Last month my wife encouraged me to treat my writing like a startup – work at my day job to pay the bills and have insurance, etc., but don’t treat writing as just something I do on the side occasionally. If I want to ever be free of the day job, I have to accept I’m going to be working extra long days at it. As I heard attributed to Howard Tayler once, “Being a writer is great! You only have to work half a day. It’s just picking which 12 hours that’s going to be.”
Since I started treating it seriously last month, and through a little trial and error, I’ve found my rhythm. I now aim to get 1500 words in before I leave for work. Most days, that means if I run a little late getting the words together, it’s fine (I’m not on a strict schedule). I have to clarify, though – I am not a morning person. I struggle to make it to that first cup of coffee. I try to walk the dog, make coffee, and get a shower before I start writing. Not because I want these as part of my morning routine, but because they are the only way to guarantee my eyes might be open when I get to the keyboard.
Why mornings then? Because I’m also a pragmatist at times. Not often, and at great pain, but I can occasionally see my way to a rational argument. The rational part here is that as soon as I log into work or step out the door, my day is out of my control. I could go to work, have a quiet day, and be home by 7 or 8. Or, I could go to work, not see a break for 12+ hours, and get home around 11. Quite frankly, in both scenarios, by the time I get home I’m usually a little to mentally worn out to then sit down and hack out 1500 words. By doing it first thing in the morning, I can get on with my down with the satisfaction of knowing that I accomplished at least one thing.
Why 1500 words? Partly because it’s a good pace for me. Secretly, also because Stephen King recently said in a talk that he does about 6 pages a day. At 250 words a page in most paperbacks, that’s roughly 1500 words. Seemed like a good target 🙂
So where does that leave me? In the last two weeks, I’ve written over 28k words. Yes, that’s more than 1500 words a day – that’s part of what’s great about writing to a target. You usually overshoot it trying to get everything out of your head. I am currently at just shy of 43k in my work in progress. When I started writing this epic fantasy, I thought I’d be lucky to make it to 60, maybe 70k.
I’m at 43k and I don’t consider myself quite halfway there yet. I don’t have an outline, but I do have a broad stroke of where the story has to go before I get there. And I can’t wait to get this one out there.