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My daily writing discipline (Day in the life of an aspiring author: Weeks 1, 2, 3 and 4)

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by Cynthia T. Luna in Creative writing

Living a daily writing discipline is the only way that any writer can realistically become an author. So, an aspiring author’s main task is laying words on a page/screen daily. But…

But I also have a full-time day job, and I also spend 2.5 hours a day getting there and back, and I also have a relationship with my husband whom I love and cherish. So, the end and the beginning of the day, and the weekends, are all the “free” time I have for writing.

My daily writing discipline

Still, butt-in-chair time is the difference between getting a novel or a book done or not. It’s just, my butt-in-chair time is limited to half an hour. And during the week, it’s twice in the day (before leaving the house in the morning) and after getting back home in the evening.

Speed writing is critical for optimizing on this limited time segment. And given that I am also writing on my blog, any writing is writing — and supports the cause of “living my dream”.

I don’t see it as a coincidence that I discovered Monica Leonelle and her book, “Write Better, Faster“. She basically breaks down her speed writing formula into four parts; but the single, most important item for me was “time-tracking”. And this is mainly because I really had no baseline or knowledge of how fast I write and how much I write.

The first thing I did was fashion a time tracker for my writing, modelled on the one Ms. Leonelle created for herself. (If you sign up for my emails, you will get one auto-magically (as well as other freebies…).)

Week 1 in Review.

Now, a little more than a week into measuring, I can see that my writing speeds can range from a low (first writing segment) 687 average words per hour to a high 2306 average words per hour. That’s a pretty wide range.

I started with this baseline during an uncustomary time, Christmas week, when I didn’t have to go to work. There are plusses and minuses that come with that. On the one hand, I can test out good times of days for my writing habit. On the other hand, is it realistic for me to know that 4 pm in the afternoon (highest average word count) is my optimal writing time, when I will practically never get to enjoy that writing time? (It conflicts with my work schedule…)

Still, it’s nice to have the general statistics, so I can create SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) goals for my speedwriting and for meeting my dream of publishing several books in 2016.

It will be interesting to see how my word tracker will look once I start heading into the office and changing my life schedule. I am a lot more strict with my time, because I only can allow a half hour in the mornings, before heading into work and in the evenings, after I’ve come home, but before I sit down to dinner with my loved one.

What I learned in Week 1. A quick table of results

Day 1, Avg. Word/Hr: 1018.94, Words: 1767
Day 2, Avg. Word/Hr: 1405.81, Words: 1789
Day 3, Avg. Word/Hr: 0.00, Words: 0 (Xmas Eve)
Day 4, Avg. Word/Hr: 0.00, Words: 0 (Xmas Day)
Day 5, Avg. Word/Hr: 2210.36, Words: 961 (Boxing day)
Day 6, Avg. Word/Hr: 1464.52, Words: 8965 (Sunday)
Day 7, Avg. Word/Hr: 1553.43, Words: 1576 (Went out w/ a girl friend)

Totals: Avg. Word/Hr: 1093.29, Total Words W1: 15,058
Total Time all week: 12:45:00

My overall Average Word/Hour is just a little over 1,000. I would love to get up to an average of 2,000 to 3,000 words per hour. This way, I think it would be reasonable to get in 10,000 – 15,000 words down per week — whether it’s on fiction or non-fiction. On that note, nearly 100% of these words were generated for non-fiction.

Forgetting to log my writing times and word counts during Week 2.

So, I was riding high on a non-fiction book that I completed during this week. I knew that I wanted to get all the words on the screen, so that I could get the book edited by the end of January and published for a first round by the end of January.

Given that it would be my first published work ever, I was really nervous and excited about writing. I kept forgetting to take a break between Pomodoros, or marking the word count where I started up or left off. Very frustrating from a metrics standpoint; but extremely rewarding from a writing perspective, because I completed the rough draft, compiled it in Scrivener to edit, and shared it with a really lovely beta-reader who totally fits the target audience for this non-fiction book.

I would really like to look at my fiction work right now, because I have time (but I am struggling with editing, outlining after-the-fact and going through rewrites–both psychologically, and actuaScreen Shot 2016-01-14 at 18.37.29lly).


Feeling sorry for myself during Week Three.

Week three was decidedly worse from a productivity standpoint. (You can see that I clocked a little more than 300 words.) The main reason for this is because I fell ill and I returned to the office. I’m dealing with issues of being annoyed with myself, because after two days of struggling with the flu at the office, I went to visit a doctor who yanked me away from going to the office all week. Even though I wanted to write, I could barely muster the energy to get myself out of bed, let alone to think. So, I feel like I wimped out.

I did manage to get some reading in, though, but not as much as I feel I should during a week that I’m “off” and actually have time.

It’s also frustrating to see how hard on myself I can be when I’m ill…

Week Four: Back in the saddle and experiencing some serious chafing!

Even though I’m back at work and back to my routine life, my writing hasn’t really ramped back to where it was while on Christmas holiday. It’s frustrating, but also understandable–I mean, I knew that I wouldn’t have endless days forever, right?

Still: New Year, New Me, Right?

I signed up to be a part of a year-long Mastermind group for writers. Being in Europe time when everybody else is in U.S. time can be really overwhelming — in good and bad ways. The good way is that people are damned inspiring and have so many goodies to share. The bad way is that when I am on the train during my 40-minute commute, I burn the ride reading everybody’s updates on my way to work: time that I intend(ed) to use for blog dictation. Which leads to my next point.

I wanted to use this week to experiment with dictating blog posts to my phone. I only had one successful session (out of two). My big realisation is that I’m really going to have to up my outlining game. Dictation is not like typing (not yet anyway), so I have to practice, practice, practice. (Feel free to share or comment if you have any experience with improving your writing speed!)

On the fiction side of things, I have picked up a great book by Libbie Hawker called, Take Off Your Pants! It’s basically about the general outline of a novel and its plot elements. This has been the book I have been looking for, because it’s about the overarching structural needs of a story, and not just a sequence of actions that move characters from one chapter of the book to another! But even applying elements of my novel to this new outline isn’t really writing — it’s pre-production and post-production… not production.

On the non-fiction side of things, I have made some tweaks and adjustments to a booklet I’m gearing up to self-publish–but I’m nearing the point where I need to don my “design hat” and pull together a couple of worksheets.

Week 4: Results Roundup

All in all, I haven’t been doing any real writing (except for the blog) because I seem to be trapped in pre-production mode on my fiction and in post-production mode for my non-fiction.

I have made a note to self that I need to get an outline down for another book, so I can really get back in the writing saddle!

P.S. The idea is to write a weekly “Writing Discipline” post in this space on Saturdays. (Another one of my million goals for 2016…) I’m hopeful that by putting it in public like this I’ll hold myself accountable!

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