Creating a Sustainable Writing Schedule

I love little enticing pathways into interior courtyards.

So, there’s this gal who did a workshop at a conference recently and then did a blog post – about how she’s developed a way to write ten-thousand words a day. A 10K Day. I don’t know her at all – I just glanced at her blog post because several of my writer friends were (understandably) really excited about her ideas.

I mean, who doesn’t want to write ten-thousand words a day?

I also saw a magazine cover at the gym proclaiming that Kim Kardashian (I have no idea how to spell that) lost ten pounds in one week, and I could do it, too!

I admit, that sounded pretty damn wonderful, also.

This is where I’m at right now, in the weeks leading up to the RWA National Conference at the end of July. I did some assessing on Saturday and figured out I needed to lose 10 pounds, so my cute outfits fit right, and write 80K words, so I can have a draft of RP2 finished. This works out to 1 pound every 8K words. So clearly I just need to not eat while writing.

Thus the temptation of the Big Leaps is ever-present.

Write 10K in one day? Yes, please! Lose 10 pounds in one week? Sign me up!

And yet, I also know that this leads to the Dark Side. The best weight loss is slow and steady – or the fat just comes right back and is harder to lose. I think we all know this. Which makes me wonder if similar isn’t true about the promise of the 10K Day.

So, here are my caveats. I don’t know this gal. I have absolutely nothing against her. I have nothing against writing fast. I know that there are writers who can and have turned out this much in a day.

What I think is this is not sustainable.

It’s binge writing.

I noticed, in her description of this method that she said she hired a babysitter so she could write 4 to 5 days a week (I forget which) and figured out a way to write that much. She also said this enabled her to write a novel in 3 months instead of 7. So,  a little math tells me that, at 10K per day, it would take 10 days to write a 100K novel (most novels are 85-120K, so that’s a reasonable round average.) If she’s writing 4 days/week, then she’d have the novel written in 2 1/2 weeks. Where did the other 8 weeks come from?

I’m presuming that’s revision time. (And maybe she covered this – I confess, that I skimmed.)

Some people like to work this way. Candy Havens does a Fast Draft class, where you draft a novel in two weeks and then do Revision Hell for two weeks. This works for her and for some others, which is great. I’m not sure if she feels the novel is ready to go after that, or if it takes more polishing after that.

But here’s another model.

If you take two months to draft a novel, that’s 60 days to write 100K, or about 1667 words/day. Most writers can do about 1,000 words/hour. (Your mileage may vary.) So, in two hours a day, you can draft a novel, spend a month revising it and still have a novel in three months.

Sure, it takes discipline and adherence to schedules, like we talked about yesterday, but so does healthy weight loss. And, to me, this is a healthy approach to a sustainable schedule.

Change your eating habits, work out every day, get plenty of sleep and water, and the weight will come off.

Develop good writing habits, write every day, get plenty of sleep and water, and you’ll have a novel.

It’s not great on a magazine cover, but it works.

 

15 Replies to “Creating a Sustainable Writing Schedule”

  1. This.

    You know – I tried the Candace workshop once and dropped out within two days. Because honestly, that sort of idea cannot work for me – being told I’m supposed tell my husband to watch the kids for 10 days while I write is just never going to happen. (I want to say that was actually in the syllabus.) Our schedules aren’t even remotely compatible for something like that (he works evenings and nights and most weekends – it’s not like I can just leave the kids some dry cereal and be like, see ya!)

    Sometimes it’s all about timing. I do the best I can with the time that I have. When my kids are older and more independent, then maybe I’ll give the mega-word count another try, but for now I refuse to beat myself up over it.

    1. You were braver than I, Allison! I just knew there was no way for me and I don’t have little kids! I just can’t draft that much and keep up with the day job, too. I really wonder how many people really get into that method?

  2. I don’t know if I could do 10K in a day. My hands and my brains would stage a joint protest. The best I did was 5K in a day, and I paid for it afterwards. I couldn’t do that kind of word count in any sustained way. 1-2K is my limit. And it works for me. Which, now that I think about it, means I should probably stop beating myself up for not writing as much as my guilt wants me to write. It’s just not in me.

    Thanks, Jeffe. These posts really helped.

    1. It helps me, too, to sort this stuff out. I think it’s easy to fall for the guilt and the Kim Kardashian nonsense. 1-2K works really well for me, too.

  3. I’m glad I’m not the only one with word count guilt. 1k is a good day for me during the week (day job! small child!), and I always feel inadequate. Thanks, Jeffe!

  4. I was one of the people who got all excited and posted that blog. Then I tried it for a few days and found out right away that more words aren’t necessarily better. Knowing what your characters need here and what the plot wants there trumps a few thousand useless words that’ll just have to be stripped later. Ultimately, Jeffe, you’re right. It certainly wasn’t sustainable for me. There was one piece of information in there that I did find vaulable, however. The author in question said that if she wasn’t excited to write a scene, how could she expect her readers to want to read it. THAT was useful. Now, when a scene gives me trouble, I don’t wrestle it. I figure out why it’s being such a pain and fix it.

    1. Oh, were you? I had no idea, M! How interesting to hear what you found out from trying it though. Glad that you found something useful from the exercise though!

  5. I’m already happy when I manage to write at least a bit each day. 10k would be insane for me and I work part-time.

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  7. I love Candace’s methods and rules for fast drafting, but I just use the suggestions and put it into a more reasonable schedule. I’m a slow writer because I edit as I go. But after taking Candy’s class, I got better at shutting up the internal editor and just writing. This got me from about 1k a day to 2k a day on most days and up to 4k another day. So I did a 40k novella, written and revised, in about 6 weeks. (I don’t write on the weekends.) I think the 2k a day is a good goal for me. 10k a day makes my head spin and my wrists hurt just thinking about it.

    1. That’s really good to know, Roni. I think I could do 4K day, if I didn’t have the day job. Your schedule sounds very doable to me. And you’re right – Candy’s advice to shut up that internal editor makes a *huge* difference.

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