How to become a more prolific writer - Authors A.I.

Alessandra Torre
January 31, 2021

Hit your writing stride with these productivity tips from author Chris Fox

As a writer, have you ever achieved flow state? It’s also known as being in the zone – that perfect harmonious stage where the words flow like water and scenes pour out of you. Don’t recognize that feeling? Some authors have mastered the steps to achieving flow, while others (like me!) are just now learning the secrets to this high-powered creative state.

In our latest First Draft Friday authors chat, I talked with science fiction and fantasy author Chris Fox about flow state and how to achieve it. Chris knows a thing or two about improving his productivity and flow – he often writes 5,000 words an hour and is shooting to write one million words this year!

So, how do you achieve flow state and, as a result, improve your writing speed? In the video from our chat chat (embedded above), Chris shares five steps he takes.

Step 1: Define the words

Simply put, you should know what you’re going to write (at least a rough idea) before you write it.

Step 2: Build a sanctuary

Your brain can be easily trained to shift into writing mode if it is given clear signals. This is best done by writing at the same location, at the same time of day, every day.

Step 3: Track your words

Just by recording your daily word count, you can improve it. Write down your number of words in a calendar or ledger each day to help trigger your brain’s competitive impulses.

Step 4: Clear the decks

Flow state can’t be achieved if you are being distracted, so set aside your writing time as sacred. Turn off any distractions (including the internet) and set a timer to keep yourself focus and on track.

Step 5: Just keep writing!

Once you start writing, don’t stop for research, bathroom breaks, a phone call, or to look up a side character’s name. Just keep moving forward through the scene until your session is done.

Downloadable handout here:

If you found these steps helpful, I urge you to watch the video of our discussion – it’s full of good tips and questions from our viewers.

If you’re interested in more chats on writing, check out our library of learning videos from our First Draft Friday sessions. And don’t forget to subscribe to the First Draft Friday podcast on Apple podcasts.



Transcript of my conversation with Chris Fox

Alessandra: Hi everyone. My name is Alessandra Torre. This is First Draft Friday, brought to you by Authors AI. And I’m so excited today to have Chris Fox who is a science fiction and fantasy author joining us today to talk all about improving your writing speed. And we’re going to discuss what that means and how you can do it in the next half hour chat. So as everyone comes in, I will turn the mic over to Chris and let him introduce himself and tell us a little bit about yourself.

Chris: Sure. Hey guys, I started out as a software engineer when I first got into the world of writing. My first novel came out in October of 2014. And back then, we were just starting to experiment with artificial intelligence as it relates to books and things like the also box system was coming around on Amazon. So being that I worked in tech, I found that very interesting and I found that intersection. And so, I was fairly successful marketing my novels early on, started going on some podcasts, release a series of non-fiction books called “Write Faster Write Smarter,” starting with the very incendiary title “5,000 Words Per Hour,” which was very intentionally written. And it’s worked really well to get eyes on the book. Anyway, that series has gone on to sell over a hundred thousand copies. And its done way better than I ever thought it would be because it was just something I sort of wrote on the side. My First Passion is Epic fantasy, science fiction, I love writing that stuff and that’s where I spent most of my time. So, I have over 30 novels out and I think eight non-fiction books at this point.

Alessandra: That’s fantastic. We will be taking live questions, so for everyone who’s watching us on YouTube or Facebook, please feel free to chime into the chat. And we already got one question, which we were discussing earlier and I think it’s a great question to kick off with, and that’s from Christina. She said, and I’m paraphrasing because I don’t have it to display, but she said why would someone want to write faster? Isn’t the creative process one that might take time? So can you talk about really why writing faster and what you mean by that?

Chris: Absolutely. And this is the number one question that I think we get in terms of pushback from authors and it’s one I myself used to say because the implication is you’re not writing faster, you’re rushing, you’re going too fast and your creative process is suffering. When I say writing faster, your goal is to get into flow state as quickly as possible. So what should happen is the words fall away, the mechanics fall away and you just write at top speed the best words that you’re capable of writing. You shouldn’t go any faster than you’re capable of going at your top speed. There is no fixed speed I think you should aim for. I actually topped out at a little over 3000 words an hour. And I push beyond that, it got to to be a point where it was little bit too hard, so I dialed it back.

