Productivity 2.0

Recently I raved about Chris Fox’s brilliant “sprint” method of writing, an approach that has allowed me to quadruple my output of new fiction words. I thought it would be a good idea to post those word counts here so that others could see just how doable it is.

So here are screenshots of my spreadsheet, broken down by the partial month of August and up through the most recent day of September:



After a month of this approach I can say that I’m just as motivated as I was when I started. In fact, I might even be more excited about it now, especially after I’ve seen what I can accomplish.

I’m also finding that I’m producing better first drafts because of writing faster. I can keep more of the story in my head due to the fact that I’m so consistently (and recently) involved with it. I can immerse myself in the world each and every day, until the story is finished. This, by the way, also makes the writing fun, the whole reason for doing this in the first place.

Where I’m finding that I’m slowing down is in the revisions. Because I keep feeding the “word machine” fresh outlines each morning, I’m producing more content than I can revise. I don’t know that I’ve cracked that particular nut quite yet, but I’m leaning toward Dean Wesley Smith’s approach of little to no revision. Yeah, I know. Writing is rewriting and all that jazz…or maybe it’s not. Think on that one for a while.

I think I’m going to try the first draft/one revision approach and be done with it. After that it’ll go off to my editor. Maybe it won’t be “perfect” (whatever that is), but perfect is boring. And who the hell wants to read a boring book?

I’ll update later and let you know how this approach continues to work out. Until next time stay well and buy my crap.

Brian J. Jarrett 2.0

2015 has been a year of change for me. I’ve altogether given up drinking sugary soda, began exercising regularly, cut back my food consumption and I’ve forced myself to get more sleep. I’ve dropped more than twenty pounds, I don’t catch a cold every month and I can sit down without having to unbutton my pants to allow room for my gut.

But with all these improvements in my life, I still struggled with my writing. I procrastinated too much. I produced very little. Most days, I’d been lucky to hit 500 words. And I surely didn’t write every day. Up until last month, I was averaging around 350 words per day.

You don’t get too many novels written at that pace.

Up until the beginning of August, I was happy with 500 in a day. 1,000 words and I felt like I was pretty well on track. 1,200 words? Well, shit. I was on fire. Writing every single day, without a miss? Unheard of and impossible.

Now, if I were to write 500 words every single day, I’d be working at a snail’s pace.

How the hell did this change so drastically? Well, I’m glad you asked. A writer friend of mine, Keith C. Blackmore, told me about this book he’d read recently called 5,000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox. He said it helped him write more words and have more fun doing it. I figured, what the hell? I’ll check it out. So I bought it and read it while on vacation in Florida last month.

With all the positive changes I’ve made in my habits this year, I’d been planning on working to improve my productivity anyway, so the timing was perfect. I cracked open the book and a light bulb went off for me. I decided I’d start applying the techniques to my own writing when I got back home and back into my regular routine.

On the first day I tried it, I wrote 1,800 new words in a single hour.

Since then I’ve written every single day and I’m bursting up to 2,200 words an hour.

Sound too good to be true? Well, it isn’t. And it’s not even that difficult. It required some changes to my routine and adopting a writing approach that centers around the concept of “sprints”. A sprint (in Chris’s terms) is a set period of time in which you write as hard and fast as you can. You don’t even stop to fix spelling errors. It’s critical to perform these sprints at a time of day when you will not be interrupted and to have your novel’s scenes plotted out (which is the way I already do it).

I get up at 4:45 a.m. Monday through Friday and do two, thirty-minute sprints. I get anywhere between 1,500 to 2,200 words out of this hour. On weekends I write at least two sprints, usually more. All while working a full-time career and actually spending time with my wife and kids. Ta-dow.

If you are a writer and you want to improve your speed and productivity, BUY CHRIS’S BOOK. Seriously. He goes into all the necessary detail while not boring you with bullshit. It’s changed my life and has unlocked a well of creativity and productivity that I didn’t think was possible.

Having said that, you know where I’m going. I’m producing like a maniac. So far since adopting this method a month ago, I’ve written 48,000 new words. I finished the first draft of my Badlands novel Vengeance In the Badlands and I’m almost finished with a 40,000 word crime novella that I’ll be releasing before the end of this year. That’ll be finished by next week, after which I’ll knock out the last book in my Badlands trilogy, Out of the Badlands.

The Badlands books are messy in first draft because of all the wheel spinning I did earlier in the year. I also wrote most of the manuscripts without an outline, which was a royal pain in the ass. I tried, man, I tried, but goddamn it’s tedious, slow and NOT FUN AT ALL. And if I’m not having fun, well what the hell is the point?

