Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

What Is Possible?

When It Comes to Production…

I did a post on streaks, and have shown here that novels in all sorts of locations and challenges are possible.

But in a conversation earlier today, I realized that all the challenges I have done with writing lately are time-limited.

— Write 30 short stories in thirty days. Check, done twice.

— Write a novel in five days while traveling. Check, wrote the book about doing it.

— Write four novels in July. Check. All four novels now published.

And here I am with over 1700 regular blog posts, a challenge, a streak that is not limited.

I have studied a lot of the old pulp writers. Frederick Faust (aka Max Brand and many other names) wrote exactly 18 pages every day, seven days a week. And he did that for decades. That’s 4,500 words every day, a novel in ten days. For decades.

He wrote on a manual typewriter, one draft. He died in WWII and we still read his work and it still sells millions of copies in 2018.

So we know from his history that is possible. The writers of Doc Savage and The Shadow also wrote at that speed for a decade or more each. So more than one person has done it.

But what is possible in this modern world?

I know I can easily write four novels in four weeks. Did that last summer. But could I do that for an entire year? 52 novels?

I know I can write a short story a day for a month, but could I do it for an entire year?

I have talked about this question before a number of years back and I still puzzle about it. And I am coming up on a time of writing for me (after a few life rolls clear this week). So wondering how much fun I might have with a new challenge for myself.

A new streak, maybe?

So in this modern world, what really is possible? Our indie world has created a publishing environment that rewards productivity. And I have gotten out of my own way on just about every myth now. And I am still young at 67.

So what really is possible? Going to be giving this some thought this week.


Femme Fatale Bundle

Also, I want to remind everyone of the fantastic bundle I am lucky enough to be in with a bunch of great writers.

It’s called the Femme Fatale bundle on Storybundle.

It’s a mystery/thriller bundle with Femme Fatales in every book, in one form or another. Trust me, Kris’s novel The Perfect Man will mess with your mind. And you can never go wrong with Lawrence Block, O’Neil De Noux, or Libby Fischer Hellmann.

And you might even like my novel and Mary Jo Assassin.


INSIDER’S GUIDE Workshops Now Available…

— Insider’s Guide to Selling Short Fiction in 2018/2019 (Starts April 8th)
— Insider’s Guide to Writing Successful Space Opera (Starts April 8th)
— Insider’s Guide to Writing Serial Fiction (2,000 word parts of a novel) (Starts May 6th)
— Insider’s Guide to Writing Detective Fiction. (Starts May 6th)

$300 each, limited to ten writers plus lifetime subscribers. One time workshops. They will not be regular. Sorry. These will fill so don’t wait for the last minute on these. And yes, you can use your credits.

I will be adding these onto Teachable in a few days.



Sign up directly through Teachable or if you have a credit, write me.

Class #37… Apr 3rd … Think Like a Publisher
Class #38… Apr 3rd … Endings
Class #39… Apr 3rd … Point of View
Class #40… Apr 3rd … Writing Mysteries
Class #41… Apr 3rd … Speed
Class #42… Apr 3rd … Teams in Fiction
Class #43… Apr 4th … Depth in Writing
Class #44… Apr 4th … How to Edit Your Own Work
Class #45… Apr 4th … Character Development
Class #46… Apr 4th … Writing Secondary Plot Lines
Class #47… Apr 4th … Advanced Depth
Class #48… Apr 4th … Novel Structure


  • Kenny

    Wow, now that you’ve said it you’re making me want to see if I can arrange my life to get writing in daily. To see if I could get a roll like that going.

    Starting with 20 mins a day and working up from there. Umm…

  • Vito Michienzi

    Thanks to your suggestion, I did pick up a copy of The Pulp Jungle by Frank Gruber and was flabbergasted.

    It really makes you feel that today’s writer (present company included) is actually very lazy and full of excuses, especially when the technology is present to write just about anywhere at anytime.

    You bust those myths of fast writing and clean first drafts in a way that’s damn inspiring.

    Looking forward to seeing what you do with these new possibilities.

  • Sean McLachlan

    I am only beginning to learn what is possible with my productivity. I just finished my 50th full-length book (38 novels, 12 nonfiction). I started writing 16 years ago but much of my time in those early years was doing journalism (a great cure for the myth of writer’s block), paid blogging, and magazine articles. Now I mostly do book-length fiction, including a lot of ghostwriting. I only got serious on fiction six years ago.
    At the moment I seem to have reached a plateau of about 20,000 words of clean copy a week. Any suggestions on pushing beyond that?
    If you had told me when I started out that I would be writing that much before the end of my second decade as a writer I would have said you were nuts. Now I feel a bit lazy and I should be writing more!

