I’ve been asked many times, “when do you have time to write?”
I appreciate that question because it means that the person asking acknowledges that writing is a long-term process that requires a block of time to accomplish.
But this post is not for those people. This post is for the non-writers. For those who enjoy reading a good book, but don’t exactly know what goes into creating that book. For those who might wonder, “what do you do all day?”
This post is about a day in the life of a full-time writer.
I don’t know much about accounting. I don’t know much about being a stock broker. I don’t know much outside of the areas in which I’ve been educated. That being said, I don’t think the majority of people know much about what a writer does.
It seems simple–writers write. Yeah, if only.
Writing as a career (that is, actively pursuing and publishing multiple novels as I am), is a full time job.
The vast majority of writers already have a full time job doing something else, so writing is a full time job that has to be fit into another full time job.
In my case, I am a full time wife and mother, and I have to fit my writing career into that. That is much easier said than done.
I have responsibilities to my family, to my church, to my community, to my friends, and to myself (gotta keep healthy!). I have a full-time life. And I had one well before I decided to pursue writing. So making time for writing has become the challenge that I overcome on a regular basis.
In my life I’ve found time to write in the afternoons when my boys are either napping or having “quiet time.” I normally can carve out a couple of hours on a good day, and zero hours on a bad day. Occasionally, if I have the energy, I’ll write at night after my boys are in bed. But seeing as how my alarm goes off very early in the morning, this is a rarity. Sometimes, on occasion, I’m able to carve out time on a day when someone has offered to help me with childcare. On those special days, I can devote more hours to my passion. My husband is very supportive of my writing, but even with his help, I don’t often have time to write everyday.
Crafting a story isn’t all that easy.
It’s often said to me, “I could never do that. I don’t have any ideas for a story.”
Well, that’s part of my passion. I have a very, very, very, very, very long list of ideas. I’m constantly coming up with new ones.
But committing those ideas to paper is a process.
A good writer researches their story to make sure details are accurate.
For my current WIP (work-in-progress as it’s known in the writer-world) I’ve been researching Cambodia, even though Cambodia is only a very small portion of the book. For historicals, I have to delve into my history knowledge and make sure that my details and events are accurate. Just the research portion of the creative process can take a l-o-n-g time.
Another step in the process is plotting.
In the world of plotting there are two groups: the Plotters and the Pantsters. I am a Pantster.
I’m not a good plotter. I’m just not. I can’t sit down and create an outline of my story in detail before I’ve written it, but I do have a general idea of where the story is going, and what scenes I want to include (flying by the seat of my pants). So, I do make a list just to keep myself on topic. Some writers are very detailed plotters and have an outline that almost looks like a completed novel. God bless ’em.
And then there’s the actual writing.
Some days, when time permits, I can hack out several thousand words. This is a very, very good day. Other days, either time is an issue or I’m still thinking through elements of the story and I might stare at the blinking cursor for a while and be happy to produce a couple hundred words.
And when my manuscript is done, a first draft complete, then comes the editing process.
This involves hours of carefully combing through the story and editing the big elements–plot, conflict, character motivation, etc, and the little details like tags, beats, word choice, spelling, and all the nitty-gritty details. This is a long, continuous process. Every time I read my stories I can find something to edit. I’m an obsessive editor, so I actually enjoy the editing process more than the first-draft writing process. The more I learn about writing and story crafting, the more I want to edit. Once the backbone of the story is there, it’s the details that I like to tweak.
When I feel like the story is fit for human consumption, I have some readers get involved.
Beta readers–those who normally like books in my genre and will read it and give feedback. My critique partner, my agent, and writer friends who will read with a critical eye and help me fix any gaps, holes, or problems. And my mom. Because she loves my work but will always give me her honest opinion.
And when I’ve gotten feedback from those people, it’s more editing.
Then it’s time to send it off to publishers via my agent. To do this an author must create what’s known as a packet that includes not only a short blurb about the book, but a 3-5 page synopsis (that is a bad word in the writing community. Do you know how hard it is to crunch an entire book into 3 pages??), market comparisons, marketing strategies and all sorts of other things.
