Write 41 novels a year

How to conquer word count and master time

Who isn’t paranoid about the whole time thing? Take Shakespeare for example. There’s a guy who didn’t seem to have too many problems bashing out a pacey plot and peppering it with twists and turns, witches, nutcases, murderers, adulterers and wise-cracking grave diggers.

Even so, he felt the pressure: “When I do count the clock that tells the time, and see the brave day sunk in hideous night”, he said, “…nothing ‘gainst time’s scythe can make defence”.

This is a bit of a moan from a guy who only had to find ten syllables for each line he wrote. The rest of us have it a little harder. Andrew Marvel always felt himself to be a bit up against it: “At my back I always hear time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near”, he complained. It is possible he lived a bit too near the road; traffic distraction can derail the best of us.

Writers today have the benefit of the little word count gizmo in the bottom left corner of their screens. Every word you write, every move you make, it’s watching you. So I have a great tip on how to use it to write a novel in little over one week and thus free up lots of time to do all those other fun non-novel writing things we’re all itching to do instead of squandering hours at the keyboard.

First of all calculate how fast you type. Let’s be generous and allow for an average of 20 words per minute. Now set your target length, say 80,000 words. Now just divide one into the other and time will never get the best of you again. 80,000 words at 20 per minute means I have to plan on 4000 minutes which is a meagre 66 hours. If I start at 8 and stop at 5 with just an hour for lunch, I can bang out a novel in 8.25 days.

Here’s where writing gets really easy. If you take out 21 days a year (including Christmas and other mandatory frivolities) you can write 41.7 novels a year (rounded up). Call it 41 (round it down). I am working on improving my average. I have so far spent 3 years on the same novel. Time to recalibrate my creativity.


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