So what does this mean to you as a reader? Well, brother, it means I got a lot more shit coming your way. It’s looking like I might have three books out this year. Wrap your head around that one: three book in a single year! Unprecedented for me. It also means that since I’m not stuck in the mud anymore I’ll be able to write a bunch of other books that I’ve been planning and just haven’t gotten too. And the books are better because I’m getting through them so fast and keeping all the scenes and plot points top of mind. When you spend a year writing a book, you forget half the shit you wrote at the beginning of the year and end up rewriting the hell out of it later on. That’s slow, slow, slow progress, my friend.

On a side note, I’ve also let go of a lot of the fear and self-doubt that was holding me back. I just don’t give a shit anymore and it’s wonderful. I write, I create and I have a lot of fun doing it. I think this epiphany for me is worth its own post. You’re also going to see a bit more of myself coming through on this blog, four-letter words and all. So get out now if that sort of thing bothers you. You really shouldn’t be reading my books anyway if that’s the case. They’ll just end up pissing you off.

So stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted on the progress. Better yet, sign up for my mailing list and be the first to know when my new shit hits the virtual shelves. Plus I’ll give you a free book just for signing up.

Until next time, take it easy. And while you’re at it, buy my shit.


Alive and Writing

With 2015 nearly half over, it seems an update is well overdue. The lack of updates this year isn’t so much about nothing happening, but more about there not really being any real milestones reached (or none that I thought to be worthy of a post).  I think I’m far enough along on things to talk about them now, so here we go…

Badlands Book Three

The good news is that the manuscript for third book in my Badlands trilogy–Out of the Badlands–is halfway to completion. I hit 50k words this week and I expect the manuscript to clock in around 100k words. So far I’m on track to deliver the book by end of year. I’m really, really working hard to make that happen because I don’t want to delay its release again (it’s already going to be published a year later than I originally planned).

Another Badlands Novel

Around the beginning of last year I nearly finished the manuscript for another Badlands novel called Vengeance In the Badlands. The novel follows one of the main characters after the events that took place in book #2, but the story goes on its own tangent and thusly falls outside the trilogy. The good news is that because its already so far along I think I’ll be able to release it later this year, directly on the heels of book #3. Keep your eyes peeled for that or make it easy on yourself and sign up for my newsletter so that I can let you know about all my new releases (you’ll also receive a free ebook for signing up).

Other Works

I have a couple of other projects in the pipeline. These won’t be released until next year, but I’ve done some work on them already. I’m planning a novella crime series about a damaged guy who hunts down serial killers and I’ll be concurrently working on a new novel. I have a few ideas in the works for said novel, but it’s too early to say which one will grab my attention. It’ll be a surprise for both of us, I suppose. :)

Sales & Marketing

Sales continue to be mediocre, even on Amazon. I’ve seen sales really climb on Kobo and Barnes & Noble is holding a steady third place. After my experience in Select at the end of last year, I won’t be heading down that path again anytime soon. Right now I only have two short stories in Select; for me it just doesn’t work for my novels.

I did, however, temporarily reduce the price of my first Badlands book to $.99 for a few months on all platforms. It really helped to move some additional copies, anywhere between two to three times more. But like any sale, the price has to go back up again or it’s not really a sale. Still, book one is a dollar cheaper than the rest of the books to make it just a little easier to pull the trigger and give the series a try. When book #3 and the standalone novel are released, I’ll probably run another sale on book #1, dropping it to $.99 again. I might even try to get a Bookbub ad to see if I can move some copies.

That’s about all for now. Remember, if you enjoy my work the best thing you can do to help is tell your friends. And if you really want to be super helpful, leave a review. It really does make a difference.

2014 Wrap Up

Believe it or not, 2014 is gone. Today is the last day of the year, so it seemed fitting to wrap up the year for me with what I’ve learned and what I have planned for 2015.

KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited

I didn’t have much luck with Kindle Unlimited. I opted all my titles in in October and saw total borrows across all seven titles reach around 30 each month. My sales went down and my revenue went way down (a 30-40% drop).

I think the mistake I made was going all in with my entire catalog. The borrows and the revenue simply weren’t there and with 40% of my sales coming from outside Amazon, I lost my ass.

I don’t necessarily think the program is inherently  flawed, outside of requiring exclusivity. I think it’s great for short works and for some of the titles in my catalog. I still think it’s valuable to use Select when first launching a new title, depending on the reader base.

