- Jan 1, 2015
How many hours do you write a week and how do you do it? When, where? How do you find the time? Do you write even when you don´t want to?
I am fortunate that my contribution to the household economy is in food that I produce on our property, and not in a 9-5 job, so I have the flexibility to focus on my writing for about 30-35 hours a week. I consider it my 'day job'. Of course, not all that time is writing--there is the 'business' side of writing, too. Some days, the only actual writing I do is my daily blog. I write the blog every day, whether I feel like it or not--I find it a good exercise, and gives me a sense that I've accomplished something every day, even if most of my day was spent querying or developing a marketing plan.
I work full time outside the home, so I have to fit my writing time in around that.
I'm up at 4AM on weekdays, and not much later than that on weekends. I do all my promotion and Facebook stuff, blogs posts, etc., etc., etc. in the morning, and usually have about an hour to write before I need to get ready for work.
If I can sneak in writing at work during the day I do, but that's rare and I have to be very careful. I do write on my lunch break, but those 45 minutes go by quickly.
Most of my writing is done on weekends and when I'm home during the week for any reason. I don't count up the hours. I have a 3K a day word count goal, only so I stay on track with each book, but I'd say it's more like an average of 1.5K words a day, which takes me about two hours of straight writing.
But since I go back each day and read over what I wrote the day before, editing it before I move on, having 3K of clean writing that I feel is ready to submit takes more like six hours, including the self-editing of those 3,000 words.
Even on weekends, it's difficult to sit there for more than five or six hours and simply write. Consequently, it's taking me a month or longer to finish each book now, but that's still not too shabby.
I suppose if I had to count up the hours each week, I'd estimate somewhere around 20 hours each week. I wish I had more, but that's life.
Do I write even when I don't want to? No. I used to, but I found I ended up re-writing all of it anyway. So now when my muse takes a break, I just roll with it.
I do little else but activities around the process of writing if I include researching stories, making plot notes, editing, querying agents, participating in the Colony threads and reading literary newsletters.
I live alone, which has led to a reclusive existence that's been dominated by writing. I'm not sure if Malcolm Gladwell's assertion about 10,000 hours of practice making one an expert, but I've soared past that figure in the last four years.
As for actual creative writing, I take an 'if it doesn't come naturally, leave it' approach. This means that I usually conk out after about five hours of adding to my WIP. I don't set myself a daily word count to achieve, preferring to write 1,000 carefully considered words than churning garbage out like an automaton.
I spend about 60 hours a week on writing.
Not as many as I would wish. Every day minimum half an hour, in the dead of the night- that's about as much as I can spare in the weekdays. It usually gives me a paragraph, sometimes just two good sentences. In the weekends it's at least 2 hours, lately much more.
I used to write only when I felt like it, but now I do force myself, otherwise I would get nowhere. Even if it means that all I will be able to accomplish is correcting a few sentences that I wrote the night before. Thanks to that it's moving forward
I'm going through a tough patch at the mo, writing-wise -- I get up at 4:30, but am lucky to get in an hour of meaningful work before I get the kids up at 6:30. After getting them to school, I am back at the house to start the day job [I work from home] by 8:30. That's it for the rest of the day. I try to write on the weekends, but for various reasons this is getting increasingly difficult. Also, it's REALLY unhealthy -- most of my life is spent in front of a computer. I tried a standing-up desk, but it turned out that was even less healthy than sitting down. Just haven't found the right balance. Wish I could give up work. Ho hum.
I am in constant awe at your ability to write like a madwoman. And now I am even more! You must have a lot of energy in you to be able to handle this schedule. You are truly amazing! I would love it if you gave us some sort of boot camp course. I don´t think anyone does what you do.
Do you write for a living?
I'm flattered. Thank you.
Boot camp course? Well, even if I told everyone who works full time just do what I do, our lives are each different. What works for me might not work for another person.
For example, I have a husband who is more than happy to do stuff around the house, help with laundry and dishes, grocery shop, etc. He works, too, but he works three ten-hour shifts a week. He would love it if I could write full time because he knows how much it means to me, so he gives me time and space on the weekends to get caught up.
And I don't have small children, or high school children who take up even more time with their crazy schedules and questionable driving abilities. LOL! Our daughter is almost 26 and even though she lives at home (can't afford not to!!), she's self sufficient and I rarely need to help her out with transportation issues. Even the cat is perfectly content to sit there with me and sleep while I write. LOL!!
All of the above explains why I couldn't dive into this head first until six years ago. Until Nicole was finally out of the house and off to college, and didn't need to come home every weekend, all my spare time was devoted to being her mom. I mean I'm still her mom, of course, but she doesn't need me 24/7 in the same way she did back then.
And then of course there's the simple fact that we make time for what we want to do. That's true of anything in life. Deciding to adopt a schedule like mine comes down to a simple choice. How badly do you want this, and how much time and effort are you willing to put into it? Nothing in this world comes without sacrifice and hard work.
For anyone who thinks I sit here and churn this shit out in my sleep, I'm afraid you're quite mistaken. I struggle over every book. It's just that I've been writing, literally, since I was 8 years old. That means I've been writing for over 50 years now. I'm used to stories running through my head fully written. They've been doing that since I can remember. The challenge is to get them down on paper, or these days into a Word document, and then clean them up. Because the craft basics in my head don't always translate to proper sentence structure and all those "rules" in place once the story is on paper. And there's everything else that goes into a novel. Arcs, character development, a plot that makes sense and isn't full of holes, etc., etc., etc. For example, try writing over 80 romance novels and coming up with a unique way to write a sex scene or five in each one. LOL!! Now there's a challenge.
