How much should I be writing?

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Jan 16, 2018
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#1
This is almost certainly a stupid question, but in general, if your aspiration is simply to "get good", how many hours a week / month do people think it's probably necessary / desirable / possible to put in, while juggling a full time job, family commitments etc? Does anyone have any good example routines (early rising / weekends) where they are able to systematically build in writing time? Is it necessary, in peoples' experience, to cut out stuff from their life / make sacrifices in order to concentrate on writing while also being able to pay the bills? Any and all thoughts very welcome.
 

Toby Frost

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#2
It’s not a stupid question, but it’s very hard to answer as people vary so much. Generally, I’d try writing as often as possible. I would suggest daily – that’s what I try to do – but as I say, it may be that you just don’t need that.

As to what has to be cut out, again, it’s hard to say. A few things come up regularly: social media in particular. It may be a case of working out the factors that are going to enable you to keep writing for reasonable periods of time rather than cutting out any specific thing. Writing doesn’t yield the same kind of instant entertainment as TV or games, so it might be worth putting them out of reach if you think you’ll be distracted.

I’d also stress the importance of writing with good grammar, understanding the rules of writing and so on: not, for instance, writing run-on sentences and knowing how to punctuate written speech. These really have to be learned rather than gained through practice. It’s also worth getting someone else to comment on something that you’ve produced: either on a forum such as this one (after 30 posts) or at a writing group. There is a list of good writing guides on this forum which are worth a look: Stephen King’s On Writing is a good place to start.
 
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#4
This is almost certainly a stupid question, but in general, if your aspiration is simply to "get good", how many hours a week / month do people think it's probably necessary / desirable / possible to put in, while juggling a full time job, family commitments etc? Does anyone have any good example routines (early rising / weekends) where they are able to systematically build in writing time? Is it necessary, in peoples' experience, to cut out stuff from their life / make sacrifices in order to concentrate on writing while also being able to pay the bills? Any and all thoughts very welcome.
Your goal shouldn't really be "to get good" i.e. it's all about technique. It's not!
 

tinkerdan

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#5
How much should I be writing?
In my typical fashion I'll answer with an annoying question.
How good do you want to be? How well do you want to write?
As much as you can endure.

You can practice in many ways even on this forum.
Simply by editing your own posts and asking questions like should I use a forward slash where I could use a comma, semi-colon, em-dash or even a colon.
But more seriously you can practice just as well by visiting the critique forum here and discover your own mistakes by watching other people making those same mistakes and attempting to help them see those mistakes.
 
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#6
I will elaborate on a point @Toby Frost touched on. I may be somewhat odd, but I tried writing every day, and I got stagnant. I didn't really start improving again until so started the challenges here. When you write in an echo chamber of yourself, you can loose the ability to see areas of weakness. So, rather than focusing on a specific time per week that one should do to improve, I would encourage people to commit themselves to a year of doing all the challenges here or on another site (preferably here!), and posting your work in the "improving" threads. The value of the feedback received and editing skills learned doing that cannot be overstated.
 
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#7
I have demanding non-writing job and I like to have no distractions and be in 'the zone' to write, so I simply write when I can. I usually get at least one 3-4 hour session on the weekend, sometimes two, but at other times I don't write at all for a few of weeks. But when I'm finishing off a novel, like now, I will try to get an extra few hours in during the week as well.

Being unable to write used to stress me out, but a few years ago I realised that until I could write full time it didn't really matter. The writing gets done and the novels get finished over time and I'm able to relax and enjoy the process.
 

Sum Dude

I wish I could have a signature :(
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#8
I don't get a lot of hours so I can write as much as I want currently.

I wrote around 3,700 words or 7 pages and some change in basically two 3 hour sessions spread across two days. Given I've only edited the first 4 pages and have already found a plot hole.
 
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#9
Woof. How long is a piece of string?

A lot of people will tell you write every day, or write 1500 words every day... that's not happening for some. But for others, its a super valuable goal that really makes it happen. Whatever works for you works for you and most authors offering absolute rules are wrong.

