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However you choose to write, finding the time and discipline to do so is a challenge. Life—in particular, the day job—tends to get in the way of your best-laid plans to establish a writing regimen. Apart from the imperative to work and pay bills, buy groceries, and keep a roof over your head, even writers need to spend time with friends and family, get some exercise and fresh air, sleep a few hours, and just chill out.
So when do you write?
Choosing a time of day to write
Your choice of a time, or times, to write will depend on a number of variables: for example, whether you are a morning person or a night owl, the quiet or chaos in your household, and the demands of your employment. Most writers that I know either get up early and write before going to work, or they write in the evening after dinner. A few energetic types manage to write both early and late in the day. Those whose "day jobs" are at night, or who work changing shifts, have to create their own versions of the before-work and/or before-bed writing sessions. Some particularly motivated multitaskers may also manage to get in some extra writing time during lulls in the workplace, coffee breaks, and lunch hours.
The writing session
How long should each writing session be?
For significant progress, plan for sessions of at least an hour each; more ideally, two to three hours. On a good day, you can produce a reasonable quota in an hour. On other occasions, the words do not come so readily and you will need two or three hours to grind out what might not even amount to a minimum daily quota. Don't worry unduly about the less productive sessions. Over time, the good and not-so-good days average out, and the slow sessions, while frustrating, are nonetheless part of an overall forward progression.
Obviously, the more days per week that you can manage to write, the better. But if you're working at your employment twenty to forty or more hours a week, you are unlikely to be able to write daily or even every other day. The good news is that you don't have to write that often. In fact, to produce a book-length manuscript in reasonable time, you really only have to write one to three hours three times a week, or some equivalent of that. Here's why:
Word count: The mathematics of writing a book
All you need to write at each session is a comparatively modest 550 words—approximately two double-spaced pages. On a good day, you will do this in an hour or less. On those other days, you might well need a two- to three-hour session. Either way, if you produce just 550 words three times a week, that's a weekly total of 1650 words. Multiply that by the 52 weeks in a year—and there you have it: a finished draft of 85,800 words. This is an acceptable length for all but a few specialty subgenres (some of which may even require fewer words)—and you can congratulate yourself on having written a book in a year.
Typically, as writing progresses, momentum grows, and you could increasingly surpass your session quota. If so, then you would in fact produce an entire book manuscript in a matter of months. When you get the hang of it, disciplined writing doesn't require as much discipline as you once might have thought!
Coming next week . . . "E is for EMAIL"