And now, it’s more about consistency, but the idea is if you want to get down all the wonderful story ideas that we have in our head and hopefully make a living doing this, as I know of us want to do or are currently doing. You’re going to have to get down more words, and in my case, I had a little under an hour every single day when I was riding the bus and to work. So I took the number 54 bus into San Francisco, a story I’ve told many times in the past. And as I was bouncing along, I’d crank out as many words as I could. And since I had no extra time, I had a busy life, I had a busy social schedule, I was dating at the time the woman who is now my wife. I had like a 12 hour a day job as a software engineer at a startup. So, you know, all of us know what it’s like, whether you’re a parent or you’ve got a busy job, you know, our lives are cluttered.

So, the goal is make a little Oasis in your life, find a spot where you can write and crank out as many words as you can in that span. So maybe it’s only 14 minutes, maybe you only have 12 minutes each morning, you know, while your kid is in the bathroom that you can write in, but maybe that 12 minute window is 500 words every single day. And that starts adding up really quickly, especially over the course of a year. So, writing fast is not mean sacrificing quality. It does not mean that I do not focus with the laser on craft. Craft is the most important thing to me. If we don’t have excellent craft, we cannot write amazing books.

But if you look at somebody like Michael Jordan; he doesn’t play basketball slowly, a drill slowly, you learn to play, all of the basics, layups, every single drill, running up the court, or whatever else you learn in basketball. I’m not a basketball player, but all those things I’m sure we’ll learned slowly, but when you play, you play at speed. And so most people, if you think to the best scene that you’ve ever written in your life, you probably don’t remember much about the writing of it because you were in flow state just cranking through it. You’re in the head of the character. You’re getting all the details right because you can see the scene that they’re in; that’s what we’re after. And so, my goal is capture flow state, and in the process get down as many good words as we can.

Alessandra: I love that. So let’s talk about flow state in your stages. Can you walk us through your process or what process you suggest for us?

Chris: Yeah, and then that’s actually the handout that I gave you. Let me grab it so I can go over my five little steps. This is borrowed from 5,000 Words Per Hour.

Alessandra: This handout we have on display in the URL here, a member of our team will pop into the comments section so you can download the handout also. Go ahead.

Alessandra: So it’s very straightforward, there’s nothing here and no, you don’t need to go buy 5,000 Words Per Hour to understand how this process works. It’s very straightforward. Before you sit down to write, you want to make sure you know what you’re going to be writing, you know what other chapters you’re going to write. And I understand that many of us are pantsers so I’m not saying you have to sit down and outline. I personally outlined very heavily, but lots of people don’t. You do want a general idea of what you’re going to write though, so I think it’s very helpful to know “I’m going to write these three chapters, and this is basically what’s happening” because if you don’t have at least that information, you run the risk of sitting down and staring at a blank cursor. But if you know what it is you’re going to write, that’s never a rescue. Always know at least what you’re trying to get down.

Next, I really focus on building a sanctuary or what John [unclear06:04] would’ve called a tortoise enclosure. And this is basically a little place where you have the complete freedom to play, and he said you need boundaries of space and boundaries of time. So you say, “Okay, from 8:00 to 8:30, every single morning in my office here, I’m going to put on some headphones and I’m going to crank out a single writing sprint and get down as many words as I can.” You have to find a place and a time, and you are teaching your brain every time I’m in this place and I put these headphones on, this is the activity that I do. Your brain is going to start snapping into place and doing that for you, where it’s going to sort of aid you in getting into flow state because it’ll recognize you’re in this time and place, this sanctuary you’ve created. Next, you want to track…

Alessandra: Okay, wait, sorry. Let me jump it in there. Okay, so if I understand correctly, it’s a combination of things, so it’s time and place. So not only having, you know, I don’t know, a closet, and I mean, a closet for me sounds like heaven because I could shut the door and no one will bother me or find me. But having a spot, and then also though you’re saying a consistent time of day is important.

Chris: Right. So you remember Steve Jobs was famous for wearing black shirts all the time, right?

Alessandra: Yeah.

