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.


Life Lists

Isabel caught a lizard this morning.

Another species crossed off her life list. She’s hit most of the new species around here: the mouse, the rat, several birds, including a humming bird.

She really wants a gopher or a quail, but I can tell she’s a bit boggled on how to go about it.

It’s funny — I know immediately when she’s captured something and brought it into the house. She has a certain bright meow. A trill of triumph, alerting us to her prize. She’s always so proud, submitting her contribution to the household.

She has a gentle mouth, so usually what she brings in is alive and unharmed. This can be both a good and bad thing. I’m always relieved to see the birds fly away again. I’m not so pleased to see the mouse or rat take off across the floor.

This morning, I went dashing in trepidation (this is difficult to do and takes much practice) in response to her trill of triumph. My heart sank to see Isabel digging around in the basket by the fireplace that has my movie-watching blanket in it. Yes, the cozy soft blanket I bought myself from Bath & Bodyworks one Christmas, which was a huge indulgence since that kind of behavior is strictly against Christmas-shopping rules. I just knew there was a rodent in my blanket.

I was already figuring what else I could wash with it on this non-laundry weekend.

David got his rodent-capturing gloves and, following my suggestion, simply carried the whole basket outside, so that we could maybe skip the whole process of sliding around whatever heavy piece of furniture the rodent had dived under. Isabel immediately dived into the corner of the fireplace, where the basket had been.

And there was our lizard. A New Mexico Whiptail. Widespread and abundant. Don’t tell Isabel.

David had predicted she’d catch one, once the weather cooled a bit. You can see this is probably the one she earlier pulled the tail off of — the blobby-looking tissue is his tail growing back.

David caught the lizard and we dutifully documented it. Isabel is happy now, preening on the patio like the queen she is. Terribly pleased with herself.

Coincidentally, I hit my own version of a 10K day: sometime last night I received my 10,000th page load on this blog. Hardly the big time, but I feel good about the accomplishment.

And I didn’t even have to rip anyone’s tail off. Mostly.