A Day In The Life

People often ask me what it’s like to make a living as a writer.  I tell them I’m living the dream; but I also add that my dream could be their nightmare.  Here’s a peek into my writing life:

The snow is finally almost gone!

(And some outdoor photos, since one of the best parts of my writing life is being able to pop outside for a few minutes whenever I want!  Click on the photos to see larger versions.)

Writing is my favourite thing, but I only get to do it about 16 to 20 hours per week.  The rest of the time I’m bookkeeping, maintaining my web page, marketing, keeping in touch with my readers through my blog and social media, and doing research on  publishing trends, legal and copyright precedents, book design, marketing, and new technologies.

The native ferns are already vibrant.

Weekdays, I usually work from 8 AM until noon, take half an hour for lunch, and work until about 4 PM.  Then I have a snack and hit the gym for a couple of hours (or skip the workout and stay at my desk, but I try to exercise at least 4 or 5 times a week).

I take an hour off for dinner and then I’m back in front of the computer from 7 to 9:30 PM.  I try to knock off at 9:30, but sometimes I work until 10 or 11 PM if I’m really in the flow.

I work 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year; but I sometimes only work half-days on Saturdays and Sundays.  (I know; I’m such a rebel!)  Even when I’m on ‘vacation’, I work an hour or two per day.

The heather and crocuses are in full bloom!

That may sound gruelling, but it’s flexible — I usually take Friday afternoons off to do some watercolour painting and grocery shopping, and I can make time for friends and family whenever I want.  I don’t watch TV, but if I’m not in the final 25% of writing or buried under a book release, I often read a novel in the evening.  (It’s market research — I love this career!)  I read fast, so I usually finish the book in three or four hours, and then it’s off to bed and on to the next day.

Such is my glamorous life.

The birth of a book is (maybe) a little more interesting: (I won’t include any graphic birth photos, I promise. 😉 )

The first minnow daffodil is blooming!

I decide which events will kick off the book and how I want the characters to develop, but I don’t do a lot of plotting in advance.  Instead I throw my characters into the action and see what they do for the first half of the book.

Every day I re-read and edit my earlier 4 or 5 chapters (by the end I’ll have read the whole manuscript at least 25 times) and then write my new content for the day.  By halfway through the book my characters have gotten themselves into a batch of impossible situations, and then I stop and spend a LOT of time deciding how they’ll get out.

The bees are hard at work already.

That’s when I write a plot outline, which is mostly a waste of time.  I make a “final” decision and write in that direction; and a few chapters later one of my hardheaded characters blows my plot out of the water.  I’ve never actually ended up following my outlines, but at least it gets my brain working.

By the 75% mark, all the plot threads start to come together.  Then I write obsessively while the rest of my schedule falls in tatters.

Tiny anemones, only a few inches tall.

After finally writing “The End” I re-read and edit the entire manuscript a few times to tune up pacing, stakes, and clarity before passing it on to my beta readers/editors.  (Nobody gets to see a single word of the manuscript before I’m completely finished — not even Hubby.)  In between final edits, I choose a title (I never know the title until I’ve written the whole book), do the cover design and photography, and write the cover blurb.

At last I announce a release date — hooray!  Then I assign ISBNs, register copyright, send the new book to Library and Archives Canada, convert the MS Word manuscript into epub, Kindle, and paperback formats,  and upload it to retailers.  When that’s done, I fix typos and update links in my previous books, and upload their new versions, too.

Crocuses, winter aconite, and heather.

After that I switch to my ‘marketing’ persona to develop ads, promotional listings, and social media announcements.

When the release furor dies down, I tackle any major work like updating my website, and finally take a breather for a few days.  But within a week or two (or less) the next book scratches at my mental doors, and next thing I know I’m writing again.  The administration is a slog, but the joy of writing makes it all worthwhile!

So… anybody wanna be a writer…?

I love crocuses!

33 Comments

Filed under Commentary, Geekery, Life

33 responses to “A Day In The Life

  1. I’m fascinated with the writing process and always find it interesting to read how authors go about creating characters and stories. Love your approach to let it live and breath on it’s own for most of the process. You are gifted and l love your work…also…great pics…spring is here!!

    Like

  2. Jo-Ann Shaw

    Well, actually… It was the first thing I ever wanted to “grow up to be” when I was a kid. I have several “novels” started but not finished. After reading your blog, I realised that the thing I’m most obsessive about is the building of minis, which I love. I could spend every minute of every day making tiny things if I didn’t have to do the mundane things like making a living, cleaning my house… eating. I look forward to the next time I can sit down and create.

    Like

    • Your mini work is amazing! I can’t imagine having the patience (and talent) to do what you do. Do you still have your Etsy site?

      And hey, someday those novel beginnings might turn into something. Maybe those ideas are just floating around in your brain, waiting for the right time to coalesce and emerge. After all, there’s no age limit on writing! 🙂

      Like

  3. The Blog Fodder

    So much energy. And so organized. I did not know how much more there was to writing than just writing.

