Writing for a Living: A Day in the Life

In September 2021, writing allowed me to retire from my full-time job with the National Weather Service and begin a new adventure. As I’ve written in previous articles, I produce a new novel every 50 to 65 days. Many authors wonder how I accomplish this feat and what my daily routine looks like.

Today, I’ll outline my writing day, and the prerequisite steps required to meet my schedule. If you’re ready to take the next step, this article will help you reach a new level in your writing career. But be warned. You must do the work. There are no excuses.

 

Enter My Dojo

Welcome to my writing dojo. Here, we leave excuses at the door.

I state this because every time I post my earning results, and the work I put in to reach my goals, I receive plenty of yeah, but responses. As in, “Yeah, that sounds great. But I don’t have the time.”

Keep in mind I earned six figures in author income while holding down a full-time job, being married and a father of twins, and caring for three dogs. Two now, may my little buddy Dunes rest in peace. Not only did I put in the required writing time, I learned to advertise and promote, and still engaged in healthy activities, such as hiking, weight lifting, and biking.

Time management is critical. Instead of watching Netflix and sports for three hours, I work on my craft and churn out books my readers love. You can always make time. It’s up to you to find your own motivation.

 

My Writing Schedule

I prefer to finish my writing before lunch, so the task isn’t hanging over my head all day. Provided I sleep well, I have all the mental energy I need to write after waking up. Still, writing isn’t my first task. After I wake up, I take care of the dogs and eat breakfast. My favorite mental and physical energy booster is a protein smoothie with organic greens, beet powder, frozen fruit, and ginger. During the cold months, I carry firewood into the house and load the woodstove.

I’m ready to write about an hour after I wake up. If I need inspiration, I’ll listen to an audiobook for several minutes while I answer messages from readers.

 

Writing Sprints

Before I write a new novel, I fill a digital document with story beats for each chapter. Using this method, I create a rough synopsis of the story, while leaving plenty of room for creative expression, so I can write from the seat of my pants.

When I’m ready to write, I load my story beats and scan the notes for the chapter I’m about to work on. Then I set a timer for fifteen minutes. During this time, I will not answer email, look at my phone, watch television, cruise the internet, or engage in any legal or illegal distractions. It’s fifteen minutes of writing, and writing only. My goal is to type as many words as possible (hopefully coherent words), without allowing my prose to morph into hot garbage.

If you need to know, I set 340 words as my target for each fifteen minute writing sprint.

Why 340 words? Because multiplying 340 words x 5 sprints equals 1700 words per session, and 38 days x 1700 words equals a novel between 250 and 300 pages. Yes, I aim to complete my manuscript in 38 writing days. Add a few days off now and then to enjoy life, and I can write “The End” in 50 to 55 days.

Back to the writing sprints. I reset the timer to fifteen minutes and complete a total of five sprints. Done.

What do I do between sprints? During the winter, I might toss another log in the woodstove. I’ll refill my tea mug, and if I’m hungry, I’ll grab a quick snack. But I don’t wander off or turn on the television. My aim is to stay in writing mode until the work is done.

Time: 75 minutes

 

Prerequisite: Teach yourself to write faster. I recommend “5000 Words Per Hour” by Chris Fox. Even if you never approach 5000 words, I guarantee you’ll increase your word count by following Chris’s exercises.

 

Editing

On a normal writing day, I finish writing before lunchtime. Next, it’s editing time.

Now, there are a lot of opinions on how long you should wait before you edit. On one extreme, Stephen King in “On Writing” suggests authors ignore their completed manuscripts for several weeks, then edit with a fresh eye. Many accomplished authors edit their manuscript as soon as the first draft is complete. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Dean Koontz prefers to edit the last chapter he wrote on the same day.

I prefer Koontz’s method. Going to bed, knowing my manuscript is in final draft form through my last completed chapter, is a wonderful feeling. Plus, I despise weeks of poring over a manuscript. It makes me rush through the process, missing obvious mistakes. By editing daily, the work is manageable. Even enjoyable. Well, if editing could be enjoyable.

Here’s my editing process. I read through the last completed chapter, correcting errors as I find them, tightening the prose, and making the story more readable.

Next, I open ProWritingAid (I prefer ProWritingAid to Grammarly and own a lifetime license). I run multiple checks on my chapter, including style tips, overused words, and grammar. This step catches more errors and further improves my sentence structure.

Finally . . . and this is my secret weapon, so don’t tell anybody . . . I copy the chapter and paste it into a voice synthesis program. Multiple free options exist, including apps you can download or access online. Choose your favorite. This final step catches additional errors and helps me identify sentences which could use a little work. Yes, listening to a robot reading a story without inflection is like watching paint dry. Or listening to it dry. But this step is so worth it.

Time: 30 minutes

 

Administrative Work

Now that I’ve written and edited a new chapter, I have the afternoon and evening to exercise, play with the dogs, and hang out with my family. But there is still work to be done. Not a lot, but if you’re serious about your writing career, you need to set aside time for administrative work.

You aren’t just an author. You’re an entrepreneur. This is your business, and it’s up to you to treat it as such.

Administrative work can be anything. Most days, I use the time to check advertisement performance or create new ads. This is a great opportunity to send specifications to my cover designer, line up editing and proofreading, answer reader emails, format my audiobook, and anything else that requires my attention. Sometimes, when I’m caught up on tasks, I write articles like this one for my website.

Never underestimate the importance of daily administrative work. Treating your writing career as a business will separate you from the pack.

Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: Two hours and 15 minutes

 

That’s my day. If that seems like too much work, remember I generated over $380,000 in revenue in 2021, with a total profit north of $230,000. Not bad for a two hour workday.

Find the time and do the work. The effort will pay you back multifold.

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