A Day in the Life of a Writer

So let’s say you’ve decided to make a go of writing full-time.  You might imagine that your work day would consist of sitting at your computer for long stretches of time, busily writing.  After all, you’re a writer!  Isn’t that what writers do?

Well, I’ve had a busy day doing pretty much all writing-related stuff and it occurred to me that it might be of interest to someone contemplating the life of non-stop excitement and adventure that I’ve embarked upon.  Keep in mind that I still work full-time in the tech support industry, so this is all in my “free” time, at the moment.  This was how I spent my Saturday.  Not that I’m complaining.  I love it.  The temptation to play computer games is always hovering at the edge of my consciousness, taunting me (and occasionally seducing me), but the writing and editing is in fact fun.

But it’s also a lot of work.

  • Last night, I finished going over the final galley proof of my YA novel and emailed that off to my editor.  That doesn’t count for what I did today, of course, but this morning I remembered a couple things I’d forgotten, so I sent a couple emails to straighten that out.  That novel will come out March 1st!
  • I also received an email from a reviewer who’d been nice enough to host a giveaway of another one of my YA novels.  She’d picked a winner and was forwarding the email address to me, so I could send the eBook to that person.  I sent the email, of course.  And I was charming as all get-out.  
  • Murderous Requiem has gone into the editing phase.  Yay!  I received the first wave of edits from Dreamspinner and now I have to go through the manuscript and accept or reject the changes… and explain why I rejected them, if I do that.  I have a lot of respect for my editors and I think they’ve really improved my writing over time, by pointing out passive sentences and suggesting ways to make them more dynamic, as well as forcing me to review awkward phrasings and strange word choices.  But sometimes we disagree.  I may prefer the way I wrote the sentence originally, or I might have a reason for using a particular phrasing.  One of the big battles in By That Sin Fell the Angels was over capitalization of pronouns referencing God and Jesus.  The Chicago Manual of Style says they shouldn’t be capitalized.  After all, the King James Bible doesn’t capitalize them.  However, I based the church in that book on the Assembly of God churches I attended as a teenager in New Mexico and Texas.  They capitalize.  A lot.  Just listen to an Assembly of God pastor talking about Jesus and you can hear the capitalization.   Their website is covered with capital letters.  So I fought for that one.  But I digress….  Anyway, the edits have to be done by this coming Wednesday.
  • I was contacted by a fellow author who had read The Dogs of Cyberwar and wanted to let me know that she’d reviewed it, and also wanted to chew me out for the cliff-hanger ending.  I assured her that I would get back to Dogs as soon as this current novel I’m writing was done.  She’ll have to get in line behind all the other people who want to strangle me for the ending on Dogs.  Does this count as work?  It was a pleasant email chat with a friend.  But still, writing-related.  And yay!  A review!  (Thanks, Angel!)
  • Speaking of my current novel—or as we sophisticated writer-types like to call it, WIP (Work In Progress)—it’s lagging behind.  I’d promised my publisher I’d have it done by the beginning of March.  Now I’m certain that isn’t going to happen, so I had to hang my head in shame and ask for an extension, until the end of March.  Fortunately, she was gracious.  
  • Then I wrote a scene and realized I was going in the wrong direction.  It wasn’t bad, but it meant I had to change the direction I’d wanted to go in for that character, which really didn’t make sense.  So I spent some time brainstorming with my husband to see how I might get things back on track.  Fortunately, it didn’t involve throwing out what I’d written, but I now have to go back and write some stuff leading up to it and change what’s coming after it.
  • Then I played Morrowind.  (Scratch that!  It never happened!)
  • I updated the list I’m keeping of things that need to be done.  It includes interviews I’m doing, bloghops, submitting published novels for consideration in various awards, miscellaneous promotional stuff, etc.  I currently have about fifteen open items to keep track of.  
  • I did some brainstorming about my next YA novel, a somewhat surreal sci-fi adventure.
  • I submitted two novels to the Rainbow Awards.  (Last year, one of my YA novels got two honorable mentions.)
  • So how much writing did I actually get done today?  It actually wasn’t a banner day for writing.  Let’s say about 1,000 words.  A good day for me is about 2,000 words.  But if I can manage 1,000 a day for the next few weeks, I’ll make my deadline, at least.  