Right now, if motivated to write -

I'll write on the train in and to work (obviously not an option for some)
I'll try to crank out some words on my lunch break
I might write some when my wife has gone to bed, but usually I'm too tired to make much sense then

Those are my three 'good' windows.

Prior to this, when single, I was writing every day at times. I did NaNoWriMo and cranked out a lot of words then too. There's been some periods of unemployment that have been productive. But right now, all of that is simply not a goer.

And tbh, have I learned more, or been more productive during those periods of writing a lot? I'm not sure.

This is a very long winded way of saying don't worry about how much you should write, simply look at the windows you have and write in them, and if that doesn't seem to be enough look at making more.
 
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#10
Woof. How long is a piece of string?

A lot of people will tell you write every day, or write 1500 words every day... that's not happening for some. But for others, its a super valuable goal that really makes it happen. Whatever works for you works for you and most authors offering absolute rules are wrong.

Right now, if motivated to write -

I'll write on the train in and to work (obviously not an option for some)
I'll try to crank out some words on my lunch break
I might write some when my wife has gone to bed, but usually I'm too tired to make much sense then

Those are my three 'good' windows.

Prior to this, when single, I was writing every day at times. I did NaNoWriMo and cranked out a lot of words then too. There's been some periods of unemployment that have been productive. But right now, all of that is simply not a goer.

And tbh, have I learned more, or been more productive during those periods of writing a lot? I'm not sure.

This is a very long winded way of saying don't worry about how much you should write, simply look at the windows you have and write in them, and if that doesn't seem to be enough look at making more.
That's super useful, many thanks Big Peat!
 

Juliana

Juliana Spink Mills. "No capes!"
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#12
I think writing is rather like taking up running; you won't manage to go for long at first, and then you build up 'writing muscles' the more you do it. When I first started out, I could sit still and write for about an hour. That was it. But I did that consistently, every weekday morning. Pretty soon I was doing two hours, no problem. Now, on a free day and when I'm working hard on something, I can easily write for four or five hours if I have nothing to stop me.
 
Joined
May 18, 2018
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#14
I tend to
This is almost certainly a stupid question, but in general, if your aspiration is simply to "get good", how many hours a week / month do people think it's probably necessary / desirable / possible to put in, while juggling a full time job, family commitments etc? Does anyone have any good example routines (early rising / weekends) where they are able to systematically build in writing time? Is it necessary, in peoples' experience, to cut out stuff from their life / make sacrifices in order to concentrate on writing while also being able to pay the bills? Any and all thoughts very welcome.
I tend to set wordcount goals at about 1000 words a day rather than time spent writing. Bearing in mind that I write part time alongside running two self-employed businesses. If I set aside a day to really get into it I try and do some editing and also write about 3000 words. That’s usually a 7 hour day though.
 
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May 18, 2018
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#16
A few months ago, I wrote about 20,000 words in 3 days. In the last three days, I've written... none.

It's all about motivation. :)
I love/hate it when that happens, usually after I binge write like that I am inspirationally dry for a few days... weeks. When the inspiration drys up I usually put my editing hat on and don’t even bother to try writing. It works best when you just let something develop organically I find.
 

Lumens

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#17
For me, consistency is vital. Whether you decide to spend a certain amount of time, or hit a word count target (I suggest you experiment with both), do it every day, even if it's just a few minutes. That way, you start forming a habit.

I treat my writing sessions rather like how I would approach jumping into an icy cold lake; the more I think about it, the harder it gets. So don't think, and write jibberish if needed. Kill the critic inside you and enjoy the journeys that your mind will take you on. Worry about revising later.
 
Joined
May 18, 2018
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#18
The best advice for writers block I’ve ever heard was from a for dummies book weirdly. It said that writers block happens when you ‘editors’ brain gets in the way of your creative process and it recommended trying to write and edit in separate blocks. I don’t imagine that it works that way for everyone but it revolutionised the way I write.
 

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