I just released a new $.99 short story, exclusive to Amazon and KDP Select. I’ve opted all my other titles out of Select. For 2015 I’ll utilize Select selectively (no pun intended) if at all. With Amazon no longer performing for me as it once did, I just can’t go all in and ignore the other sales channels.


I wrote 40k words on a novella this year and finished a 72k word novel. I also wrote a 7k word short story. I published the novel and the short story, but the novella probably won’t see the light of day until late 2015.

I ran into a little bit of writer’s block near the end of the year, after I’d made a big proclamation to produce a shit-ton of words. Reading Dean Wesley Smith’s blog really helped get me out of that rut and made me question a lot of my assumptions. I think I’ve been focusing so much on the finished product that I lost sight of the most important part of writing: having fun. Writing the actual words became a means to an end, not an enjoyable activity.

I dug myself out of my rut by writing a short story near the end of the year. I didn’t worry about anything but the writing. It was a blast. I did maybe two or three revisions on it; much, much fewer than I normally do. It’s the most fun I’ve had writing in the past couple of years and it’s a lesson I’ll be taking into 2015. I’m already at work on Badlands #3 with 5k words in the bank. It’s really been a pleasant and fun experience just taking it a scene at a time.

The Market

My sales continue to decline as the market floods with new work from indies and traditional publishers release more of their backlist in the $4.99 and under range. Traditional publishers are also running more sales on their digital titles, further competing with indie-level pricing. Kindle Unlimited is sucking paid sales away from indies at an increasing rate, making selling books even more difficult. With borrow payouts settling around $1.30, many indies (including myself) are seeing their revenue decline.

So what does this mean for me? Well, business as usual. I’m a full-time programmer, so writing is my second job. If I sell fewer books, I can still pay my mortgage. I’ll survive. And I’m certainly not going to quit, as have some others. I’ve wanted to publish to an audience for a long damn time, so I’m not going to squander that opportunity.

I’m not planning to focus much on advertising in the near future. I just finished up year one in a five-year plan that includes completing my best-selling series and fleshing out my horror and sci-fi thriller offerings. Over the next four years I can realistically expect to finish at least five novels, so that’ll provide me with a reasonable backlist. Then I can shift more of my focus to advertising and growing the business. Until then I’ll be focusing primarily on the writing and taking the sales as they come.


I read a handful of books this year, but not as many as I’d like. In 2015 I plan to read a lot more. I bought a ton of them recently (I admit, I horde books), so I have a huge to-be-read pile waiting for me.

This Blog

I don’t see much changing with the frequency of updates to this blog or with the content provided. I write what I feel is relevant here, when I think it needs to be written.

New Work

My main focus for 2015 is going to be finishing up my Badlands series. Out of the Badlands (Book #3) is first on the list. I might be able to release my novella in the same series next year, but I don’t want to make any promises. If I can get to more work next year then I will, but it’s not on the project plan.

So there you have it, my thoughts on 2014 and my plans for next year. All in all it’s been a sobering but educational year for me. Sure, the market is tougher than ever now, but the opportunity to reach readers without the need to genuflect at the feet of the Almighty Gatekeepers remains alive and well. This is still the best time ever to be a writer and I’m super excited about the opportunities the future holds.

Take it easy and I’ll see you next year!

KDP Select Six-Week Update

I’ve been back in KDP Select for about six weeks now. In other words, around half of my required 90 day term. I mentioned before that I wanted to test the program again after being out of it for nearly two years. Here’s what I’ve found:

Quantity-wise, my sales are down. Not by much (if you include borrows), but they’re still down compared to the last few months.

Revenue-wise, my sales are down. Quite a bit, actually. I’m earning a lot less money with so many of my sales coming in as KU/KOLL borrows. At $1.54 paid out per borrow, I’m earning around $1.00 to $1.25 less per novel than I was earning per sale. That said, I dropped prices across the board last month too, so some of my drop in revenue is due to the price drop. Still, I’m not selling or lending enough to make up for the difference and that also means something.

I kinda got screwed on two of my scheduled promotions. I’d planned on putting my horror novel on a Kindle Countdown sale. I scheduled the promotion, but then dropped the price on the book. That caused the promotion to cancel, which is fine, but now I can’t run another promotion. So apparently if you schedule a promotion but do something that causes that promotion to cancel then that’s all she wrote for that period. No reschedules, no do-overs. So I lost any opportunity I had to promote that title and another title. Sucky.

