Throughout each one of my books and the majority of my posts, whenever a set of steps is provided, or advice is given it is followed or preceded by a disclaimer that strongly suggests readers should be adjusting this instruction to meet their own personal needs.
Too often we listen to podcasts, read books, watch interviews where some “expert” tells us what we should be doing. Now I’m not saying that we should be closed off to these opinions but we must first recognize them as an opinion based on one particular person’s experience. He or she does not live our life and therefore is not qualified to tell us what to do and when to do it without knowing all of the variables that exist within our daily lives.
Therefore, rather than tell you or even suggest how much time you should be devoting to writing. The goal here is to equip you with a set of steps you can take to properly analyze your week and assess when and where you can fit in some writing time.
Step 1: Identify any repeated tasks or responsibilities that you have for each day of the week (i.e. Work from 9 to 5, bring the kids to and from school, etc.).
Step 2: Draw 7 columns (or use a spreadsheet) and label each column a day of the week (Monday through Sunday).
Step 3: Begin writing down your day to day actions for each day of the week and write down the times. Note: it is appropriate for times to be approximate and to be wide ranges because you want to include everything you do from going to work to watching television.
Step 4: Look for gaps in your day where you could fit in at least 15 minutes of writing (preferably 30 minutes or more if possible). If it is a location other than your home, identify a method to ensure you have your computer or whatever equipment you may need.
Step 5: Based on this schedule insert your writing sessions with specific times and desired durations. Time ranges are appropriate as well. In other words, if you know you have at least 30 minutes sometime between 5PM and 7PM, but the specific start and end time for your writing session will not be consistent, then just write 5PM to 7PM for 30 minutes. Highlight each writing session.
Step 6: Bonus Step – Based on the time and days, if you have a smartphone, set reminders for each of the times to prompt your writing session.
Notice that at no point during any of the steps provided was there a minimum amount of sessions suggested. Personally, I have four to five each week and each ranges from 30 minutes to an hour. This works for my life but it may not work for yours. Maybe you can fit in more or less. It doesn’t matter as long as you identify times in your life when you can realistically sit down and write.
Once you have these times, outside of staying disciplined and sticking to each writing session, your next focus is going to be calculating how many words per hour you can typically produce.
To calculate your word output rate you need to track your time and your total words produced per session. Do this for at least two weeks.
To clarify for every writing session you should be tracking the exact amount of time you’re actually writing and how many words you’ve produced within that specific amount of time.
Note: this is easier to calculate if you have a session for an amount of minutes of which 60 is a multiple (i.e. 15, 20, 30, and 60-minute sessions are ideal).
For the purposes of clarity let us take a look at a hypothetical example.
Joe Smith can fit three writing sessions within his week. One session is 30 minutes while two sessions are each an hour. For the next two weeks, Joe is going to track how many words within each of those writing sessions he can produce.
Session 1 (30 minutes) – 402 words
Session 2 (60 minutes) – 943 words
Session 3 (60 minutes) – 928 words
Session 1 – 463 words
Session 2 – 1002 words
Session 3 – 917 words
Now for the number crunching. First, calculate your hourly rate for each session. In this case Joe would just double his amount of words for each of his first weekly sessions. Second, now that all sessions are equated to an hourly input amount, we add up all of the hourly word count numbers and divide by the number of sessions (in this example, 6).
804+943+928+926+1002+917 = 5520 (total words produced in 6 hourly sessions)
5520/6 = 920 (total hourly word rate for Joe Smith is 920)
Why do you want to know this number?
Put simply, knowing this information can help you determine how long it is going to take you to chip away at your book. When you’re equipped with this information you can plan more effectively. The combination of your hourly word output rate and your book outline will position you to stay motivated as you tackle each section in an objective, manageable way as opposed to the perspective of writing one daunting book.
Lastly, if you truly want to ensure the accuracy of your hourly word output rate then continue to track your words written for each session and keep a spreadsheet documenting this information.
Over time as you write more consistently you’ll notice this number will likely increase.