And some of those publishers, believe it or not, want you to do more editing before they’ll even consider publishing your book.
And the publication process is a whole ‘nother animal that many other writers have been wonderful about sharing. Suffice it to say, it’s editing on steroids. And book promotion. Massive work on book promotion. And marketing. And a whole host of other things that can be, even to the seasoned writer, overwhelming at times.
So, I’ve finished a story. What now? Start another one?
Sure, but in between ALL of the steps in this process, there’s the important goal of creating a reader fan-base or following.
How does an author do this? Via the web of course. Hence the blog, Facebook and Twitter followings that are very important.
It is the goal of any author to connect with their readership. And believe it or not, publishers actually consider how many followers an author has on various social media networks when they are looking at their work for publication.
I’m not just blogging for the fun of it. It’s part of my job–part of my career as a writer.
I’m not just on Twitter for fun (yes, honey, I actually am cultivating my career although you think I spend entirely too much time on Twitter!).
I’m not posting things on Facebook just for the heck of it.
This is all part of the bigger picture–my career as a writer.
We writers of the world would really appreciate your support in the following ways:
Follow us on Twitter. Like or Friend us on Facebook. Follow our blogs and share our posts with your friends–and please please PLEASE leave comments on our posts.
The point of blogging is to instigate conversation, so we want to hear from you. Please don’t be shy. Please contribute your opinion. It’s what we want–it’s what we need. It’s how you can help support us.
Oh, and read our books, of course. 🙂 And if you read a good book, pass the word along to as many of your friends as possible so that you are promoting that author. This is the best thing you can do for any writer.
**And I haven’t even mentioned the process of a writer finding an agent. Blessedly, I already have an agent, so that is not a process I have to undertake anymore. Praise the Lord! But it is a major step for many writers still.
Also, we find time to support our fellow authors by following & commenting on their social media contributions and by reading and talking up their published works.
The moral of the story is that writing isn’t just writing. It’s a full time job.
Thanks for your help and support. You guys are the best!
Share with me: What part of a writer’s life most surprises you? Writer-friends– what part of your career as a writer do you find most challenging; most enjoyable?
10 responses to “Writing Ain’t Just Writing Anymore”
Wow, This is like the Bible of a writer's life, Jenny! Awesome. Lately I've had to ditch nap/rest time as my writing time (probably until the little man goes to school in, um, 2 years…yikes). Whether I like it or not, I've accepted that it has to be late at night after the kids go to bed. Now to figure out how to get more than 6 hours of sleep. *sigh*
I do most of my writing/editing/marketing in the early morning. I get up around 5am. I have a full-time job where I work three days in the office and two days from home. I also have a three-year-old son. My days are full!
Love this! It is tough to balance everything. Especially when we're just starting out with writing. It can feel like we have to justify the time we're spending writing. That's frustrating sometimes. I try to wake up an hour or two before the kiddos so I can get some uniterrupted writing done. Otherwise it's really tough to find quiet time during the rest of the day.
You nailed it! Awesome! 🙂
LOVE this!! Sometimes I get frustrated when people think I can just "pick up and do anything" because I "stay home and write" PAH! So grateful I found you via #MyWana this morning!
Thanks for the comments, all! I wrote this mainly because I know that there are many people in my life, family, friends and acquaintances, that really have no idea what it's like to be a writer. I want people to understand that it's not just a "simple, little thing," but when done right, quite time consuming.
Amen Sister! My husband wonders why I've been sitting in my chair religiously every Saturday all day long (I have an 8-5/M-F job too) for months and still don't have a published book! Sheesh.This is perfect! Thank for your telling it like it is.Patricia Rickrodew/a Jansen Schmidt
Interviewer: How much rewriting do you do?Hemingway: It depends. I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?Hemingway: Getting the words right.(Ernest Hemingway, "The Art of Fiction," The Paris Review Interview, 1956)Jenny, I'm so glad you emphasized the importance of rewriting and editing.
i'm glad that i'm already a therapist and already familiar with most all of what you've written, being a fellow writer and all. but if i wasn't, i'd throw in the towel, call myself, and schedule an appointment. whew.
Jeannie- I need to schedule an appointment with you… 🙂