Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Tips and Tricks

by | January 27, 2010 | 13 comments

of a moderately prolific writer
By Ann Lethbridge

I hear a lot of authors say they are slow writers. I don’t see anything wrong with that at all. Some of the best writers describe themselves this way. Your process is your process. These tips and tricks are merely ideas I have honed for myself, which I am sharing with you to do with as you will.

First I want you to understand that I am a full-time writer. Last year I completed three full length novels for Harlequin, did revisions for same, and also wrote two short stories and one novella. Because I just landed an eight book contract with Harlequin, four full length and four short stories, I had to sit down and really think about my process and what I wanted to accomplish. I had three questions in mind. Did I want to write fast? And how fast? And when did I want to take vacations? I plan to have this contract completed by June 2011.

My tips and tricks.

1. Know how much you write consistently. I use an excel spreadsheet to track.

2. For a period of two weeks record your daily and weekly word counts. Find out the average per day, then use that as your daily word count.

3. Write to that word count every day, no matter how long it takes. Make writing as much part of your day as cleaning your teeth.

4. Once it feels comfortable, usually after three weeks, increase it by 200 words.

5. Give it another three weeks and increase it another 200 words and so on.

6. Don’t go beyond what is comfortable. If you have a bad day, don’t sweat, add the lost words to the next few days of writing or write on a weekend, or at sometime when you don’t usually write. EG this week my daughter wanted me to meet her for lunch, so Friday was a lost day. I don’t write on weekends but this weekend I wrote my missing words spread over Saturday and Sunday.

7. Once you know how many words you can do a day, calculate your deadline to finish the book and meet it. The calculation is length of finished book in words, divided by number of words per day, divided by number of days in week. I use five, because I usually don’t write on my weekends.

8. If you have a deadline from your publisher, use that to calculate how many words you need to write every day. In my case my publisher asked me to indicate the dates on which I would deliver the books. I work with 2,000 words per day. Don’t leave it and do it in a rush at the end. For me this ends up taking longer.

9. Sneaky trick. Take a notebook with you and write scenes in the doctor’s office or any other time you are waiting. Or find an hour you can carve out of the evening or the early morning. These extra times will up your weekly word count. Make them “extras”. If you can beat your deadline, you can increase your output, without feeling the pressure. You can even use these times to write a different book altogether (which is what I did for the short story in the Mammoth book of Regencies pictured to the left)

10. Add editing/polishing time to your schedule. Four weeks for me, because I don’t plot.

11. If you are published, set other milestones in the schedule, date synopsis and three chapters are due. Deadlines you agreed with your editor. The date you should be at the midpoint of the story is another one. You can then see if you are on track before it becomes a problem

12. Add in any time needed for editor’s revisions for a previous book or for copy edits.

13. Add in time needed to promote previous books (this might reduce the daily word count).

14. Establish a send-it-out date and send it out on that date. No quarter given, even if it is only you sending it out as a query. Then start the next book.

Good luck and happy writing.

Ann Lethbridge has two books coming out with Harlequin in 2010, Wicked Rake, Defiant Mistress, both covers pictured here. It comes out in February in the UK and in May in North America. The second book, Captured for the Captain’s Pleasure, will be in stores in June 2010. No cover as yet. There will be three Harlequin Undone’s coming out during the year also.
Writing as Michele Ann Young, she has a short story called Remember in the Mammoth Book of Regencies due out in the summer, and a novella in a Mills and Boon Anthology which will be available in the UK sometime in 2010.


  1. Anonymous

    Great tips!!


  2. Molly

    Someone on one of the links recommended 'writeordie.' It's a web site, it's free and it's easy to cut and paste what you've written. I find it helps with so called writers block. What sets it apart is that you have to set a word count goal and a timer. Stop writing, for any reason, and you get a flashing screen, crying babies—who knows what. Stop for too long—you just have to find the 'right' word—and the computer eats your words, one by one, until you start writing again. Granted this is meant for rough drafts but I learned two things. I can write a lot faster than I thought and I can really waste a lot of time looking at a blank screen.

  3. Paty Jager

    Good tips. Congrats on your releases!

  4. Kathryn Albright

    Wow Michelle! I'm impressed with your output. Thanks for all the tips. I tend to compartmentalize my life between my day job and my writing and it is so hard to switch back and forth. There are many loose ends from one that are hard to ignore when moving to the other. And then there is everything else–the marketing, the family time, and time for my faith. I have heard of setting a timer. And I think I'll check out what Molly suggested about writeordie. Sounds stressful–but it can't hurt to look into it a bit. Thanks again for your ideas. You are obviously very structured–and it has really helped you with your output. Congrats!

  5. Michele Ann Young

    Thanks ladies. Molly I have heard of this, and I think it would be great for practice. My only problem with it is is sometimes when I'm in the zone I write things I can never recreate. If some program ate them, I think I'd have a heart attack. lol

  6. Michele Ann Young

    I still check emails when I shouldn't, but for me achieving the word count is the key. Once it's done, then I can do whatever I want. so the quicker I do it the sooner I can play.
    Of course there are some days when nothing goes right.

  7. EmilyBryan

    I have a "Task Launcher" on my computer with a project manager. I set up weekly page goals there and tick them off as I reach them. I find page goals easier to manage than word count. Plue it reminds me to keep my work dialog-rich, which racks up the pages quicker than narrative!

  8. Susan Macatee

    Great advice, Ann! I've been trying to increase my writing output, although I can only write part time right now. But, having five new releases out this past year, I've learned just how much time you lose to promotion.

    It's really slowed my writing time down. But this year, I can concentrate on the writing…at least until I make my next sale.

  9. suzilove

    Thanks for the great advice from such a busy author as yourself,
    You are amazing for keeping to such a hectic schedule and for sharing oyur tips with us,

  10. William and Anna Patterson

    I like down-to-earth advice, and you gave it. There is beauty in simplicity, and I found that in what you wrote for this site. Also I think your achievements speak for themselves. Congratulations.

  11. marylou anderson

    great tips. thanks for providing them for the rest of us to try out.
    Now I don't feelso badly that I'm a "slow writer".
    marylou anderson

  12. Ann Lethbridge

    Thanks for dropping by everyone and glad you found it helpful,

  13. Muse in the Fog

    Thanks for the tips! I love seeing the writing process of other writers.



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