Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Honing my work habits a thousand words at a time.

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Like most old dogs, I have tried-and-true writing tricks that work for me. If I’m lucky, I will even sometimes get a treat at the end. Usually in the form of a Moscow Mule. But I’m not picky.

However, just because I’ve been writing for a while doesn’t mean that I can’t improve my writing process. I know lots of writers who manage to write just once a week or so. I know writers who don’t write for months, but then sit down and pound out a manuscript in a couple of weeks. I hate these freaks.

I also know authors who write every day. I want to be one of these freaks, but am not quite there yet. Soon, I hope.

Andrew Grey, a disgustingly productive author, recently gave me a piece of advice that I’m trying to follow. He writes romance. Gay romance, to be more precise. He publishes numerous novels a year. Numerous. It’s awesome. If he wasn’t so amazing, I’d hate his guts.

When I asked him how he manages to keep up his writing schedule, he said he uses the 300 rule. Okay, he didn’t actually say “the 300 rule.” I took a teeny bit of poetic license here and coined the term for brevity’s sake.

Er, what’s the 300 rule? you ask.

Stated simply, you commit to writing 300 days a year, at least 1,000 words a day. Now for those of you who think like me, you instantly calculated this to mean you have 65 days a year of vacation. Sixty-five days! That’s more than nine weeks.

Of course, that means working weekends. No excuses. Only those 65 days off.

A friend suggested that I buy some small stickers to put on my calendar when I take a day off. It lets me know when I’m “spending” a day. If I run out of stickers, too bad, no more free days.

Before I began this (a couple weeks ago now), I tried my best to write every weekday, but pretty much took weekends off. I have a lot of commitments and didn’t want to take away from family time. When I first heard of Andrew’s plan, I worried. I mean, how would I fit in weekend writing with my busy schedule?

Here’s where math is my friend. Even if I only write 1,000 words daily for 300 days a year, that’s still 300,000 words total. The average mystery novel is roughly 80,000-90,000 words, while the average romance novel is more in the range of 60,000-80,000. That means we’re talking three or four books a year.

So far, I’ve been writing closer to 2,000 words a day on some days, but I’ve had a few days where even half that was a slog. But I did it. And I’ve committed to trying it for a year. It may not work, but I won’t know until I try.

Also, my short-term goal isn’t to write three or four publishable books a year; that’s probably not in the cards yet. But three or four rough drafts might be. Or maybe two books and a bunch of short stories. Or just short stories.

Honestly, at this point, it’s not so much about the final product as the process. I want to create a habit of writing daily, even if it’s only 1,000 words. On a good day, actually, 1,000 words doesn’t take me that long to write. On a bad day, it could drag as long as two or three hours. But even so, that gives me time to get other things done, like editing and research.

For me, the “300 rule” is a new approach to an old problem. It probably isn’t feasible for everyone, but I’m giving it a shot. If I manage to get through the year, I’ll write another article next fall to report back.

And, hey, look at that — I’ve already gotten in most of my words for the day.

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