Alessandra: He’s minimizing his switching costs, the amount of times that his brain must make a decision that he considers to be irrelevant. Well, your brain easily falls into grooves and it looks for these patterns. So if you teach it that when I sit down at this desk I write; it’s going to do all of these things in the background you’re not even aware of to prepare you to sit down and actually write words. It’s why, you know, like if you work and you just certain thing at a job at work, you get into a different mode when you’re sitting there. But if you’re at home on your couch and you’re watching TV, it’s a little bit more difficult to get into a specific role to do something. So, I silo all of the different activities I have to do and my writing happen in one location because that neuroscience sort of supports us getting into a zone in one location. Does that make sense?

Alessandra: I love that, yeah, a hundred percent. I’m excited. I’m going to have to try that. All right, go ahead, sorry.

Chris: And that could be a coffee shop by the way. So like one of the things that I used to do, I mean, I have to sit on the bus with headphones, there was a coffee shop I went to, there was a bench in a park at one point. It doesn’t matter where, as long as it’s a habit, where it’s like, okay, I sit down, I flip up the laptop, in my case, I’ve already got Scrivener open, so it’s always open when I open it. I don’t have a risk of getting into any other document or looking at something else and going right into the writing.

Alessandra: And you use your computer, you don’t use… because some people I know who like really cram out the words, they use like these little keyboards that don’t have connection to the internet and they don’t have anything; that’s all they do. I don’t know if you’ve seen these like old school, but you use normal computer and you use Scrivener?

Chris: I use a normal computer and it takes some discipline. So, either you need to go somewhere where there is no Wi-Fi because then there’s no choice. So find a place where there’s an internet bad spot, or you have to have enough discipline to turn off Wi-Fi. So what I do, one of my phases is clearing the desks is I literally turn the Wi-Fi off on my computer. I can’t see the internet while I’m writing. So nothing is bothering me, I don’t know what’s happening. The Capitol Hill attack happened when I had the internet off; I had no idea, so I’m just blissfully writing. I have no idea how the world is melting down because I’m tuned out because I’m getting these words down. And then of course, you know, I turn the internet on afterward and get back to it; you’ve missed nothing, but you’ve gotten your words done for the day. So, turning the internet off is the huge tool.

Alessandra: I actually have to unplug my router because I don’t have the self… I turn it off, but then I’ll just go and turn it back on, so I don’t have the self-discipline, but if I have to get up and walk across my house to plug my router back in, I won’t do that.

Chris: A timer is useful for me. Like if I’m writing on a timer, it’s easy to say, okay, until the timer goes off, I have no internet. And then what I’ll do is I’ll notice like, okay, six times during this writing sprint, I tried to go to the web. So I open the web, and I looked at a browser tab but I couldn’t actually do anything, and then I’ll try and I’ll finish my writing. And what I tell myself is, Hey, as soon as you’re done with the writing sprint, you can browse the web to your heart’s content, so that’s worked pretty well. I just kind of…

Alessandra: How long are your sprints?

Chris: Typically about 20 minutes, but depends on the genre I’m writing. So most of my chapters are like 1200 to 1500 words. If I’m doing say military science fiction or Epic space fantasy, but for Epic fantasy, I’m writing much longer chapters and they end up being like 2000 to 3000 words, and those ones are taking longer sprints. So, these days I don’t even use the timer anymore; I just write until the end of the chapter. But typically, I would vary the length that would be about a half hour.

Alessandra: Perfect, all right, thank you.

Chris: Oh, and I was going to say, I just passed a hundred thousand words written and edited for the year, so this process is working really, really well.

Alessandra: Wow, January 29th.

Chris: And I can say confidently these are the best words of my life. Like, I’m really proud of the words that I’ve written. I’ve put in a lot of time and care and craft into making compelling plots and characters that I really believe in. I’m not rushing through trying to do this, I’m just working at speed, working hard and trying to work intelligently.

Alessandra: That’s fantastic. And I meant to say, when I introduced you, your goal this year is actually a million words, right?


Chris: Right. I did this last year and I’m not alone, I know lots of people… some people do 2 million words. It’s just crazy. But a lot of people do a million words a year; that’s kind of a high watermark in the crowd that I run with, and I did it last year. I just barely broke a million words. It was like 1,000,050. I just barely equal.


Alessandra: I am 50,000. If I wrote an extra 50,000 words this year, I’d be beyond happy. I feel like that’s way overboard.

