A Day in the Life of a Writer
Some people call me an “author.” To me, that sounds a little like I’m having tea and sugar cookies while signing book jackets. While it’s true that I “author” books, down at the core, I simply write stuff. Sometimes the stuff is long enough to be a book and sometimes it’s a short story. Occasionally, it’s an article like the one you’re reading now. Before I wrote fiction, I wrote business materials and literary analysis. It’s all stringing words together to create something new and, hopefully, interesting for readers.
I can only speak for myself; and since I do this full-time, I don’t represent all writers, but my typical workweek is made up of five workdays and two days off. On my workdays, I work about seven hours, and take a half hour lunch break. The hours I work are intense because, in many ways, they entail mandatory creativity. Usually, there’s a movie in my head and all I need to do is transcribe it. But some days—oh those days!—there are interruptions, crises, irritations, and the movie just isn’t there. I’ve had days when I felt like a clay brick, dense and heavy and anything but creative, but I wrote. And, you know what? The feeling of dull helplessness went away and, at the end of the day, I’d done a good day’s work.
When I wrote Rescued by the Spy, I had trouble with the ending. I spent an entire day on about 1,000 words. I knew what I wanted to say; it was getting it just right that was tricky. That’s a huge outlay of time for very little progress, but ultimately it was the ending that the story needed, and although I wasn’t having a particularly creative day, I managed to come up with the important segment in a workmanlike way. Sometimes, a little mental muscle is what it takes.
My last book, My Vacation in Rio: Romantek (not yet released), flowed like wine from a carafe. It was full of panoramic landscapes just waiting to be described. Those are the days that a writer lives for. They’re the drug of choice, by far.
Research is also part of a writer’s day. You can’t write about what you don’t understand. When I wrote my historical romance, The Blackmith’s Bride , I had to do extensive research on the historical period, the geography, and the cultures involved. Fortunately, I enjoy history and scholarly pursuits, so the research was a pleasure. Then I had to pick and choose which tidbits to use. I think we’ve all read books where the writer sort of dumps all that research on the reader. One of the fiction writer’s chores is to sort through and use what needs to be used, rather than every “fascinating” detail.
Even contemporary pieces require research. For Striker, I had to investigate police procedure, for example. And for Liv’s Journey, I had to study Texas geography, even though I lived there for five years. Research can also lead to creative moments.
Marketing is a big factor in writing. Writers of all levels have lots of marketing to do. I spend an hour or two each day at marketing chores. Would I rather be writing fiction? You bet! But I’d be writing only for my own consumption if I neglected my website, blog, lists, and social media.
There is a business aspect to writing as well. Becoming a professional writer is opening a small business. One has to track royalties, sales and taxes, as well as preparing manuscripts for sale, synopses for proposals and cover letters that entice publishers.
Writers also have to be readers, and for the majority of us, that’s where the writing bug bit us. We’re inspired by what we read, so much so that we are compelled to do it better, explore new aspects of characterization and plot, and build new worlds. So, a chunk of any writer’s day has to be spent reading. That sounds like fun, but remember, this is critical reading and analysis, and entertainment is only one factor.
When I’ve finished for the day, I close my various documents (character profiles, setting profiles, plot notes, and manuscript) and walk away from the computer. I don’t stop thinking about the story, and often I dream about upcoming segments, but I don’t write anything more than a scrawled note to myself. Mandatory creativity is tiring.
So that’s a day in a writer’s life—my life. Creativity, research, analysis, marketing and business are all part of the process. Does it sound like fun or work? For me, it’s fun most of the time, and work part of the time. I can’t imagine having a better job.