Monday, January 5, 2009


This was prompted by a post on The Poisoned Apple, Cate Gardner's blog.

The discussion was about word counts (among other things), and it prompted me to ask:

(from the comment I posted on Cate's blog)
It seems I need to post a question: I'll do it here and on my blog. (Hence this post on my blog...)

First some background...
When I sit down to write, I'm disappointed if I leave before I hit 2-2500 words. I guess I average maybe two or three writing sessions a week (although a bit better than that recently with the holidays), so I guess I get out around 5K a week - this equates to around the first draft of two chapters each week.

When my study starts up again, this will drop back to 2-3K a week if I'm lucky.

Here's the question (yep, there is one, it just took a while getting here): How many of you have a full time job?

I know many of you work from home, and I definitely include looking after kids and managing significant others as part of the full time job market, but being at home would tend to lend itself to having more opportunity to write in my distorted view of things.

I would love to swap with my wife and become a home-dad. I've done it for short intervals in the past, the longest being a couple of months, and enjoyed it. (The working from home bit, not the wife being away bit...).

Unfortunately money requirements no longer allow it, and the time restraints impact hugely on my writing.

So am I just wrong in my view of being home more results in more writing time?

Inquiring minds want to know - well this one does...

I know - I ramble when I post comments as well. But besides that. What do you average as a word count? There is no right or wrong answer here. 15 minutes a day resulting in a couple of hundred words is great if you do it regularly. One day a month where you manage 1000 words is just as good.

I want to know because it seems everyone has an expectation on themselves to live up to the hype out there. Most "professional" writers claim they write at least 2000 words a day, every day, and so many of us emerging writers try to emulate that. Cate's post is the first I've seen with a number under 2K. The comments are the first I've seen with numbers under 1K.

And I for one find it refreshing.

I write a little more than that in a session, but one writer doing 700 words a day manages to write 3500 in a week, which is the same as I manage most weeks even though I write anywhere up to 2500-3000 in a session. If I only manage one session then there is no real difference.

Yep, I'm rambling again. So how much do you write in a single session and how many sessions do you average a week? Do you give yourself the weekends off? Do you have a schedule where one day is put aside for reading, another for writing and yet a third for research? Fill up the comments - everyone wants to know...


  1. Hey there...followed you over from Cate's blog.

    I'm curious as well, so I'll kick off the discussion:

    I do have a full-time job (in banking), and two young children, and a wife who works full-time, is a part-time student, and sits on a couple of volunteer boards (we say hi to her and catch up on weekends), which leaves me taking care of the kids for the most part.

    That being said, as I mentioned over at Cate's, my personal goal is 1K per day, but depending on how active the muse is being, it may only be 500-700; I try to write every day but that, too, wavers regularly and tends more toward 4-5 sessions per week. I've read that to stay on the cutting edge of your current story you should shoot for 2000 per day and 6x per week, but for me, that just ain't happening...I can't even start thinking about writing until the kids go to bed, which only leaves a couple of hours before I fade out myself.

  2. I like to write when my son takes a nap in the afternoon (I am a stay at home dad who is in charge of the house while my wife makes money). The house is quiet and it gives me a couple of hours at least 5 days a week. I try to write at least 3 pages which is about 750 words a day. I can usually get more than that but that is my goal. I will also note that it doesn't have to be on the same story. Lately, my sessions have netted me closer to 1500 words.

    Weekends, if I get the chance only yield me a couple of hundred words at sporadic intervals.

    Good question, excellent post.
    have to laugh the verification word is sombeep. It almost sounds like a curse word.

  3. I popped over here from Cate's blog too. I work full-time (I'm a test proctor at a local college, with a long commute--I drive about an hour and a half every day getting to work and back), BUT I'm not married and have no kids. I'm lucky in a way since I have few distractions from my writing once I'm home, but then again I have to work and support myself.

    I try and write every day. Mostly I write novels, which I prefer, and it just seems easier with a novel to jump in and write a bit every evening. I like to write a few thousand words a day, but I don't really keep track and I don't chastise myself if I don't write more than a few hundred words. I think the important thing is just to write every day, even if it's just for a few minutes.

  4. Hi guys, and welcome over from Cate's blog (I'm not poaching, Cate, really I'm not...),

    I agree with K.C. in the need to write regularly but everyday is difficult for most people with kids unless you're like Jamie and stay at home (lucky so-and-so).

    (By the way K.C., what is a test proctor??)

