Weekly Digest, Episode 1

Well, look at that. Here’s the first weekly post. I’m one for one, right out of the gate. 🙂

Let’s talk about the last several months to get up to speed here. Here are my word counts, totaled by month, since I started Chris Fox’s “sprint” methodology (August is low because it’s not a full month; only 20 days):

  • August: 31,275
  • September: 46,523
  • October: 42,226
  • November: 42,597

December is sitting at nearly 34,000 words (I’ll probably hit 39-40k by end of month).

Let’s talk about this past week’s counts (12/20 – 12/26):

  • Sunday: 1,203 words, 2 sprints
  • Monday: 1,418 words, 2 sprints
  • Tuesday: 1,015 words, 2 sprints
  • Wednesday: 1,556 words, 2 sprints
  • Thursday: 1,485 words, 2 sprints
  • Friday: 751 words, 1 sprint
  • Saturday: 930 words, 2 sprints

Total: 8,358

Friday was Christmas, but I wrote. How did I do it? I only did one sprint instead of two (it was Christmas, after all), but 30 minutes is easy to fit in. My wife took a nap and the kids were busy playing with their new crap. I sat down for 30 minutes and worked, simple as that. Then I took the rest of the day off.

If you didn’t read my other posts about sprinting, here are the Cliff’s Notes: a sprint for me is thirty minutes of uninterrupted writing time. I close the office doors, put on some music, figure out my next scene, set a timer and start writing. (In a later post I’ll go into more detail on what a typical day looks like for me, but for now this gets the point across.)

You can see some days I struggled with the words. Some days are harder than others. Just a fact of life. It doesn’t excuse me from putting in the time and hitting the quota.

See, my quotas are sprint counts, not word counts. That’s critical to remember.

I set a quota of two sprints per day. Rarely do I ever miss. I gave myself a break on Christmas, for example, but I still wrote. I strive to write every day. I’m currently at 41 consecutive days without a miss, my longest streak  yet.

I used to set a quota of 1,000 words per day. Once I hit it, I’d quit it. That produced fewer words in the end. By setting quotas around sprints (duration) I don’t artificially limit myself to a word count.

I break my sprints into 30 minute intervals. That’s about the longest I prefer to sit and peck away at a scene or chapter. Yours could be longer or shorter. I get up in between, usually to take a shower and think about my next scene, then I sit back down and get sprint #2 finished. After that, I’m done for the day.

Why only two sprints per day, you ask? With my schedule that’s good for me. It keeps me productive while not burning me out. I tend to be a workaholic, so if I don’t put a cap on things I’ll burn too hot and too fast. Two sprints nets me an average of 1,500 words per day. That consistency is key, but that’s a topic for another post.

How did you do last week? If you wrote more than 8,000 words then congrats, you’re better than I am. Or maybe you didn’t. Maybe you wrote a thousand or so. Less? Maybe you didn’t write at all.

But…but…the holidays…family…work…responsibilities…porn…[insert excuse here].

That’s okay, let it go. The past is gone, so focus on the future. Remember, your future starts tomorrow; not next year, not next month. Tomorrow. Hell, today if you like.

Regardless of when you start it, your future should not include excuses. We’ll talk about that later too.

I’ll be back next week with more rambling, word counts and random crap. Until then, if you read, keep reading. If you write, keep writing and reading.

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More In 2016

I’ll probably spend more time here in 2016. I’ll shoot for weekly posts, give or take, to give you some insight into what I’m doing and how it’s working. If you’re a reader, maybe you’ll get some insight into how I write the books. Maybe that’ll interest you, maybe not.

If you’re a writer, then maybe my lessons learned can also help you. I’m not a bestseller and I’m not an old pro, but I’m a full-time career person with a family who writes at a pace of six novels a year. So if you’ve been making excuses about why you “don’t have time” to write or writing feels more like work than fun or you just can’t squeeze out more than a book every other year then maybe my experiences can inspire you.

Or maybe just piss you off enough to actually write. That still counts as inspiration, right?

I’ve written eight novels. One of them will never see the light of day (you guessed it, my first novel). Three of them are finished, but waiting to go out to my editor. The rest are ready for you to buy. I also have some novellas and short stories out there. Buy those too.

I got back into writing five years ago and made out like a bandit during the “Kindle Gold Rush”. I’ve survived the sales decline after those glory days and I’m still hanging on after the “KU Apocalypse”. I’ve seen other writers come and go in the past five years, but I’m still here. I’m tenacious, if nothing else.

2016 will be all about production for me. No focus on marketing my books or frenetic sales checking. No worrying about sales rank and all that business. With my mind laser-focused on writing new words, we’ll explore that in depth.

I’ll talk about consistency and I’ll share word counts. I’ll talk about rewriting traps and bold choices, about making self-doubt my bitch and staying focused on things that matter (and ignoring things that don’t).

I’ll piss on uppity attitudes about “real literature” and being a “hack” and “writing fast”. I’ll talk about why consistent is better than fast. I’ll talk about the hard truths I’ve learned from this business and the craft of writing itself. And more. All kinds of stuff to talk about.

If that sounds like your kinda thing, then tag along. 2016 is going to be a fun year.

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:

sprint_screen_shot_Aug

sprint_screenshot_Sep

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.