to keep producing more first-draft copy. First-draft copy is great, but it’s only one step in the chain to getting a book published.

I wear a lot of hats. I publish this e-zine. I have two web sites. I run the software division of a biotech company in San Diego. I own a couple of acres of massively fertile land in a state where it never stops raining and weeds never stop growing. 

And I act as publisher for my books, which means I’m in charge of hiring my editor, my proofreader, and my graphic designer. I also format my own books and do the marketing. I’ve got 2 to 3 hours per day that I can work on my novels. Period. There isn’t any more juice to be squeezed out of the lemon.

I’m a one-track mind kind of guy, so when I’m writing the first draft, the 500 Club is brilliant. It keeps me churning out copy every day, and I average thousands of words per day. But I can only do that if I’ve first planned out the novel (using my Snowflake Method, of course). And once the first draft is done, I don’t need new words—I need to edit the old ones. Severely.

The bottom line is that there are a lot of days when writing 500 words would be a bad idea. On those days, I need to be focused on other parts of the production schedule.

My answer to this is to modify the 500 Club to the 30-Minute Club. It’s the same basic idea, but instead of setting a very low quota for words, I set a very low quota for time. I’ll work 30 minutes per day on the next task on the production schedule. That might be Snowflaking, first-drafting, revision, polishing, proofreading, working with my graphic designer, formatting, or marketing. 

30 minutes per day is easy. But of course I’m undisciplined and I just can’t stop at 30 minutes, so I’m likely to go on for two or three hours. The point is to make it seem easy so I can get rolling. Then inertia keeps me rolling.

Your Homework

Now how about you? What speed bumps do you have in your writing life? And what can you do to get past those speed bumps so you can keep your writing career rolling as fast as possible?

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