Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Fitbit 666 (I mean, LITBIT 666) Way Of Writing

Here’s a PSA for writers! I’ve solved the writing discipline question!

(LITBIT term coined by my wife. I told her about my 666 Fitbit idea, 
and she said, "You mean a LITBIT!)) 

Most professional writers have some kind of way they measure their production. A certain amount - words or pages - written per day or per year or whatever time frame fits for them. For me, I’ve always had trouble with a daily production level because for much of the year, I’m on the road, setting up or taking down book exhibits, living in motel rooms. As a result, I’m often behind where I should be as my annual deadline approaches for my next novel, and I end up scrambling to catch up. I’ve often thought that I’d like a more disciplined approach that still accommodates the many days when my schedule makes it hard to write.

So I’ve invented an imaginary device called the LITBIT 666. To make it work, I have to write 666 words of fiction per day at the minimum.

Imagine this is a LITBIT that chimes every time you accumulate 666 words.
Like its namesake, the Fitbit, the LITBIT demonstrates that slow-but-steady aggregation of little things (steps or words) adds up big time.

Why this strange number? Because 666 is an easy number to remember, and it is small enough to be easily doable, which is important, because a figure too large is intimidating and makes it easy to take a pass on the whole concept. This is, I think, the most important part of the program: A daily goal that is small enough that you can probably produce it by the time you finish your second cup of coffee. When it is easy to make the LITBIT sing, it helps motivate you to put in the steps.

And a mere 666 words, or roughly two pages give or take a line or three, results in an amazing total of 243,000 words a year. This allows a writer to cut a respectable 20% during editing and still write two novels a year. (Remember, cutting 20% or more is critical to achieving quality writing, because you always cut your worst writing and save your best.)

If I follow this new 666 LITBIT rule every day, I will double my book production. A worthy goal by any measure. Life is short. I’ve got more novels I want to write than I have time to do it at my current, slow writing speed. Plus, two books a year would double my income over one book a year. Maybe more what with the increased visibility more books gives a writer. And now that I’ve seen that books can produce good income, the financial motivation alone is significant.

Even more important, many people send me emails saying that I should write faster and do more books. This is an amazingly fortunate situation to be in, to have fans who want more books. My readers are my raison d'être, and I put them up on an imaginary pedestal before which I bow and give thanks every morning.

I've been doing this now for over a month and have only missed a few days. I don't find it hard at all, and I can usually make that LITBIT baby chime soon after I get up, even if my morning brain fog hasn't cleared away. After all, 666 words is relatively easy to do. Computers have a “word count” feature that you can check to see how much you’ve written. If you want to write, I recommend you do this first thing, before you check your email or scan the Google News page.

One constraint that I’ve given myself is that this only applies to my novels. Words written for my blog or book reviews or emails or letters begging to postpone jury duty don’t count.

Okay, I don't really write with a fountain pen, but it sure would be an elegant way to put down elegant words!

The good part is that this is like a resort hotel rewards program. If I write more than 666 words, the extra words work toward a vacation day. For every 666 words I get ahead, I can take a day off without remorse. And there are no black-out days!

The bad news is that if I don’t maintain my quota, I may throw away the LITBIT 666 and go back to feeling like a serious slacker who can only write one novel a year. (Don't worry about me being wasteful. Imaginary devices take up very little room in the landfill.)

Like most American workers, I might not use all of my accumulated vacation days, but it’s nice to know they’re there. (I have many saved up already.)

Having unused writing-vacation days will be a great tension reliever when I’m not being very productive, like when I’m on the road doing shows and can’t find time to write. Or when I’m out skiing and drinking a beer in the sun and not wanting to do anything but go home and barbecue. I can think, no sweat, I’ll just unlock the writing safe and pull out a vacation day.

I should say that this rule applies 365 days a year. Most kinds of self-employment don’t generally allow for a five-day week. As with most self-employed people, taking weekends off is a strange concept for writers. The reason is the same as why writers never retire. We work ’til our brains give way because we have the greatest job in the world. Making up stuff for a living. And writing isn’t really work. So “not really working” seven days a week is no big deal.

You may ask, if I continue with this schedule, does that guarantee that I’ll publish two books a year? Sorry to say this, but no guarantees apply. The reason is that even if I succeed with more writing, that doesn’t mean that the resulting books will be good enough to show the world. There’s a lot more to a quality book than simply writing the appropriate number of words. The characters have to be intriguing, the plot has to grab, the overall concept has to be really good.

Ah, you say, so that’s the excuse if I don’t come out with more books. Yes, that will be my excuse because it’s true. However, I’m very much hoping that I will be able to come out with more books!

Even if I'm unable to do two books a year, three every two years would be a respectable 50% increase.

Because I have multiple talks and appearances coming up, I’m already worried that someone is going to ask how my 666 LITBIT Rule is coming along. So I better go get writing…

P.S. This post is 1150 words, well more than my 666 LITBIT requirement. But it ain’t fiction, so I can’t count it!

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