Productivity Tips: How One Pro Cranks Out 2 Novels a Year

Productivity Tips for Writers From a Pro Novelist. Makealivingwriting.comEver wonder what productivity tips help some writers crank out a ton of content?

You know…maybe it seems like it takes you forever to write a blog post, an article, or a letter of introduction.

And while you’re struggling, there seems to be other writers who keep churning out great content…and making more money. Yes?

So what’s the secret? Is there some mysterious book of productivity tips you haven’t heard about? Or some sinister plot to keep those secrets hidden from freelancers trying to move up and earn more?

If the thought has crossed your mind, you’re not alone.

So what if you could peek inside the mind of a highly-productive writer and learn their productivity tips for success?

You might see your own journey as a freelancer a little differently. Maybe even shed some old habits, change the story you’re telling yourself, and get more work done.

Looking for productivity tips? Here’s how one freelance writer cranks out two novels a year, publishes a weekly newsletter, and inspires hope for freelance writers everywhere…

Meet freelance writer C. Hope Clark

Productivity Tips: C. Hope Clark

C. Hope Clark

C. Hope Clark is the founder of (a newsletter for freelance writers) with more than 30,000 subscribers. Writer’s Digest has named Funds for Writers among the 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 19 years.

Clark also writes two award-winning mystery series, published by Bell Bridge Books, with 10 novels published, one due out in summer 2020, and three more under contract. Her articles have appeared in Writer’s Market, Writer’s Digest, The Writer, Turf Magazine, American Careers, and numerous other trade magazines.

Check out her productivity tips to learn how to get more writing done.

Set specific writing goals

I’m talking smart goals,  not just write-something-each-day goals. We get closer to the destination, faster, when we know the route to take.

  • Choose goals that motivate you. Whether long, medium, or short-range goals, give yourself something to instinctively wake up to each day.
  • Accept that you must complete a specific task by the day’s end, week’s end. . .  month’s, quarter’s or year’s end.

Productivity tip: Seeing accomplishment sprouts satisfaction. And nothing drives a writer better than seeing their effort worth the sweat.

Want to see how I work and set goals?

Novel-writing goals

  • I have daily, quarterly, and annual goals with the novels.
  • A daily word count of 1,000 words.
  • A quarterly deadline of a first draft.
  • And an annual end game of two novels.

Nothing more. If I miss a day of 1,000 words, I feel the need to catch up. But the quarterly goal of a completed manuscript relieves some of that pressure. That schedule also gives me six months to edit, research, and take a breath.

Funds for Writers goals

  • Weekly deadlines to publish FundsforWriters newsletter.
  • Submit the draft to for proofreading by Monday
  • Receive edited draft by Thursday
  • Distribute the finished version on Friday evening.
  • Twice a year I consider marketing goals, to include advertising deals for those who promote via my newsletter.

Freelance writing goals

I write two novels a year and publish a weekly newsletter. But I also write for magazines and trade pubs. If you want to get more freelance assignments, model this plan:

  • Spot a potential market, pitch it. Right then, on the spot.
  • Note it on a spreadsheet or in a notebook, and give yourself a follow-up date.
  • When you get an assignment, record the deadline in the same place.
  • Get to work on the piece and submit far ahead of the deadline

Productivity tip: Work ahead. That way you’re never caught in a pinch if other goals falter, or if you receive a deluge of assignments from other pitching.

The habits + dreams equation for writers

What’s your big dream as a freelance writer?

  • Publish a novel
  • Be a six-figure freelancer
  • Get published in popular magazines and niche sites
  • Quit your day job and make a full-time living writing
  • Have more time, freedom, and money
  • All of the above

Before any of that can happen, you’ve got to develop habits. Make sense?

I’ve missed the weekly newsletter only two Fridays in 20 years. If someone asked me where I find the research for that newsletter, I’d have to stop and think.

The process is that embedded, my fingers typing practically without thought. With the novels, going to bed without  my 1,000 words leaves me unsettled, because I’ve done it for so long.

  • How’s that possible? Habits.

Habits are the ultimate goal and help you achieve your dreams.”
-C. Hope Clark

How to combine freelance dreams and habits

Writers tend to want to live amongst their dreams. The successful, however, turn dreams into goals, then into habits. Otherwise, dreams can trip you up.

  • Think about it this way: If your dream is becoming a six-figure freelancer, but you’re not doing much about it, you’ll never get there.

When our dreams lack form, we often sacrifice them for the immediacies of life. Dreams quickly feel frivolous in the face of need. Or they appear too far away, possibly too big to address in the moment. Sound familiar?

Productivity tip: Make smaller, accountable goals for your dream. And keep track of your actions and progress on a calendar. That’s how you turn freelance dreams into reality. Wishful thinking is smoke in the wind. Setting goals, you capture that smoke.

Take baby steps to keep moving forward

Just like each paragraph, section, scene, or chapter has to propel the story forward, so should your goals.

  • Why the 1,000 words a day? Because my bigger goal is two novels a year.
  • Why two novels a year? To quench the need of a hungry readership. . . to hold a publisher’s respect. . . to maintain a brand . . . to remain relevant in the publishing world.

Hollow goals can become habit forming, too. You don’t set goals for the sake of setting goals.