I had around 30 borrows last month. Thing is, I’m finding that I’m selling more than that at other outlets (B&N, Kobo & Apple). I’m also earning more there because they’re sales. So I’m earning less money and not really finding any more readers by being exclusive to Amazon. One could argue that I’m giving up even more by attracting new “buffet” readers at Amazon (KU subscribers) while giving up a la carte readers (pay-per-title). A la carte readers spend more money.

Given all this, I’ve opted out of Select and I’m just waiting for the second half of my KDP Select period to run out. I have a couple of promotions scheduled still, so we’ll see how those go. Without any outside advertising I doubt they’ll make much of a blip (one of my tests).

Was it a mistake? I don’t know about that. It was an experiment. The results have definitely been underwhelming. I’m looking forward to getting back into the other stores. I just hope I haven’t lost whatever momentum I built up outside Amazon.

My conclusion is that if your B&N, Apple and Kobo sales (combined or not) are 30-40% of your total sales, then going exclusive to KDP Select is likely to hurt your sales. But if you’re selling 90% or more at Amazon, it might not be a bad idea. Hopefully they’ll get the borrow rate up a bit higher than $1.54. If Amazon would remove the exclusivity requirement then it would be a no-brainer to join up. But giving up those outside sales channels might cost you more than it’s worth (that’s been the case for me). As always, your mileage may vary.

Three Deaths

There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.

– David Eagleman

This quote has always both depressed and inspired me. It also adds further credence to the notion that maybe the only thing resembling immortality is the work we leave behind.

Quick Update on KDP Select

I opted in my Badlands books to Select on September 25th. I opted in the rest of my books less than a week before that. I wanted to answer some questions as to how effective Select might be for me again (I spent all of 2012 in it before opting out at the end of that year.)

Here’s the first update.

I ran a free promo on my short story, giving away around 100 copies. Day one it moved around 85 units before dropping off a cliff the second day (it probably got picked up on one of those free book sites the first day). Combined, the remaining four days moved around 15 units.

The results are negligible. No noticeable increase in sales of my other titles and not a single copy of the free short story sold.

Free is still something that’s never really worked for me. Others swear by it. Others do not. I’m not sure I’ll ever run a free promo again. The only reason I did it this time was because it was my $.99 short story. I’m giving up little by making it free.

One of the questions I asked was whether or not simply being opted in to Select sells more books because of increased visibility. So far after two weeks in I’m seeing nothing to indicate this is true. Sales are dismal. In fact, without my Kobo, B&N and Apple sales, I’m not earning shit.

I still have another two and a half months for things to turn around. During that time I’m going to be running Kindle Countdown deals on all my titles. We’ll see if those have any effect on sales.

And in case you’re wondering, I’m not running any Bookbub ads or anything like that. The experiment is to prove whether or not Select alone will help me move more books, using only Amazon promo tools.

Time will tell, but right now my decision to opt in seems like a bad idea. I only hope that I don’t lose the velocity I was gaining on Kobo. That would be a real shame. It was a risk I was willing to take, but it would still be a shame.

Badlands Series Update

So now that “The Crossover Gene” has been uploaded to Amazon, I’m ready to get back to work on my Badlands series. As you may or may not know, I wrote 42k words for book #3 earlier this year before focusing my attention on “The Crossover Gene”.

I should have cranked out another thousand words on that book yesterday, but I didn’t. Instead I ended up spending all my time thinking. I realized something’s not right with it. Something just wasn’t working. This is pretty common with all my books. I work and massage them, mull them over and then it comes to me. Eventually the book just “feels” right and I know it’s done. Book #3 just didn’t do that for me.

As I thought about it late last night, it started to make sense. Book #3 isn’t book #3. It should be a novella set in the Badlands universe, but not a third novel. Here’s why:

Book #1 follows Ed and his two sons across the country. Book #2 continues that journey.

Book #3 needs to conclude it. Beginning, middle, end. The three act story.

So today I made the decision to put “Vengeance In the Badlands” on hold (currently book #3). In the meantime, I’ll finish “Out of the Badlands”, what will become book #3. The series will become a trilogy, which is probably more appropriate.

“Out of the Badlands” take me most of next year to complete. I really hate this because readers had to wait two years for book #2. Now they’re going to have to do it again. But the alternative is to release something half-baked, something my heart’s not into.

Something that doesn’t feel right.

I’ve been wanting to write some stories in the Badlands universe. Smaller stuff, short stories and novellas. “Vengeance” needs to be the first of those books. It could stand to lose 10k words before it’s finished, but it’s perfect as a companion book in the series. I won’t lose most of the work I’ve already put into it.

