Friday, November 23, 2012

Writing: How Much Time...?

Kim has asked the question, "On average, how much time do you spend on your book writing? Is it a daily job?" I guess the most accurate answer is, "It depends." Let me explain.

I'm retired, so I don't have a "day job." However, as any retired person can attest, I'm busier now than I ever was when practicing medicine (which was my full-time profession for over 36 years). That means that there are times I'd like to write, but life intervenes.

That having been said, my usual routine is to go to my office (which is twelve steps from our bedroom) after breakfast and fire up the computer. After checking email and reading about a dozen blogs that I follow, I open the book I'm currently writing and read through the previous scene. This gets me into the flow of things, as well as letting me do a bit of editing. Then I try to write.

How long do I write at a time? Do I have a daily word quota? I write until I'm tired of writing--sometimes as little as 30 minutes, sometimes for a couple of hours. There are breaks, but I try to stay with it until I reach the end of a scene (and I write fairly short scenes and chapters). Then I save my work and walk away. I come back in the afternoon if I can, but sometimes there's no time or opportunity.

This is in contrast with writers who set a word count goal for every day or week. I find that it doesn't work for me. And the closer I am to deadline, the more I tend to write.

Kim, thanks for the question. Unfortunately, there's no "one size fits all" answer. I suggest you find what works for you (usually over time, by trial and error), and forget what others may do.

Do any of you have questions about writing? I'd love to tackle them.

(photo via


Carol Garvin said...

Time is the topic today on a few of the blogs I follow. I suppose, particularly at this time of year, we're all conscious of the So-much-to-do-and-not-enough-time syndrome!

I get less done now that I'm retired than I did in past years when I worked, had children at home and lived with a crazy schedule. The difference in retirement is that I get to choose how I spend my time. Sometimes I spend entire days and/or nights writing, other times only an hour or two. It depends on how caught up I am in the story. It also depends on whether or not I have a deadline. Deadlines can be very motivating! :)

Richard Mabry said...

Carol, thanks for weighing in. You make a good point, and one I should remember. Instead of complaining about how busy I am after retirement, I should remember that it's ultimately my decision how I spend my time.
As always, appreciate your comment.

S. Kim Henson said...

Thanks so much for your answer, Richard. It's the best I've heard so far because it sounds a bit more relaxed. I don't do well with a rigid word count or a time limit in front of my screen. I know to be a writer, I have to write, but I do much better when my schedule is flexible. I feel like I just received permission to write the way that's best for me.

Richard Mabry said...

Kim, I'm glad I could help. Frankly, like you, I've felt a bit intimidated by writers who churn out pages upon pages, while I struggle to write while still having a life.

Be sure to come back Friday, when James Scott Bell, one of the writers who work by schedule, gives his answer to this question.