Over on tumblr, satyrandsiren asked: ’ello! Just curious. How many hours in a day do you spend writing?
’ello back! The number of hours I spend writing every day depends on a lot of things. When I’m in the rough drafting stage, I try to reach a certain number of words on the days that I write.
Right now, I’m working on something that’s very different from any of the other novels I’ve written. It’s so different, in fact, that it feels like it needs different rules in terms of how to write it. (Then again, pretty much all writers will tell you that you never learn how to write; you only learn how to write that particular book.)
So, back when I was writing Adaptation and Inheritance, which are fast-paced thriller types of books, I tried to write 1,500 words per day. As I approached the deadline for turning in the first draft, that word count goal sometimes went up to 2,000 or 3,000 words per day. A lot of those words would end up being deleted/rewritten in subsequent drafts, but I needed a lot of forward momentum to get those books out in the time frame I had.
The book I’m writing now does not have that kind of deadline, and it is not a thriller. I actually felt sort of burned out after writing Adaptation and Inheritance, even though I loved writing them, so I vowed to write more slowly with the next book. A lot of writers I know are constantly pushing themselves to write faster, partly because they’re on deadline, but also because they want to publish things quickly in order to get paid. I am at a point in my life and career where I do not have an imminent deadline, and I’m financially stable enough to take more time to write something. This is a very lucky place to be.
At this point, I’m aiming to write between 500 and 1,000 words each time I sit down to work on this book. Sometimes I go a little over; sometimes I go a little under. This usually does not take me more than two hours. I’ve been writing this book about four days a week.
I wonder if people will be shocked by this? Two hours a day, four days a week is only eight hours a week. You can totally do this even if you have a day job.
I will say, though, that those two hours are rather intensive hours that usually leave me feeling drained. This book is a weird book. It is not a fun book, and it takes a lot out of me. I also spend many other hours every week thinking about the book. I think about it in the mornings as I’m waking up; sometimes I imagine scenes at night as I’m falling asleep. I make playlists and think about the book while listening to the music and walking my dog. I surf the web looking for photos of people who look like the characters. I write in my writing journal about it. All that takes place outside those dedicated writing hours.
Long story short: You don’t need to spend eight hours a day writing in order to write a book. Put in a couple hours a day, a few hundred words a day, and if you do that for enough days, you’ve got a completed draft.