How Much Can You Write? 

I have always wondered why writers can’t produce more words. Back to that evil “Why?” question I talked about a few posts back.

In fact, that question about why we can’t write more is the torture of all writers I know. And I am clearly no exception. I always think I should be doing more.


Satisfaction with my writing never comes in making the number of words I wanted to write in a certain time. I always fall short.

So for fun I thought I might ask what is more? What is the ceiling? What has been done in the past and what can be done now?

You know, questions designed to torture us all.

So what is the top?

The answer to that is going to depend on how you look at the question. If you are looking at entire careers, then the numbers are upwards of 800 or more books published. A couple authors have over a thousand, one over four thousand. To get inside the top ten, you need to be over 600 books published, basically.

If you are looking at a shorter time frame such as one year, then the numbers change. Dame Barbara Cartland supposedly holds the world record for the most novels written in one year. That would be 23.

She had over 700 published and left another 160 unpublished novels on her death at 99.

So lets say you have a year free from most life issues, you have cleared out all the myths that are stopping you, and you are ready to go.

What would be possible?

Cartland novels, as an example, were around 60,000 words, so that’s about 1,400,000 words in a year. (23 x 60,000 words)

I’ve had numbers of years bigger than that, but that included all my writing, including these blogs and e-mail. Not just novels or short stories. Closest I ever got to that number on just fiction was 1,200,000 words.

So clearly that’s possible for anyone if I can do it with my short attention span issues.

So to the math…

Say you write 1,000 words of finished fiction in an hour. Taking breaks every hour, and a nap and lunch, you average in eight hours time about 6 hours or about 6,000 words a day. You have a family and a life, so you don’t work weekends and you take two weeks off a year on vacations.

You know, standard easy corporate job without the commute.

So you write 30,000 words per week times 50 weeks equals 1,500,000 words. If that was all 60,000 word novels, you would write 25 novels and beat Cartland’s record.

Let me repeat that…

Working an eight hour day in which you manage to write for six hours and get 6,000 words a day done. You work five days a week. And you take not only the weekends off, but two weeks for vacation.

And that would get you one-point-five million finished words.

And that is at 1,000 words an hour for six hours. Many of you write far more than that per hour.

(If you had an assistant or a spouse doing the production and promotion, you could be making some pretty nice money in a year or two at that pace in this new world.)


Let me put that into perspective for what I published last year in production of books.

I published 27 major books last year. I published 14 novels last year, 2 nonfiction writing books, and 11 issues of Smith’s Monthly. I do not count that I was also the co-executive editor last year on five Fiction River volumes. (Asimov would have counted those. I might going forward since my name is on the cover.)

I will be doing more than that number of major books in 2017 by a ways. Today alone I put together six short story collections. And my writing speed is picking up.

So back to the question…

In this modern world, with all the ease we have of production, what is possible if we actually get out of our own way, clear all the myths, and just enjoy telling stories???

I honestly don’t know.


—How much actual time can you clear?

My example is 40 hours per week. If you are a full-time fiction writer and you are not spending at least 40 hours at it, you might want to check in with yourself.

—Have you cleared the myths? 

And I don’t just mean the myth of rewriting, but the problems with success. If you grew up lower-income, you are going to have a tough time with success and stop yourself in so many ways. If you don’t understand what I mean by myths, you haven’t cleared them yet.

—Have you cleared the business?

This is the killer for many in this modern world. Just one problem area of business is the balance early on with making enough money to get help. And when to hire help and when to do it yourself. We all do it ourselves early on. I did over 200 books in production for WMG Publishing before we converted it to a corporation and hired Allyson to run it. It now has nine employees and over 600 titles. So I know all about this problem as well.

—Are you still learning? 

This is the deadly one for long-term success. If you don’t make the time to keep learning while you are writing, keep pushing yourself, you will soon burn out. Think of learning as fueling the car. Without learning, eventually it sputters and stops and you won’t even know why.

—Have you cleared the family?

What I mean by this is get the family, your spouse or partner on your side completely. If not, you are doomed. If you don’t respect what you are doing and teach them to respect it in the same way as you going to a corporate job, you don’t stand a chance for long.

So what is possible? How much is possible?

All this questioning for me started while I was doing that book in five days while traveling. I started asking myself why that was even special. And the only answer I could come up with was that we modern writers are lazy and spoiled.

And buried in myths. And I was spouting my share as well to myself and limiting myself by thinking my age limited me.

I wrote a novel in five days in a hotel room. And it was easy and fun. Now if that doesn’t get a person questioning, nothing will.

So now I am questioning my own beliefs around the production of writing fiction. I am wondering how much more I can do. And I am trying to pinpoint what has been slowing me down and stopping me in places.

I honestly don’t know how much is possible with modern computers and writing tools. I know for a fact that I’m not doing it, not even close.

But I just might as I clear more stuff out.

This is going to be fun.