the full-time writerly life: the work week

I’m late posting this one because Project Get A Social Life involved going to my first karate class this evening, at the dojo where kniedzw has recently started attending and my future sister-in-law is a black belt/sensei.

So, my schedule on a larger scale. The next thing to talk about is the week. When I’m noveling, there is no “work week;” I write every single day, unless something prevents me from doing so, because if I don’t a) I lose momentum and b) it’ll take me even longer to finish the damn book. This is a schedule that functions pretty well, but it gets depressing on occasion: after two months of writing every single day, I know I have another month or two of that to look forward to before I can take a break. “No time off for good behavior” is how I usually start characterizing it, around about month #3. And that does suck a bit.

When not noveling, my schedule has heretofore been much more sporadic. Write every day, many advice-givers tell you, but the truth is that I don’t. I write a short story when one is sufficiently developed in my head to go, or play around with new novel ideas, but you need to put this all in the context of the academic year; novels were what I did during the summer, and the other nine months I at least tried to make other things my priority. (You may deduce my incomplete success, which is to say increasing failure, by my departure from graduate school.) But if this is my full-time job, then it makes sense to try and be more productive.

I figure, then, that I should make use of this concept of “work week.” Monday through Friday, with weekends off. If I’m not noveling under deadline, then how’s about some relaxation time? I may write on the weekend, of course; see the first F-TWL post for my refusal to apologize for that. But only if I feel like it. Other jobs give people time off, after all. I deserve some, too.

Monday through Friday, though, my goal is to put down at least some words. The daily novel quota is a thousand; I’d like to shoot for five hundred in the downtime, at least to start with. Five hundred a day for two weeks (with weekends off) would give me a decent-sized short story. Higher productivity would be great, but baby steps; I think I’d rather ease into my workload, rather than leaping headfirst for a big target and finding out the hard way that it’s too much. (That’s how I crashed and burned on the first novel I tried to finish, in high school. Not sure how much I was trying to write per day, but it was a lot more than a thousand. No great loss, mind you; that was an apprentice idea, cobbled together before I leveled up and started having ideas worth my time.)

I figure that goal is flexible. If I spend a day revising a story — real revision; not just rearranging the commas — that’s real work, too. So is world-building, if I get on a kick for that. Maybe I don’t need to put down words those days. But I should still try, because when all is said and done, the production of words is the baseline requirement for this job, without which none of the rest of it matters very much.

0 Responses to “the full-time writerly life: the work week”

  1. dawn_metcalf

    If I spend a day revising a story — real revision; not just rearranging the commas — that’s real work, too. So is world-building, if I get on a kick for that.

    Very appropriate for a karate class. 😉

    Go, you!

  2. cheshyre

    Not sure if you saw this comment I left in your Q&A thread, but I went to Faeriecon in Philly over the weekend.

    A copy of “Midnight Never Come” was included in the gift bag provided to every attendee, guest and exhibitor.

    Wanted to make sure you were aware, and I hope you get royalties from such arrangements.

    • Marie Brennan

      Yes, I saw that; just am a bit behind on comments. Thanks for letting me know! I knew Orbit had something planned for FaerieCon — in fact, for a while there was talk of me going — but not what exactly it would be. I appreciate the plug to Kinuko Craft especially. 🙂

  3. mirrorred_star

    How was the class?

    I think taking weekends off sounds really reasonable considering it’s a full time job now, even though you’re ‘on call’ all the time.

    • Marie Brennan

      The class was good, though of course it’s hard to judge when you’re new. But the dojo seems like a friendly place.

      I should get a karate icon. 🙂

  4. emrowan

    When you say you aim for 1000 words a day and spend ~3 months writing a novel, does that mean you’re revising as you go along? In other words, at the end of the 3 months, is the manuscript ready to send to CP/agent/whoever? Or do you have to do another round of editing/revising before sending it off?

    Just curious. 🙂 I’m always interested in hearing how authors approach writing and what kind of time tables they use. I’ve been enjoying your writerly life posts!

    • Marie Brennan

      A little from Column A, a little from Column B. Mostly I keep going forward, and don’t revise until I’m done, but then again I also tend to read over the previous day’s work before starting the new day, which generally involves at least small-scale tinkering. And sometimes I backtrack to change something, if it’s big enough that I really need it fixed before I can write what comes next.

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