Full-Time Writing FAQs
If you’re interested in writing full time, or if you’re trying it out (hello, summer ambition!), you might run into questions about what is typical or expected. How long every day do you need to spend at your computer? Is your month-long promotion spree worth the time?
A quick note before diving into some of the more common FAQs: Different authors write at different paces, and your speed says nothing about your quality. Don’t burn yourself out if you need to take your time. This post is specifically geared to writers who want to write to market, earning a competitive living writing and self-publishing full time. The rules are different here, and it’s okay if it isn’t your thing.
Additional note: Don’t burn yourself out. Seriously, don’t. Starting slow is a good way to get your feet wet, and after you have a few books out you can always step up your game later.
Question 1: How long should you spend on your books every day?
If you want this to be a full time job, you’ll have to treat it like one. But not everyone writes from nine to five. Your hours will be unique to you, and will likely change over the course of various life circumstances and interventions. More important than set hours is your pace and your publishing schedule. Multiple books per year is recommended, but how long these books will take to write will shift around. You also want to take into account unexpected delays, sick days, and general vacations or days off.
Question 2: How many words should you write per day?
Conventional authors usually write about two thousand words per day, but that isn’t competitive enough if you’re self-publishing and working to develop your backlist. Most full-time writers I know write anywhere from five to ten thousand words on writing days. Dictation is a workable solution if that sounds overwhelming or if you’re not sure your wrists could take the strain.
Question 3: How much time should you spend writing vs. everything else?
Your time should be focused on creating quality books. That means that planning, drafting, and editing should take up a balanced amount of time in your schedule. Secondary tasks like writing a newsletter or running a promotional campaign should take a back seat. If you ever feel like you’re spending more time promoting your books than actually writing them, take a step back and re-evaluate your process.
Question 4: How do you keep yourself working, or crack the whip?
The human brain is an incredible thing. Many writers experience an odd phenomenon when they quit the day job to write full time, and they discover that they are only as productive full-time as they were when they had to scramble for every spare minute. The laziness is instant. Fortunately, there are ways to work around this. I personally favor a modified Pomodoro technique, where I work in half-hour blocks and take a five-minute break in between. (You can read more about the way I do it here.) Others blend writing with day-to-day activity, such as dictating a chapter of a draft while working out. You’ll need to find something that works for you.
Question 5: Do you need to follow this advice?
I have yet to meet two authors with the same routine. Everyone does it differently. Some plan a novel for a day and then draft for a month, while others might spend weeks deliberating a book only to dictate it over the course of a long weekend. It’s a good idea to start small, start slow, and figure out what patterns you can maintain consistently over a long period of time.
What does your ideal day-to-day writing schedule look like? Please sign in to leave a comment in the section below, or click on the blue button to join my Facebook group for self-publishing fiction writers.