    • dwsmith


      That’s a good number, actually. But you can easily push past it, but the key is to break it down, not look at the total. So if you write five days per week, that’s 4,000 per day. If you write six days a week, that’s 3,350 or so words a day. If you write seven days, that’s 2,850 per day average.

      So to jump that, just add 500 words per day to what you are doing now. Do that for a time, see how it feels over a month or so, then if you still feel like you have time to do more, add another 500 day.

      At some point you will hit an amount that feels like a push every day, back off of that point slightly and settle in for a few months. Make sense?

  • Topaz

    It would be fun watching you doing 18 pages a day. 🙂
    Just finished your weekender popup on make a living writing.
    I liked your Math.

  • Scott Gordon

    I seem to remember Faust writing 14 pages per day per The Pulp Jungle, which I read from cover to cover over the course of a couple frenzied days. (Sorry, I don’t have the book in front of me, so I can’t verify.) Based on some of the other numbers provided in the book, I interpreted a “page” as equaling approximately 300 words. Thus, 4,200 words/day is the number I arrived at.

    4,500 is not far off, but given the advantages that a modern author has, he or she should easily be capable of writing 5,000 words/day with appropriate practice.

    If such a person made it their life’s goal to hit this number consistently, regardless of day-to-day circumstances, they would be enormously successful, particular as a self-published author.

  • Anon

    My goal is to get to where I can write a book a month. I write long, so we’re talking 100k average each novel. I’ve gotten over 5k words in a day before, so if I can get 6k 5 days a week consistently, that still gives me time for pre-writing (by which I mean mostly developing character backstory, which is crucial to my process), editing/proofreading (I’ve gotten to where I have clean first drafts, so this is more catching typos and obvious errors than what’s normally thought of as “editing”), and formatting. I know it’s possible for me to do. It’s only a matter of developing the discipline.

  • Scott Gordon

    Ahh, I found my copy of The Pulp Jungle, which was a recommendation by Dean and one of his best pieces of advice to date. Read it. You will have trouble putting it down.

    The excerpt Dean referred to is as follows (pp. 114-115):

    I asked him about the forty-five million words he was reputed to have written in his lifetime. He admitted that the figure was probably right. He wrote approximately one and a half million words per year for thirty years. When I asked him how he managed this terrific production, he answered with a question: “Can you write fourteen pages in one day?”

    I replied that I frequently wrote much more than that in a day. Unfortunately, I also went two or three weeks without writing a line. That, declared Heinie, was the trick. You had to write fourteen pages each and every day of the year. It added up to a million and a half words a year.

    Heinine had trained himself to do it. Fourteen pages a day, come rain, come shine, come mood or no, Heinie wrote the fourteen pages.

    He wrote them in two hours every morning.

    Heinie was the most prolific writer of all time.

    Based on the information presented, you can compute the approximate word count as follows:

    (1,500,000 / 365 ) / 14 = 293.5

    By rounding it up to 300, you arrive at Faust’s average daily output, performed in two hours each morning: 4,200 words. Keep in mind this was without the aid of computers. Given the advantages of the modern age (Internet, and most importantly, spellcheck), a modest increase of one page per day would be appropriate, which lines up with Dean’s 4,500 words estimate. There’s no reason why someone couldn’t push this number to 5,000 by following this advice.

    • dwsmith

      Yup, and the Heinie Gruber was talking about was Frederick Faust aka Max Brand and many other names.

      Thanks, Scott.

  • Scott Gordon

    So there’s the great mystery, unraveled. By following Heinlein’s Rules + Dean Wesley Smith’s Writing into the Dark approach + Max Brand’s average daily word count goal, you will become one of the most prolific authors of the modern age. It’s all spelled out for you. There are no excuses. Do you want to be a prolific author? Then commit to it each and every day!

    • dwsmith

      Actually, in all of Heinlein’s early books, he wrote into the dark as well. He didn’t start telling people about rewriting until he got pestered to death by young writers and then actually had to start rewriting after his brain surgery. And Max Brand (Frederick Faust) wrote into the dark, one draft, clean, on a manual typewriter most of the time early on, then started dictating at a point toward the end. So not my approach, just most long-term writer’s approach. But they won’t say that is what they do because it devalues their work to their readers.

      But you are right, you do that and in ten years you would be one of the most prolific and wealthy and in twenty you would be right near the top of the most prolific writers of all time and very, very rich. If you kept learning at the same time. And staying up with the business as it changed.