    I think I'm pretty much in a similar boat to Jeremy lifestyle-wise, which often makes me feel guilty for taking time out to write. I feel like I'm neglecting the wife and kids at these times.

    They are very supportive, but that doesn't stop me from feeling a little guilty.

    In the end, I write as much as I write and I've given up berating myself, but until one retires, sells that first book, or wins lotto - I was just wondering how we all cope; if our mechanisms were similar. We only have a small test group at this point but I'm thinking we're not going to be that different in our philosophies or way of life.

  5. Well...I'm a high school English teacher with a 30 minute commute. (I carpool--that's plenty of fodder for writing.)

    I write in the evening, after the kids (2 boys) are asleep and my wife and I have had our five minutes. I've also been known to sneak some writing in during seminar (a "study hall" at the end of the day in which I basically babysit students). I aim for 500 words a day, but it isn't set in stone. Most days, I write more. Starting is the hard thing. If I can get past the first 100 words, I'm good for at least 500.

    I agree with K.C. in that novels tend to be easier to pop in/out of, although I've only written two. When I'm writing a short, I usually have the whole thing in mind and want to knock it out.

    The funny thing...I have ample vacation as a public school teacher, and find that I write less when I'm home more. I fall out of rhythm, I think. Last summer (we have about 2 1/2 months vacation) was hell on my writing. I didn't have a schedule.

    Something to ponder, I guess.

  6. B.T. I've been called that a lot, come to think of it.

  7. Good discussion.

    I'm averaging 1400 words so far this year but my word count all depends on how much time I procrastinate on the internet. I write every day - about 3 or 4 hours a day each night (but I also spend some of that time surfing), an hour if I'm lucky on a Saturday (family day) and about 9 hours on a Sunday, when as well as my current project I try to read through and edit rejected stories and sing loudly to CDs while thinking of ideas to keep me going during the week.

    I work, but don't have any children. Kudos to all of you who have children, wives, husbands, I don't know how you get anything done.

  8. I stay at home too, but actually in some ways I have LESS time than I did when I worked. When I worked, I could take my lunchtime and write for an entire hour without so much as stopping to breathe. Now that I'm at home with three young kids, if my girls don't take a nap, my writing time is gone for the day. I try to hit about 1000 words every weekday, but I also need to be realistic about the fact that it won't always happen, and if I finish a week at 5K, it's like hitting the lottery.

    Having said that, it's also done wonders for my writers block. I spend so much time thinking about what comes next that when I sit down, it's rare for me to stare at the computer. I've replaced quantity with quality, and actually, I'm happy with that trade off.

  9. (A test proctor is a proxy for a teacher. Some of the instructors here don't give their midterms/finals in class, and instead send the students to the college's testing center to take the tests. The proctors make sure the student is who they say they are, and they're not cheating, etc. We live to bust cheaters, muahahaha. We do lots of other testing, too--long story, interesting job most of the time.)

    Well, you did ask. :)

    My brother is a computer programmer for a living and for a hobby--he absolutely loves it and is really good at it. He's also married and has three little boys. He spends ALL his spare time coding, except when he's doing Tai Kwon Do. I really think he thinks he has the perfect life, but if I tried to keep to his schedule I would go nuts in about a week.

  10. Well I feel a bit insecure now. If I can get 500 words (final version) done per week then I'm happy. For me this means it's easier to do flash pieces. I find it very difficult to dip in and out of longer works - I think I have a lousy memory and have to re-read the whole damn thing to remember what happened, I also have 5-6 pieces on the boil at once so this doesn't help.

  11. David - don't feel insecure. I'm not suggesting the long form is better than the short form, or that there should be any form of weighting to distinguish one above the other - far from it.

    500 words a week, + all the drafting that is required to produce the quality you are, is good - why wouldn't it be. Add in there everything else you do - travelling to India to meet hot Bollywood actresses, etc...and I think you're lucky to find any time to write.

    As for longer works and the difficulties - I reread the last chapter I wrote everytime before I sit down and recommence work. Next to me is always my outline of the whole piece, which includes dot points on what I should be including in the current chapter I'm working on. I combine the two to remind me of where I am and where I'm supposed to be going. Without them, I forget and would find it almost impossible to write in the longer form.

    Flash is hard for me at the moment as most efforts turn into vignettes as opposed to little self contained stories. I can then link a whole bunch of scenes together and come up with a short, but flash is hard. It's the whole reason I'm working at it over on Cafe Doom.

  12. Maybe I should start using outlines ;-)