How To Be A Productive Writer – Guest Post By The Very Polific Barbara Tarn

00 Barbara Tarn b
Barbnara Tarn

First of all, let me thank Dan for having me. When he heard how prolific I am, he asked me for a guest post on how to be prolific… although I might not be the greatest teacher on the planet. But I’ll do my best. I can at least share how I do it.


Who am I? Well, first of all, I’m not a young writer, since I’m half a century. I’ve been writing since my teens, which doesn’t mean that everything I wrote is worth publishing. Quite the opposite. Some of those stories were totally dreadful, but I had a lot of fun writing them. You know the theory of “one million words of crap”? I wrote those and more before I came out of my writing cave, wondering why publishers weren’t knocking at my door. Duh.

Now, I come from the age of the typewriter. With the new millennium, I started going to book fairs and creative writing courses (which started only around 2001 in Italy, probably since the internet had informed us that in the US there was such a thing as “creative writing”). So I started to understand how things worked a little better. And I ended up an indie author!

I uploaded approximately 25 titles per year from 2011 to 2014

I uploaded approximately 25 titles per year from 2011 to 2014 – sometimes filling with Italian titles that were uploaded without revisions. I now have 100+ titles up in two languages (I do my own translations, so it’s cheap) and most are new stories, even though I still redraft old stuff.

00BT 2How did I get so prolific? How did I get into the habit of writing? Well, being an introvert most certainly helped. I’d rather be home and write than go out and socialize. Growing up with less invasive technology also helped.

If you’re rather be checking your social media or watching TV or interacting with real people, you might find it hard to write. Let me tell you that writing is like muscles, the more you exercise, the easier it gets. And it’s addictive! By now I rarely spend more than a week without writing one word of new fiction.

If you can’t find time to write, then you don’t really care about writing. You’re in love with Mr Procrastination. I’m in love with Mr Writing, but sometimes I also cheat on him and Mr Procrastination makes me think, “I’d rather be drawing than starting that new project.” So I hear you.

00BT 4You can try to get into the habit by doing NaNoWriMo – I never did it, but I write all year long. Check this post by David Farland on how to break old habits.

Or you can do what I did.

I unknowingly followed Heinlein’s rules 1 and 2 long before I knew who Heinlein was. If you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about,

here’s Heinlen’s business rules:

1) You must write.

2) You must finish what you write.

3) You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.

4) You must put the work on the market.

5) You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

How do you think I wrote 500+ stories in 25 years – and 1% of those 500 stories is unfinished? By being a prolific, one-draft writer. Granted, most of those stories are unreadable and unpublishable today, but you know what? It’s called practice.

00BT 1If you want to learn how to write, you need to practice. Which means you need to write. Pour out that million words of crap, and do your 10000 hours of practice, and you’ll be just fine. The more you write, the easier it will get and the better you’ll become.

Apply butt in chair and write. New words, not the same story over and over again.

Finish the story. Move on. Let your baby grow on its own. If you’re like me, you’ll never run out of new stories to write, so why wasting time polishing your first for years? It’s bound to be bad. And you’ll get sick of it.

So write it, finish it and move on. Plenty of stories out there only you can write.

If you want help, here’s a list of books on how to be productive and write clean first drafts:

00BT 3Writing in the dark by Dean Wesley Smith

30 Days in the Word Mines by Chuck Wendig (beware, lots of F-bombs!)

Million Dollar Productivity by Kevin J. Anderson

The Write Attitude by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Or take the productivity workshop at WMG Publishing (scroll down to the classic workshops) – I’ve done other workshops with them, both online and offline, and they’re worth every cent. Or listen to the lectures on Heinlein’s rules. Instead of watching a movie, spend a couple of hours listening to a pro explaining how to become a pro.

And happy writing!

Published by Dan Alatorre AUTHOR

USA Today bestselling author Dan Alatorre has 50+ titles published in more than 120 countries and over a dozen languages.

17 thoughts on “How To Be A Productive Writer – Guest Post By The Very Polific Barbara Tarn

  1. The topic of Heinlein’s Rules is new to me and I learned quite a bit from Barbara and the link to DW Smith. Now I just have to start writing every day…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Dan. It was interesting to hear what this prolific writer had to say. Like our bible. Write, write, and keep on writing, until you write yourself into history. Ha!! That is the plan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And if I may… I have just published my first (and probably last) non-fiction book…
      “How to Publish You Book in English When You’re Not a Native” is only 99cents… And you might recognize some of this in it! 😁
      It’s my indie author adventure so far…
      Thanks for reading! 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Love this post! I write a lot, but sometimes I feel that I start being repetitive. So I need to use plagiarism checker (Unplag and iThenticate to be more precise). It helps me to be sure that my stories have not a lot matches. And what are your best advice for writers, whose first language is not English?

    Liked by 1 person

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