What goals could you set to help you move your freelance career forward?

Here are some examples:

  • Set a goal of less time social media
  • Set a goal of writing 30 minutes a day
  • Create a goal of sending 5 new pitches or letters of introduction per day
  • Make a plan to book at least one discovery call per week
  • Pitching your dream publication…today

Productivity tip: A goal has to move you, your career, and your dreams forward.

Measure your effort

Measuring can be no more than periodically glancing at a spreadsheet. Or it can be a few hours of analyzing things like:

  • Income from freelance writing
  • Pitches sent
  • Articles sold
  • Analytics of your website or social media efforts
  • Connections made with editors and marketing directors

Here’s how I measure my freelance efforts

I keep a spreadsheet with formulas for my novels, telling me percentages, average chapter count, and the word count due for any particular day of the month. However, I happen to enjoy spreadsheets.

Other tools to measure efforts and keep track include:

  • Desk calendars
  • Spreadsheets
  • Google calendars
  • Phones
  • Blogs

The tool doesn’t really matter. For example: My adult son keeps a blog where he projects his annual goals. He performs a quarterly accountability for such things as running, reading books, writing a book, even new restaurants he’s tried. It’s a very simple method that can apply to freelancers, too.

Productivity tip: Make sure you can tell how far you’ve traveled, how far you need to go, and how you might adjust goals in the future. Remember, you’re attempting to move forward in your career.

Build habits to boost productivity as a freelancer

During the latest virus scare, many writers found writing surprisingly difficult. Even with extra time on their hands, they struggled with productivity. They had no strong direction. I never missed a beat.

  • Why? I not only had goals in place, but I’d developed habits stronger than the changes around me.

Habits lessen the burden of measurement. Habits are easy and the path of least resistance. When your goals become habit, you write productively without giving it a second thought.

Which then frees you up to spot opportunity you never saw coming before.

What productivity tips help you get more writing done? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

C. Hope Clark is an award-winning novelist and founder of Her next novel will be released in the summer of 2020.


Free E-Book for Writers: A 12-Point Plan for Thriving in Hard Times.

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15 comments on “Productivity Tips: How One Pro Cranks Out 2 Novels a Year
  1. Molly Miller says:

    One productivity tip I’m confident of… listen to experience with results, learn what has worked, practice. For example, I took the following to heart: “Make sure you can tell how far you’ve traveled, how far you need to go, and how you might adjust goals in the future.” It was hard to be honest with myself. However I started Writers’ Den on April 13; in that 2-week travel, I haven’t written every day. I now set the seemingly small goal of writing 30 minutes a day.
    I have never asked myself to write daily. My work didn’t require it. But I see that writing is a habit I want in my life. Exercise it. Typically I usually write for more than 30 minutes–to finish a project or get an idea down. However, I see I need to change my emphasis (to time, doing it daily) to have a long-term effect on my productivity. Thank you for your tips.

  2. Right now, while working on better marketing habits, I’m tracking how many contacts I average per hour, which I will eventually convert to a set number of contacts as a weekly goal.

  3. When I was a contributing editor for the Institute of Children’s Literature (now the Institute for Writers), I frequently tapped Ms. Clark’s expertise. I do recommend her as a resource.

    Here’s a link to some of my best tips for keeping up productive habits in a field where busyness (or categories of busyness) may fluctuate: beafreelanceblogger [dot] com/too-much-work/

  4. Tom Bentley says:

    Hope, I was waffling about starting a memoir about crazed days in my high school years, but 3 weeks ago I set a daily time-specific reminder to write for at least a half-hour, and have made strong progress from those simple increments, which I’ve adhered to. And that half-hour (sometimes more) already feels like a habit.

    Good to see you here!

  5. Alex Marsh says:

    Productivity ensures better performance and growth. This is very important information. Also, I loved your point on proofreading.

  6. Lou Wasser says:

    Excellent piece on productivity by C. Hope Clark. And, yes, we must always remember a goal is a dream with a due date.

  7. The Fulfilled Writer says:

    This is such a wonderfully comprehensive post full of amazing advice and I’m definitely bookmarking and saving this for later to refer to. Congratulations C Hope Clark on your productivity rate – 2 novels per year is amazing!

    I hope to get there myself at some point 🙂 I suppose I need to write a novel first! But for now – as a freelance journalist of 11 years – I’ll share my own top tip for productivity that I’ve used (for my articles and non-fiction book I’ve written) when the words just won’t flow: write one sentence. Usually telling myself to just write that one sentence opens up the floodgates and gets me writing, even if writing that actual sentence has been hard.

    Measuring your effort, like you said in your article, is another good way to keep track of your progress – I track my income and expenses and enter them into my spreadsheet every single time I send an invoice or make a business-related expense.

    Goals are good. Writing (for me, at least!) often takes far longer than you think it will, and can vary from day to day – some days I can knock out a 1,000-word article in 2 hours, other days it’s like pulling teeth and takes way longer – but if you want to make a living out of writing and/or publish a certain number of works every month or year, you need to have goals in mind. I 100% agree with what you have to say on the topic, and I agree what you say about combining dreams and habits to help you succeed.

    Thanks so much for writing this!

    Santhie @ The Fulfilled Writer