It’s a bit overboard for some people, but some people really like writing at that speed. So, I’m trying to be faster this year and to document it; that I have not done. So when I wrote last year, it was in fits and starts, where I’d like, Oh God, I’ve got a pre-order due in 11 days, so the next six days are going to be 12,000 words a day to make sure that this book is written on time. Whereas now, I’m actually kind of going into it intelligently and planning everything in advance and tracking it all the way that I should be so this year is a little more sane. Although in my defense, I just had a child last year. My son [unclear12:05] was born right before the pandemic started, which made things very interesting.

Alessandra: That is really interesting. So you’re dealing with a new baby and words, yeah. I love it. All right, what’s our next step? Let me recap. So Oasis… I’m going to pull up the handbook so it can be more organized.

Chris: I’m looking at the handbook; I’m cheating. So step one is define the words, step two is to build a sanctuary. You’ve gone through those. I think we’ve gotten to step three, which is to track it.

Alessandra: Yeah.

Chris: The point of this is simple neuroscience and you don’t have to do anything. It’s beautiful. And I’ve been using this for years, so I know that it works, and I’ve heard from a lot of authors that it works. If you simply write down your word counts every day, you start noticing patterns and your brain is going to subconsciously try and lift you up. So in other words, if you are used to writing a thousand words a day and you see this on a chart every single day, that’s going to get boring and old, you’re going to be like, why am I not writing 1100 words? Why am I not doing 1500 words? So, you don’t actually have to do anything to increase your writing speed other than track it. If you’re recording your daily word counts and you see that happening every day, you’ll kind of be inspired to improve it. And if you start slacking off, it gets to be really apparent because you have to put that zero in.


Alessandra: Yeah. I love that. So it doesn’t need to be fancy, just a calendar or a piece of paper and write down how many words you write.


Chris: Exactly. It could be as simple as you want it to be. Put it in a notebook, you can write it on a chalkboard; as long as you’re keeping yourself accountable by writing it somewhere.


Alessandra: Perfect. And if anybody has any questions as we go, feel free to pop them in the chat and we’ll be answering your questions as much as we can. All right, step four.

Chris: Step four; so we talked a little bit about this and that’s clearing the desk and I’ll go more in depth in this. I have a ritual that I go through. Rituals are something that I picked up from Tony Robbins and it worked tremendously successfully in my life where I do the same thing, the same way every day. It’s like, you know, Jack Nicholson and as good as it gets, it’s, you know, very easy, you’re OCD rather. You go to the bathroom at the same time, I get a cup of coffee in the same way, I’m going to go through like almost the same series of steps to get to my desk. And then, when I say clearing the desks, what I mean is making sure that anything that could distract me has been eliminated. So, my email is closed, the internet is off, any programs or games or anything that would be a distraction on my computer are closed and remove. So the only thing that I see when I first get in there is work-related programs that I should be working on.

And what I’ll have done the night before is, if I know that I’m going to be working on words first thing in the morning, Scrivener will literally be the thing on my screen so that when I open the computer that’s the first thing that I see. So I go through this ritual daily where I block out everything else and make sure that it’s all just about me and the words. And to be honest, that was easier to do when I was riding the bus to work. Because when I sat down on the bus, the bus didn’t have Wi-Fi so there was nothing else to distract me except for hitting bumps. So I was able to kind of lose myself in the words. Whereas, I know for a lot of us, if you’ve got kids, they’re interrupting you. If you’ve got social media or a job or anybody making demands on you, emails, all that stuff is coming through on a regular basis. So it’s really about setting it up so all that stuff dealt with.

If you think an emergency can crop up, deal with it beforehand; if you don’t have to deal with it, don’t even open your email. Because when you open your email, if there’s an emergency in there or if something’s going on, like I mentioned, the Capitol Hill thing; not being aware of that, my mental state wasn’t impacted, and so I hit my one quota that day. But if I had been aware of that in the morning, there’s no way I would’ve got my word quota, so that’s the point of clearing the desks and what is involved there. It’s making sure that you’re insulated from that stuff, which I know can be hard as a parent.

Alessandra: Yeah. So do you always write in the morning or what is your writing time?