But English was always one of my strongest - if not the strongest - subject in school, so that part is second nature to me. I don't have to think about it much these days. I just sit down and type. That, too, is something that came easy to me from a young age. I was that crazy girl in school who, when we had an essay to write, took a few notes and then sat down to write or type the paper. Just like that. No outline, no drafts. I simply did my research, organized some notes, and wrote the paper. Took me years before I realized not everyone did it that way.
So, I guess the point of this rambling response is that a lot of this comes from inside me, and I don't think you can teach that to anyone. You can tell them how it works in your mind, and you can relay stories like this, but we don't all process information the same way. We don't each write in exactly the same way. I know authors who outline like crazy before they write the first sentence. If I had to do that, I'd lose my damn mind, and the story wouldn't be the same as the outline once it was finished anyway, so that thing would be a complete waste of time for me.
Most of the time, I have no clue exactly what the middle is going to say. I know the main points of their journey before I begin. I know how the story begins, and I know how it ends. It's a romance. We all know how it ends. But readers don't read them for the ending. They read them for the journey. They read them to fall in love with the hero, along with the heroine. And yes, in erotic romance, they also read them for the sex scenes. But as I write, my characters tell me their story. And most of them take wicked delight in tossing me curve balls along the way.
I think the best advice I can give anyone is to first spend some time figuring out what your strengths are with respect to writing. Are you a plotter? Do you need and love outlines? Do you have a good grasp of the mechanics, or is that where you struggle? How is your character development? Do you find your stories are filled with plot holes, or do you have a good grasp on that part? If, for instance, you know you need some extra help in the character development area, then arm yourself with books or online resources that speak to that skill. Do practice scenes or short stories to hone that skill. Have those close by when you write, so you can refer to them. And of course, you need to remember what you learned, and apply it to your future stories.
I still struggle with motivation for certain acts, or specific points in a story. It makes sense to me, in my head, why my hero would do this, but when my editor reads it, she fires off a volley of questions that help me fine-tune those scenes so the readers will understand the motivation. And sometimes, we toss out something completely and rewrite it. So now when I write, I have a series of key questions to ask myself in order to help with the motivation aspect, so I don't waste time later trying to make it fit into the existing story. This isn't as much of an issue with a free-standing novel, but I can't go back and fix the first two, three, or more books in a series once they're published. It's much more difficult to fix a key issue in later books if it hasn't been addressed from the start, unless I want a major inconsistency issue in the series. And I don't, of course.
As for my schedule, the getting up at 4 AM bit, I choose to do that. It's either that or try to fit all my writing in on weekends and have no time for anything else, including my very patient husband. Again, that's a decision not everyone can make, depending on what else is going on in their lives. I had to work up to this. First it was getting up an hour earlier than I needed, then two, and now it's close to three. But I also get very tired by 7PM. LOL!! So there is a trade-off there. If you're a late night person and that's your best time to sneak in writing, after everyone else has gone to bed, then by all means adjust your schedule accordingly. I've always been a morning person, and I do my best work early in the day.
I think I've rambled enough for one post. LOL!! I hope this helps.
I don't know about writing for a living, as it's starting to feel more like writing as a penance for past sins—which happened so long ago, I can't remember what they were!
No, I live on a very low income, provided by the basic Working Tax Credit that self-employed people claim to top-up their earnings. I certainly fit the image of a starving artist in his garret, but strangely am happier than I've ever been—largely due to the pleasure I derive from writing.
I could argue that I'm devoted to my craft, and I've cut a lot of things out of my life to improve my skills. I don't socialise at all, haven't dated in eight years and walk or cycle everywhere. Being solitary has blessings and drawbacks, but it allows me the freedom to write unhindered. I'm in awe of Colony members who hold down full-time jobs, care for families and pets and still find time to write.
Actually it's not all sex. LOL!! For example, when I wrote The Weathermen series, it's set 100 years in the future, on Earth, but where everyone is forced to live underground due to weather control software being hacked and taking on a life of its own. I researched bunkers, survivalist websites, how people would grow food underground, what kinds of reinforcement they'd need for the cities not to collapse, what they would do with their waste, whether it's possible to make enough synthetic oxygen to live on in an enclosed environment like that, etc., etc., etc.I can only image what kind of research you do for your writing!
So, selling that best seller would really shake up your world!
It certainly would! Perversely, one good thing about being very poor is that I'm hard to impress when it comes to offers of money. Should I ever reach the stage where I'm offered a book deal, I certainly wouldn't jump at the first offer. I'm used to living a frugal existence and have thrived creatively on it.
I love being creative, though whether my writing skills will take me anywhere near the Land of Filthy Lucre I don't know. I'm sometimes reminded of lyrics from Bob Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone when I consider my own career arc from teacher & librarian to penniless writer:
When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.
How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone ?
I set myself two hours a day to write, but find that I work best at night when there are no distractions. I did a good 5.3k the other night but spent the whole of the next day wanting it to be bedtime. I tried 4am starts, but kept clock watching and worrying about the school run.
If I don't feel like writing, I will read about writing or edit.