Business Thursday – The Math of Success

Last week I talked about my plan to release five novels next year. Three in the HOMEWORLD series, and two in a new series.

Almost immediately after, I got questions about how in the hell I’m going to pull that off.

Today, I want to apply a simple and beautiful tool to my plan.


First, let’s define what my goal means in concrete terms.

How long is a novel? INTO THE SILENCE is 90,000 words. About 300 pages.

Since I’m writing sequels to that book, I’m going to want them to be of a similar length. Given how the early writing on DARK AMONG THE STARS is going, that’s not looking to be a problem. If anything, it’s going to end up a touch longer than 90k.

So let’s take that 90k number and multiply it by the three novels I intend to write for HOMEWORLD this year:

90,000 words/novel * 3 novels/year = 270,000 words/year

Now, at first glance, that seems like a big number. And sure, if I had to write all of those words at once, it’d probably be a little overwhelming.

But fortunately for me, years are divided into months. So now I can take my big number for the year and divide it among the twelve months.

270,000 words/year / 12 months/year = 22,500 words/month

Now that’s a more manageable number. But still a chunk of writing to be getting done all at once. So let’s break it down again.

22,500 words/month / 30 days/month = 750 words/day

That’s about three pages. Depending on how wordy your paragraphs are.

Three pages each day. With five days leftover at the end of the year. So even if I don’t hit that number every. Single. Day. I have some flextime to catch up.

But that’s only for the three HOMEWORLD novels. What about the other two? The new series I plan to start?

I said I’m planning to write two novels outside of HOMEWORLD. Since I don’t have another novel to base the length on, let’s assume they’ll be 90,000 words as well. They might be shorter, they might be longer. But for now, 90,000 makes a good baseline.

So 2 novels * 90,000 words / 12 months / 30 days = 500 words per day.

Adding that to what I need for the HOMEWORLD novels gets us to a final goal of 1,250 words per day to write 5 novels in 2017.

In other words, five pages per day equals five novels per year.

But how does that equate to time and effort? What does it really look like to write five pages in a day?

Well, for the past few years, I’ve been able to write an average of 1,500 words in an hour. I’ve come to learn that this is a pretty standard pace for fiction writers, so it’s a useful number to use for calculations.

And right there, with my average hourly pace, we can see that I can hit my daily writing goal within one hour.

One hour a day. Seven days a week. For one year. With five additional days in the year for holidays and the like.

That gets me to five novels.

Now obviously, this is all first draft material and so I’ll need to be writing ahead enough to have time to revise before publication day.

But just as obviously, if I invest more than an hour per day in actual writing, then I can get ahead of my schedule and give myself more time for revision.

Regardless, an hour a day — 1,250 words, five pages — gets me to five novels in a year.

And five novels is how I’ve defined success for 2017.


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