Chris: Wow. We should go back and laugh at Chris in previous interviews because I used to be like, Oh yeah, I just sit down at five in the morning after I get done working out and I crank out my words, but now I have a kid, and so things are much, much different. So, it comes in bits and pieces throughout the day. I get up at five, I work out; between 6:00 and 6:30, usually Lisa will knock on the door and come grab me so I’ll be mid-sprint and I’ll have to stop. Whatever words I can get down by that point I will. But then after breakfast we’ll come out and I get about two solid hours where I can write, so the bulk of my words happen between 8:30 and 10:30 AM these days. But if they don’t get done, if I got distracted, if I had an errand, if I’m filing quarterly taxes or whatever else I got to do; it happens in the afternoon or happens in the evening. I do not go to bed until the words are done.

Alessandra: Okay. I love that, and that kind of falls into Eloise’s question. What do you suggest for someone who can’t do a set time every day?

Chris: That one’s difficult because training your brain to get into a groove is harder when you don’t have a specific time. How I get around that is I tie it to usually an object, and in my case, it was my laptop. So, wherever I was sitting with a laptop, I would try to get an old mindset of, okay, this laptop is used for work purposes. I open it and I’m writing. And I found that that sort of gets around the time limitation. I used to work at a company called Redwood Credit Union and we got two 15-minute breaks and that’s 15 minutes from I type out on my phone to log out to I log back in. So I’d sprint into the break room, sit down, open the laptop and have maybe 10 minutes to type, and then I’d head back. But if you’re used to doing that in those kinds of micro sprints, you train your brain to get used to that. You actually can get a lot of words down in those narrow windows. Usually, we’re thinking about it a lot, so like, you know, for the last hour at work before.

Alessandra: You’re preparing what you’re going to write about.

Chris: Yeah, so when you finally do sit down and you know, okay, I’m going to really use the heck out of these 12 minutes.

Alessandra: I love that. And someone else says… I don’t know their name, but they said, what do you think of dictation compared to typing?

Chris: Oh, I love dictation so much and I might get back into it, we’ll see. I haven’t needed to do it since I went full-time. But before I went full-time, I used to stand at the bus stop and I would dictate into my phone. And you get some really weird looks from people.

Alessandra: I was about to say.

Chris: Especially if you do erotica, I think. Like, you could get away with like death seeds and no one cares, but if it’s erotic, you’re going to get some real looks from people.

Alessandra: So would you just talk or are you using a dictation program that’s converting it to text?

Chris: So I would just talk and I use the voice recording app on my iPhone. I spoke my punctuation because I understood that Dragon would need that. And then, when I got to my computer, you would dump the file into Dragon it would process it, so that was how [unclear18:27].

Alessandra: You would actually say like “he finished comma and stood up”. I don’t know if a comma was needed there, but you would insert commas and quotations and everything?

Chris: Right. And there’s even more stuff you have to do because oftentimes it’ll get things wrong. So if I have a complex name, like Bartholomew, I might say Bob, because he’s going to be a much better job

Alessandra: And you find and replace later.

Chris: Yeah, exactly. So I would use placeholder names and that definitely helped I think when dictating. I haven’t had to do it as much lately again because I don’t need to, but it’s so much faster. The average speed is about 150 words a minute if you’re speaking.

Alessandra: Wow, that is… yeah, and then a dragon converts it for you so you don’t have to type it up, but then you just go and clean.

Chris: Right, you’re just watching it appear on the screen. And don’t really need it once you get skilled, but then you actually can start kind of backspacing and going up lines by telling it what to do. But the learning curve is very steep and it feels really awkward to try to dictate pros the first few times, I think.

Alessandra: Yeah, I could see that. I could see that. Okay, we’ll move to your last step and then we’ll answer a few other questions.

Chris: The last step is I simply write without stopping. Now interestingly, I’ve changed my stance on this a little bit over the years. I used to say, don’t stop for any reason. But more and more I met people whose brains don’t work that way. They couldn’t leave a typo in their way and just keep going, they just couldn’t do it. And so, for those people I recommended, yes. Do the process that works for you. If not stopping means I jumped back and I fixed that word, then go ahead and do that. And a lot of people kind of adjusted to that methodology. In my case, I know I’m going to edit these words again. I know that I’m going to see them again, so typically, I don’t stop to research. I’m not looking up a name. If I don’t know the name, but I know the flow of the scene, I’m going to put an X, X, X, or a Y, Y, Y, or something in there to represent them, and then I’m just going to write the scene and deal with it later. The idea is before I started doing this, I would find any excuse in the world not to write. And so, if I’m starting to write a scene and it’s like, Ooh, I need to know about this Irish custom. Then I’m going to spend the next four hours researching on Google and that’s the never gets written. But if the rule is, I have to write until the scene is done, then the scene gets written.