I’m also considering another novella starring Pastor Dan, a prequel to the series and maybe, just maybe, a shorter book starring Ryder. Point is, Dave’s story in “Vengeance” just doesn’t fit right in the timeline as a novel. It needs to be its own stand-alone companion story.

I have a lot of great ideas for “Out of the Badlands” (what will become book #3) and I’m going to do my best to make it as epic as possible. I want this to be a fitting end to a series that literally changed my life.

In the meantime, “The Crossover Gene” is available for preorder now at a reduced price. It goes live on October 10th at full price. Consider giving that one a chance…I think you might like it. I’m also going to try to put out a shorter work before book #3 is released, but we’ll see how that goes.

So, if you’re a reader I apologize for the wait. Just think though, you’ll be getting a better book for the experience. And to those writers out there, remember that an indie can pivot quickly and rethink everything if it’s the right thing to do. In the end both the reader and the writer benefit from it.

End of Year Blitzkrieg

So here we are at the end of September, with three months left to go in 2014 (as hard as that is for me to believe). NaNoWriMo is coming up again in November too.

I’ve been messing around with KDP Select and pricing and whatnot for some time now. That stuff doesn’t produce new words. I’ve also been revising, editing and proofreading The Crossover Gene, which has sucked a lot of my time away from writing new words.

I need to finish Badlands #3 and I also want to write a novel for NaNoWriMo. I was going to do it last year, but since I ran behind on Badlands #2 it got pushed. This year I’m on schedule, so I’d really like to knock out that novel this time around. I also have some short stories I want to finish.

So with the decision to do a 90-day stint in KDP Select already behind me and with The Crossover Gene being uploaded to Amazon tomorrow, I figured I’d just go nose to the grindstone and write the hell out of the rest of the year. Finish Badlands #3 and the new novel and those short stories. No editing or proofing, just new words.

I’ll likely go silent here on the blog for a bit, but I might try to check in once a month or so. I’ll definitely check in again by end of year and tell how things went, what worked and what didn’t, etc. I’ll also update with info on my current KDPS stint.

So until then, take it easy.

More on KDP Select

I’ve been mulling over KDP Select pretty hard the last couple of months. As I mentioned in the last post, I moved all my non-Badlands titles into Select to test it out.

Today I opted in my Badlands books.

Why, after all I said about Kobo sales increasing and non-Amazon markets making up 35% of my sales? Well, for starters I’m curious about a few things.

How might Kindle Unlimited perform for me? Might it hook new readers who want to try me risk free? KOLL borrows used to be pretty good for me, so maybe there’s still potential there.

Also, how might free work for me now in 2014? I had mixed results in 2012 when I did free runs, but I definitely sold more books overall.

Kindle Countdown deals? Do they work?

And the tough question that’s hard to prove…does simply being in Select give my book more visibility? Will I see sales increase across the board? Will I show up in more also-boughts?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. The only way to find out is to opt in and see what happens.

Select requires 90 days of exclusivity. That puts me eligible to opt out around the end of December. Badlands #3 won’t be out until January or February, so if Select turns out to be a crappy decision I have time to opt out before book #3 comes out. Readers who bought into the series on other devices won’t be affected.

In other words, now’s the window I needed to get my questions answered. If I wait, I’ll have to make some tough decisions around my best-selling series.

But what if Select works wonders for me? Will I keep all my books opted in? I don’t know. Will that piss off readers on other platforms? Possibly. But I’ll say this…if you started my Badlands series outside Amazon and want to finish it on your preferred reader and can’t, contact me. We’ll work something out. I wouldn’t be allowed to sell you the books, but that doesn’t rule out review copies.

I have a few promotions scheduled, staggered over the next 90 days. Two free givaways and two Countdown Deals. Not sure what I’ll do with the Badlands books yet. I’m considering a free giveaway on book #1 and a Coundown Deal on book #2, right before the pre-order page for book #3 goes live (which would be at 40% regular price). That could really build momentum around the series.

For now I’m seeing no borrows for any books after being in there for less than a week. Sales are slightly up, but not so much that I can correlate it with opting in to Select. Could just be normal fluctuations. I’m currently running a free giveaway right now on one of my short stories. That did pretty well on the first day, but fell off a cliff by day two. I think I’ve given away maybe 85 copies so far.

While it might seem that that I’m all over the place, there really is a method to the madness. Having the guts to change course is a strength often downplayed by political talking heads as ‘waffling’. I don’t listen to those assholes. It doesn’t take a genius to see that if you keep doing the same thing you’re going to keep getting the same thing. I’d rather be doing something than sitting back and just letting things happen to me.

We’ll see how it goes. I’m cautiously optimistic.