Sunday, February 14, 2010

Getting Down To Business.

How often do you write?  For how long each time?  Are you consistent?  Are you committed?

Sometimes I think I'd love to have entire days devoted to writing.  I'm talking about days with no distractions, like you might find at a writing retreat.  It hasn't happened yet for me, and I'm not holding my breath.  I'm don't think I'd like a retreat anyway -- it's just not my style.

A couple of times I've had the opportunity to take a day at home and do nothing but write.  It didn't work well for me.  I could edit or rewrite all day (though I'd not be at my best after a couple of hours), but not write a first draft.  I can go at a first draft for an hour, maybe two, and then I need a break.  By a break I mean overnight.  It's just the way I am.  So what am I supposed to do, wait for a day I can reserve for writing and then use an hour or two of it and while away the remainder?  I think not.

As a writer you should be writing every single day anyway.  Some people call it BIC (butt-in-chair) time;  I call it writing.  Every day.  Above all else, that's what writers do, and it needs to become a daily habit.  Even if you could go on retreat four times a year, you still need to write the other days.  You need to make time each day.  Of course no one makes time, so you have to steal it from something else -- the only question is from what.

I'm not going to say that writing must be the most important thing in your life.  Your family, your health, and probably your day job need to come first.  At least.  But Survivor, or Lost, or anything else on television?  Anything else you do just to veg out?  That sort of stuff is easy pickings.  All you need is half an hour a day, an hour is even better:  as little as fifteen minutes per day is a damn fine start.  Let's do a wee bit of arithmetic, shall we?

Figure out how many words you write per minute.  Sounds silly, I know.  It may also seem like a pitiful number.  When I was working on my first manuscript, I found I wrote about 600 words / hour.  That's 10 words per minute.  (No fair laughing!)  Those were well-considered sets of words, mind you, my first draft was probably a lot tighter than it should have been, but that's what I felt comfortable with.  When you sit down to write, note the time.  When you're done, note the time again and count the words you wrote.  Remember -- it's not a race.

So now you know your average wpm:  10 in my case.  That means that at 30 minutes / day, I'll write 300 words each sitting.  Not much.

But it adds up.

In a month, that's 9000 words.  Is that a lot?  Depends.  But that means that you could have a 90000 word novel in 10 months.  That's first draft quality, and it will need work (maybe an awful lot of it), but you'll have written 90000 words!  If you waited for days that you could devote to writing where would you be?  Let's look at in terms of hours.  30 minutes / day for 10 months gives you a combined writing time of 150 hours.  That's like 3.75 work weeks of 5-day weeks filled with 8-hour days where you have nothing to do but write.  No meetings, no phone calls, no interruptions -- think of having all that time to write (yet not getting stale from too many continuous hours in a row)!

And you can have it for just 30 minutes a day, if you make the commitment....

Video of the week:   Being committed to what you need to do.


  1. Hi John!
    Thanks for answering my question on the BookEnds Blog re: Beta Readers. In my writing I also find that while I can edit and revise for hours, I have to take frequent breaks when writing a scene for the first time. I rarely like my first draft and often get discouraged that I'm a terrible writer. But after the first/second revision, I'm usually happy. Good luck with your writing.

  2. Thanks for explaining picture downloads. I'll give it a try!