Alessandra: Yeah, I’m the same way; research and names. Names, I still find myself stopping to try to a name and gosh, who thought it was so hard to find a character name, but there, oops, I meant to put that down. Alright, Margaret says in the hour and a half you’re able to write in the morning, how many words do you typically do now as compared to last year? I’m not sure if she means pre-baby or if she means just if you’ve increased your speed.

Chris: Yeah, so pre-baby I was actually a lot slower because I didn’t need to be as fast and I can sort of take my time and navel gaze and do that research. Now I’m getting the full 5,000 words that I need to, sometimes as many as six or seven if I have more scenes I want to get down in that window. So in two hours, I’m doing like between five and 7,000 words a day, and that’s edited as well. So what I’ll do is I get through writing all of the words, and then I go back to the first chapter and from the top, just read through it and make corrections and whatever alterations I need to.

Alessandra: Okay. I’m sorry, can you repeat that because I was reading Margaret’s response. You edit right after you wrote, is that what you said?

Chris: Right. And this is actually something I learned from Wayne Stinnett years ago that I never implemented myself, but a process that he would do. He’d always reread the previous day’s chapters before he got into it. And so what I’ve started doing is, I typically will at the end of the day, go edit the chapters that I wrote, and the beginning of the next day I’ll read like the last couple of them to kind of get back into where I was in the story. And this results in much heavier editing during, and is really quick into my editing process. My wife edits kind of Michael Andrew Lee style in that if I’m writing chapter eight, she’s probably editing chapter two. So she’s coming behind me and I’m not waiting to complete a manuscript anymore to give it to her. I’m having her work on blocks of chapters and we sort of do it in tandem like we progress through the book.

Alessandra: Oh, okay, so I didn’t know this. So your wife is your editor?

Chris: Yes, I live with my editor.

Alessandra: I love that. Okay, so just to clarify; when you finish… so you get up in the morning, let’s say you write for an hour and a half. Next time you have an opportunity that day; you sit down and you free read everything that you’ve written and you spot edited as you go. And I missed the step, in the morning before you start writing in that hour and a half, you read the last couple of chapters that you wrote the day before.

Chris: Right, to get myself back into that narrative flow so I’m sort of in the story.

Alessandra: And are you editing those as you read them or you’re just reading through and ignoring… because I would find myself, I think, improving things. So do you…?

Chris: I think it’s hard to turn that part of my brain off. So I’m strengthening verbs and I’m changing names or fixing placeholders. If something needs to be defined I might pause and figure out what an answer for it is; that sort of thing. But then I’ll also put a note document, I’ll append it to the chapter, and any work that didn’t get done during that quick edit I’ll put down there so that I know when I go through the full edit at the end where I’m going to see the book one more time and go through it from the top and do it all, I can actually get that stuff taken care of. So, I give myself permission not to get everything done in that quick edit.

Alessandra: Okay, so it might be something like, check the timing on this to make sure that it lines up, something like that.

Chris: Yeah, or is this character still alive or did you get the [unclear24:00] that sort of thing?

Alessandra: Yeah, that’s a very important note. I love that. Okay, that’s great. And someone said that they leave a note, what comes next at the end of the day so when I start I’ll know what I’m doing; that’s a good idea. Another author I spoke with Nana Malone, she at the end of each day writes out the next three scenes. She’s just like, one line the next three scenes that she’s going to write the following day. And then she thinks about it for the whole evening and everything else, you know, she’s got in her head so she can be ready to go.

Chris: Oh yeah. I miss being able to do that. I used to do that at the gym. So I would play the movie projector where you’ve written out like a paragraph about each chapter you’re going to write, you kind of know the scene and who’s in it and you just play it through your head like you’re in it like it’s a movie. And I don’t have the time to do that anymore in quite the same way, but that is really cool. Like, if you can find time during a commute to just sort of daydream those scenes; those in my opinion are the best scenes.