So that was my day.  I’m sure other writers are much busier than I am.  I certainly know writers who have more output, but I’m not too unhappy with the amount of actual writing I do.  I have slow days and fast days, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, I managed about 150,000 words of new material last year, not counting editing.  If I calculate that out for 52 five-day weeks, then that means I wrote about 600 words a day.  I can easily increase that, if I were doing this full-time.  We’ll just see how things go.

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13 Comments

Filed under Reviews, SciFi, Writing, Young Adult

13 responses to “A Day in the Life of a Writer

  1. Great post, Jamie, and very accurate. I am not quite as busy as you are, but my days look pretty similar. Wouldn’t it be great to do this full time?

  2. thedifferentdrummer

    Great post Jamie. I definitely wouldn’t think you were being horribly lazy. You did a lot! But at times our brain weasels make us think just because we don’t have something physical and tangible to prove there’s been progress, we think there’s no progress.

    It was once said about Michelangelo that he would stare at a block of marble every day for years. Just staring. Contemplating. Considering. People would ask him what he’s doing and he’d respond “Working.” That block of marble later became David.

    We’re all chipping at our blocks of marble. 😀

    -Lex

  3. jaimesamms

    The hardest thing to do on days like this is remember, all this stuff has to get doe, and no one else is going to do it. It doesn’t count as an unproductive day if you count more than words. (But less than Morrowind, because I’m pretty sure that really *doesn’t* count)

  4. Yep, this sounds extraordinarily familiar. Writing-related stuff, which you convince yourself is absolutely necessary, seems to trump the, ya know, writing stuff. Probably because it’s instant gratification.

  5. “The temptation to play computer games is always hovering at the edge of my consciousness, taunting me (and occasionally seducing me)”

    Thank you for that!!

    I’m always interested to hear about other writers’ daily word counts. I’ve been told (yelled at, nagged) to up my dwc (maybe I’ll start using that acronym!) to at least 1000. I’m barely getting anything done now, especially compared to other writers, but…writing is harrrd! 😛 (The most recent dwc story I heard was about someone hanging out at RWA Nationals with Nora Roberts, who, as it was getting late into the evening, suddenly said, “Whoops, gotta go, I haven’t written my 20 pages yet.” Even at 150 words/page (let’s say it’s heavy dialogue) that’s still 3000 words/day. And it’s probably more like 5000. But that’s why she can put out so many books per year.)

    Anyway, thanks, that was very informative! But I do have a question — I’m finding it really hard to get to the revising. Where do you fit that in? Do you also work on your WIP if you’re revising another story? I feel like I’m “cheating” on my WIP if I take time out to revise another story. Like I should be making that word count at the expense of other writery things. (But notice it doesn’t keep me from reading blogs/fb/twitter/loops…..*headdesks*)

    • I think the general estimate is 250 words on a page (on average), so your estimate of 5,000 words is probably correct. That’s a good clip, even for a full-time writer. That’s something to be admired, but I wouldn’t hold it up as a reasonable expectation for everyone. If I do 1,000 I’m happy, at least until I start doing this full-time.

      I don’t really set aside time for writing or revisions — it’s all on the fly, whenever I can find the time. Lunch breaks and just before bed are most common. But I’m lucky in that my mind switches easily between multiple projects. It’s something I trained myself into as a kid, with all the drawing and writing and other projects my brother and I juggled. (We were a very artistic family.) So, yes, I do work on edits at the same time I’m working on a writing project. It does help if they’re in the same genre, though. It’s hard to edit a sci-fi novel while I’m writing a fantasy story.

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