I could write more books—and blog about them—if I had more time to write. My 9-to-5 job—the one that pays the bills—runs within a timeframe of 8:30am to 10pm, five of the seven days of the week. My hours worked during a week fall between 30 and 38 hours. A typical schedule looks like this: Saturday and Sunday, 8:30am–5:30pm, Monday and Wednesday, 1pm–10pm, and Thursday, 5:30pm–10pm. Those hours can switch so that another schedule can look like this: Saturday, 1pm–10pm, Sunday, 8:30am–5:30pm, Tuesday, 5:30pm–10pm, Wednesday, 1pm–10pm, and Thursday, 8:30am–5:30pm. As you can see, I am never scheduled to work on Friday because I requested that day off for doctor appointments, car maintenance, housework, and if time allows (which is rare), writing. As such, I get one guaranteed day of the week to write. One.
So what happens on that only day I’ve set aside for writing?
I begin the day by waking up no later than 9am and taking my morning medication for my thyroid disorder. Then, while I wait an hour before I can eat breakfast, I go over last week’s notes of whatever story project I’m working on and jot down any ideas that come to me.
10am, I eat breakfast, feed the dog, and take him outdoors for his morning constitutional.
11am, I get back to work on my story.
Noon, my wife calls from her babysitting job to chat about her morning. This usually lasts for 15 minutes, so I wash my breakfast dishes and pour a glass of juice. Sometimes I make tea. Then, when my wife is done, I hurry back to my writing, which usually lasts until 2 o’clock.
2pm, our dog needs to outside again. If the weather is nice, we run in the yard for 10 minutes. If not, it’s a quick trip off the porch so he can do his business, then it’s back to my writing for me and a nap for him.
2:20pm (some days), my daughter calls from work and asks me to watch her kids when they get out of school at 2:40pm. I say yes and force myself away from my story, which often has percolated into a bubbling action sequence that has me rubbing my hands together and chuckling diabolically.
3pm, my first grandchild shows up. He is always hungry, so we spend about 15 minutes in the kitchen, looking for foods that he likes to eat and isn’t allergic to. By that time, my second grandchild shows up, so we look for different foods for him to eat. He has no allergies, so it’s usually pb&j sandwiches. Then they argue over what to watch on TV while I pester them to do their homework first.
4pm, my two grandsons have lost interest in their school assignments, so I turn on TV and alternate between SpongeBob SquarePants and All Hail King Julien for the next 90 minutes.
5:30pm, my wife arrives home from babysitting and I return to my writing for an hour.
6:30pm, my daughter has picked up her children and my wife and I sit down to supper.
7pm, I spend another hour writing, unless something comes up (visitors, we have to run to the store, our daughter has an emergency at her house and needs a repairperson). Something always comes up.
8pm, I take the dog out and get ready for bed (unless our visitors haven’t left/our daughter’s emergency hasn’t been fixed).
9pm, bedtime, unless (see previous).
Overall, I get about 5 or 6 hours of writing done per week. I can get a few hours more writing done if I have a noneventful Friday or my day off from my 9-to-5 job falls on Saturday or Sunday, but rarely does either of those lucky events happen. It takes me about 700 hours to write a 300-page book. At 6 hours per week, that equals one book every 2.25 years if I don’t lose interest in the story along the way. My last 300-page book came out in 2014. You do the math.
Some of you may wonder why it takes me 700 hours to write a book. Below is a description of the sequences and drafts of my last book.
Draft 1 was the “Inspiration” draft. I wrote whatever came to mind until the story ended. It took 140 hours to write.
Draft 2 was a complete rewrite where I bled over getting the characters to seem real. That took 200 hours to do. Big name authors call this “fleshing the characters.” The title omits pumping lifeblood into your characters’ veins and giving each one a personality. When you change a character’s personality, you change the entire book.
Draft 3 took 98 hours to write after I showed Draft 2 to some of the writers group I belong to and considered their suggestions. As I mentioned earlier, when you change a character’s personality, you change the entire book. The same is true when you add a new supporting character.
Draft 4 was a continuation of Draft 3. This was after I put it aside for a month, then read it from the viewpoint of a reader. The trick here was not to start writing any new books in the same genre during this time, especially if the new book had reoccurring characters, which it did and influenced changes to my story when I took it from storage and read it. After fighting and holding those influences at bay, I strengthened the emotional parts of the story. I tend to shorthand emotions, so I had to get deep into the heads and hearts of my characters. The total time for Draft 4 of my last book took 130 hours.
At 568 hours, I wasn’t done.
After I eagerly presented Draft 4 to my writer friends with a promise “You’re gonna love it,” I licked my wounds and began Draft 5 where, if you’re familiar with Stephen King’s help book On Writing, you end up killing your darlings. So I butchered mine by chopping out chapters and scenes that were redundant and didn’t move the story toward the end, i.e., the boring parts. Most of these were downtime events where my main characters regrouped. Total time for Draft 5 was 102 hours.
After I wrote Draft 5, I contacted people from my writers groups who had read my earlier drafts and wanted to be my beta readers. Beta readers are people who provide honest feedback on your book. Best friends, spouses and family members are the worst beta readers. They’re predisposed to loving whatever you write—no matter how crappy it is. I contacted people who like reading the genre I write and, after I got five readers, I asked them for their opinions about what the liked and didn’t like about my book. After I collected their opinions, I began Draft 6, the final tweaking of my book. From their opinions, I looked at why certain things confused them. Many were story elements missing from my draft, so I corrected them. That took 70 hours. Then I let my ultimate beta reader—the one who was most brutal with my book—have the final lookover. Once a few more corrections were made—8 hours—I headed off to publish it.
Overall, the book took 748 hours to write.
I’m making no promises, but I hope to have another book written before 2018 ends. Maybe sooner, if I don’t lose interest and can squeeze more hours from my busy life.