A Creative Method Used By Famous Novelists

What we can learn from storytellers.

Benjamin Watkins


Photo by Elisa Calvet B. on Unsplash

“Novel writing is a rather uncommon endeavor and, when it is undertaken, appears quite susceptible to extinction.”

- B.F. Skinner

At age 19, Irving Wallace wrote his first novel. His secret? A work chart that tracked how many hours he wrote a day.

His charts included three parts:

  • The date he started each chapter
  • The date he finished it
  • The number of pages written in that period

Here’s an example of one of his charts:

Since he was a self-employed contractor, Wallace felt the need to discipline himself with these charts. It motivated him to write. Or it discouraged him on days he didn’t do as much. Either way, it made him accountable.

And it worked. By 1989, Wallace had published 16 novels and 17 nonfiction books.

In studying Wallace’s progress chart, I realized he was the first to make me aware of the act of accountability.

This is when we make ourselves accountable by documenting our work rather than just saying we are going to write.

Quantify Your Daily Progress

Over the past few years, I’ve struggled with writing blog posts.

What I learned most when I evaluated my ineffectiveness as a writer is that I don’t make myself accountable.

It’s like saying that I’m going to lose 10 pounds in 2 months. But unless I commit to going to the gym twice a week and track my meals each day, my chance of success is low.

I need short-term goals to reach long-term success.

For instance, if I commit to writing two articles a week, I’ve done something entirely different:

  • I’m focusing on short-term goals
  • I’m putting a number behind my goal