Alessandra: They are, yeah. I can see that. So then once you’re done with your book, which you write longer books and I wrote mostly romance, so they’re shorter, but you’ve already… your wife is editing behind you, so she’s only a couple of days after. So when you finish that book, do you start another book or do you then wait until she catches up and then rewrite… what’s your editorial process and how long does that take and how many words can you move through a day when you’re in edits?

Chris: I typically do about 60,000 words a day in terms of editing. So, it’s a short book, like a lot of my books are 60,000 words or shorter, I do one day. If it’s a longer book, I’ll do that in two days, and this is why… it took me a long time to get to this. I convinced myself, man, you can’t edit more than like three or four or five chapters a day. But what happened is, I had a pre-order deadline; it’s like Chris, you’ve got to have this final ultimate book in the series. It’s the seventh book in a seven book series and it’s not written and edited correctly. Like, you’ve got to get this done really fast. And I only had like two days to get the edits done, and I did it. And I realized, wait a minute, why haven’t I been doing this the whole time?

So what I require myself to do is identify the problems before you sit down, so hopefully during the spot edit and I’ve kind of picked all the problems I have to fix. And then on the day that I had at the book, I started in chapter one and I just go through the whole thing, and I process and forgot it. I look for every problem I’ve got to fix. I strengthened my verbs. I get better description where it needs it. I’ll cut out some of the superfluous stuff and we’ve got a little bit too much exposition in some areas. But I find that the more books you write the less of that tweaking you need to do. Does that make sense?

Alessandra: Yeah. You an outliner, so for some of us, that’s just going to be impossible because when you do pants, even if you know what you’re writing, when you sit down each day, your book kind of wandered a little bit because you might change your mind as you go. But either way, that’s still an enormous amount of words to move through in a day, so that’s really impressive.

Chris: I have a book out called Plot Gardening, so what you just described I would call plot branching. And I do that to myself all the time where you’ll say, well, what if this person died instead? So originally, the outline is this is going to happen, but now it’s going off 90 degrees this way. And oftentimes I’ll go with the new direction, and so I’m always reoutlining every day and making tweaks to the story and altering it so that I’m not constrained to this arbitrary outline I created at the beginning.

Alessandra: Okay. I love that. Okay, we have a great question from Christine. She says, “Do write more words when you think you have less time? If I only have an hour, I crank. If I have a day, the words come slowly.”

Chris: Yes, that describes my whole writing life since 2016. So when I went full-time in 2016, I’m like, Oh, I’m going to get 15,000 words a day down, I’ve got so much more time, and nope, I just expanded the work to fill the time. And I get a lot more time to research and it’s a lot of fun, but really, if you have deadlines this is why I try to do the writing sprints, you’re just so much more productive. If you say, okay, between seven and eight, that’s my only time to write today. Then, well, are you going to get some words down compared to if you have nine hours?

Alessandra: I’m glad to hear you two are both that way because I tell people all the time, when I had a full-time job, I was so much more productive. Like, I got so much stuff done and then suddenly I have the entire day ahead of me, and at the end of the day I go, what did I do today? Like, it’s just amazing how your day just disappears. All right, we are closing up on time. So, if we missed any of your questions, now’s the time to shout them out. But, can you tell everybody where they can find out more about you and your books?

Chris: Sure, is my main website. I also have a YouTube channel, which has a bunch of videos for authors on plotting craft, marketing, you name it. I’ve written books on camera; that’s

Alessandra: And Chris Fox Writes is both your science fiction, fantasy books and your non-fiction; everything’s there at that website.

Chris: We also have pen and paper role playing game, so think Dungeons and Dragons; those are available as well.

Alessandra: Oh, that’s cool. I have to tell my son that; he’ll love that. So, thank you guys again for joining us. Oops, wait; let me make sure I don’t have it. Thank you again for joining us. And if this is your first time watching First Draft Friday, we’re here every other Friday. I’m always talking about craft related things with authors or editors or writing experts, so I hope you join us. And this is brought to you by We have a fantastic artificial intelligence editor named Marlowe who would love to read your book and give her thoughts in just a matter of minutes. So, please check out for that. And if you’re watching us on YouTube, please subscribe. If you’re listening to us on your favorite podcast, please subscribe, and we appreciate you being here and your support. So, happy writing everybody, and we’ll see you guys in two weeks.


Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments