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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Richardson

Measuring My Prolificity

I recently came across a tweet in my Twitter feed that got me thinking.

#writingcummunity what's one thing you learned while writing your first book? - To not measure your progress by others. It takes as long as it takes for the first draft. Don't rush to keep up with the production/pace of others because that is when you will hate writing, and the book won't feel right.
Twitter Thread

There are lots of good answers in that thread, and I too answered it.

My response certainly is good advice for a first-time novelist, but in some ways, I think we all need to hear it, no matter where we are in our writer journey.

My First Book

The book I consider my first completed manuscript is on my Wattpad profile, in its raw form.

For Alice, With Love was written in fits and starts, with no set writing process. It was a complete departure from the other “stuff” I was dabbling in, and the pure purpose of that book was to complete a manuscript.

I had met a writer at a local RWA gathering not long before, and she told me about how many books she put out in a year. Something ridiculous like ten or more. She said she was making enough money self-publishing that she didn’t need a 9-5 job.

Wow. If only, right? It was motivating as she talked with me, the idea a seed well planted in my brain by the time I left that lunch.

When I got home, anxiety replaced it. I had two little kids. A full time job. A home that was never clean enough, a husband who got cranky when the laundry was left for a couple of days on the couch. We were in the hurt locker with all these demands on us as parents, spouses, and full time employees... thus, never enough time.

The writer I talked to was a full-time writer with no children, and she worked very hard at her promotion to make that money. Instead of realizing our realities were different, and I should not even try to compare, I went down the rabbit hole.

How would that ever be something I could do? I barely had time to write a damned book, let along self-pub it, promote it, and manage all the website/social media/administrivia that would accompany that. I was doomed before I even started down the path to my dream. I looked around me at the plastic toys strewn in the living room, the fingerprints on the front window, and the dirty dishes from dinner.

I almost gave up.

But... This voice inside of me whispered “Do it”. I have been writing for a long time, mostly because I enjoy it, it was solely for me, and it was an outlet. So I kept writing and I put the idea of publishing on the shelf, sort of. I whittled back to the basics of “just write”.

But it was there, that nudge of “If you only spent more time, if you only wrote faster, if, if, if...” It felt terrible when I wrote because I was neglecting my home, and I had huge guilt I was neglecting myself when I didn’t. I was in no way keeping up with all the other writers who were proudly proclaiming “I’m releasing my sixth book in my fifth series...”

In the end, I got it done. That in itself was huge. Life got nutty, and I left it alone for awhile, only coming back to it when my husband, in a fit of true brilliance, told me I should “put it up on that Lightbulb website” - the same one the author had told me she used as part of her publishing strategy.

So I did. The rest is history, as they say.

Lesson Learned

After I put it up on Wattpad, I realized something profound. I had been my own worst enemy with this book. I had rushed it, I had pushed myself to finish it for all kinds of reasons, but the one that should have never entered into my head was to finish it because I needed to keep up to other writers.

I still think about that even today, as I am almost finished writing my sixth book.

Am I fast enough? It normally takes me a year to go from idea to finished manuscript. A year! Some authors put out four or more books in that time! They mutli-task, they are full-time perhaps... It still gets to me. How will I build a following and fanbase if I am so damned slow?

But then I take a breath and realize I am doing just fine. My journey is my own. My productivity is my own. If I tried to rush and write four books a year, would the writing bring me as much joy? Would my books be as polished as they are now, before a reader sees them? Would I have time for anything else that enriches my life like gardening, camping, my children especially?

That lesson was very evident last year when I wrote a book to spec for Wattpad, which is Season 2 of A Royal Deception. I had an established storyline, a full outline, and editorial support that made the writing super fast, but in less than six months, I went from idea to finished manuscript, submitted into the team.

It was the fastest I had ever written a book, and it exhausted me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, had a blast writing it, and don’t regret it, but I had to take a multi-week break from pure writing just to breathe and shake out the tightness that meeting the deadline put into my entire body.

That was validation that the pace that I write my own books at is the right pace for me. I am not as prolific as others, nor will I ever be. I will always struggle to find the time to dedicate to my craft. Will I get faster as it becomes easier to outline and create a book? Maybe. That is part of using that writing muscle I talked about in another post.

But, in the end, my pace is my pace. And... that is okay, because in letting go of that self-pressured timeline to keep up to others, I will continue to find joy in the process.

How do you handle the pressures you put on yourself when you write? Do you have the pressure to write more, and keep up with other authors? Do you like deadlines, or do they make you break out into a cold sweat? I’d love to know how you do it!

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