    Like

    • Yes, it would be lovely to be able to do nothing but write, but only big-name authors like Nora Roberts get to do that. She has “people” to do the publishing and promotional chores, and she writes eight hours a day, five days a week. And she takes actual weekends and vacations and everything. Maybe someday… *sigh* 😉

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      • Jo-Ann Shaw

        Thank you! I do still have my Etsy site, though it is sadly neglected. Having two jobs takes up a lot of time. At least my second job is fun (teaching pottery) and I get to play too. True, there is no age limit on writing.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m out of breath reading your fast-paced blog post and life. Phew! And that’s how I know you are a real writer and I’m a “leisure” writer. 🙂 While I love writing and do it constantly (at least if you add blogs, emails, diary, translations, and articles to the memoir writing and note taking), I couldn’t be a full-time writer, as I’d have to drop my second passion, which is travel. Also, I find it difficult to focus on my writing while being a digital nomad.

    I really loved reading this behind-the-scenes write-up!

    Like

    • Thanks, Liesbet – I’m glad you enjoyed this post! Part-time writing sounds like a perfect fit for your travelling lifestyle, and you are a “real” writer. There’s no right or wrong way to do this career — if your writing makes you happy and it fits with your lifestyle (and maybe even makes you some money now and then), you’re doing it right! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. jenny_o

    I don’t have the self-discipline to do that on a regular basis!

    Who am I kidding, I barely have the self-discipline to post once a week 🙂

    It’s interesting to see it all laid out, though. You wear many hats, and clearly wear them all with a great deal of success!

    Like

    • Thanks, jenny_o! Some of it is self-discipline, and some of it is just stuff that I enjoy doing and would probably do anyway even if I didn’t need to make a living. That’s the best part about doing a job I love!

      And hey, posting once a week is a lot of work. Kudos to you for doing it consistently — most people don’t even get that far. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Barbara Vernon

    my head would just fly off my neck trying to be a author. All the same to you I will just keep reading yours and a few other favorites. Your flowers are so pretty. Makes me want to get out in yard and dig. And stick a few hundred bulbs in there. (for next year

    Like

    • I was questioning my sanity last fall with 800 bulbs piled up on the front porch, but the soil was soft so they only took a little over an hour to plant. Every year I think, “Okay, I have enough now”, and every year I get sucked in by the mail-order catalogues again.

      And I’m glad you’re going to keep reading — that works just fine for me! 🙂

      Like

  7. Oh the pictures look fab by the way and your time sounds very productive and flexible

    Like

  8. I start books (writing them) but I have a mind that makes them all end up as porn. I have tried a murder mystery but I had to go back to work and I’m not sure where it ended up, that seemed to go well.

    I think the next time I have quality time off I will attempt to find the murder and see if I can add to it.

    If I do write its for myself, I always worried I spent too much time reediting things but now I feel so much better as you make it seem normal.

    I’d love to have the time and money to give up work and do something more fun.

    Paris yet again was fun and it’s just over a week until its Spain, its a hard life but someone has to do it

    Like

    • That’s awesome — I’m so glad you had a good holiday (and another on the way)!

      And never worry about editing too much. Maybe some writers are able to create near-perfect drafts on the first pass, but I’m not one of them. I even edit each blog post more than 25 times before hitting the Publish button! (It helps that I actually enjoy editing.) 😉

      After I’m completely finished my draft and I’m satisfied with my work, I’m open to suggestions on how to improve it; but I don’t want the pressure of anyone else’s opinions along the way. So have fun with your writing and do what feels right for you. Nobody else can tell your story — it’s yours alone!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Ooh, ooh, me! I do! I do!

    And then reality kicks in and I gotta finally turn the laptop off and get some sleep before work. Again. You know, if I didn’t love my ‘real’ job, that would suck. 🙂

    Getting closer, though. Getting chapters identified and numbered this time through. Still planning to publish sometime this summer. And it’s all your fault! And thanks for that. Gad, this is fun! 🙂

    Like

  10. Chris Leitch

    As you know I’m generally not a fast reader however your books I seem to blaze right through (which I think is complementary) much to the chagrin of my already poor sleep patterns so us readers make sacrifices too;)

    Like

  11. Michelle

    My hat is off to you because that is way too much discipline for me. And with the exception of research, which really does sound like fun, the rest of that is definitely not in my wheelhouse. Nope, I am perfectly happy kicking back and enjoying the fruits of your labours on our behalf. Writers need readers, after all. Not to mention that I have a tendency to burrow into my hermit self if I’m not forced to leave the house for work, lol!
    As always I love the garden pics! Especially the one of the bee on the crocus. I haven’t seen any bees here yet but I’m sure they’re somewhere waking up and stretching their wings. Yah Spring!
    Have a great week!

    Like

    • Thanks, Michelle! The bees are going crazy here — we live in a forested area and nothing else is in bloom yet, so they’re jostling for position. I hope the crocuses make fresh pollen every day, because there’s a lineup at each one.

      And hooray for readers – thank you for being one! My hermit self is very happy here in the house all day every day, which is why your blog comments mean so much to me, too. Even if I don’t have actual human contact, at least I get to communicate with other people on a regular basis. 😉

      Happy spring to you, too!

      Like

  12. That’s what I call happy life. I have a very similar schedule.

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  13. Pretty sure that if I had the talent and desire I would not have the discipline or the energy. I am sure glad you do, though! Also happy that you take time to smell the crocuses.

    Like

    • Thanks, Jono! You’re right about the discipline, but I’ve discovered that if I get the boring admin stuff out of the way first and use my writing time as a reward, it all gets done. Otherwise I can get immersed in writing and days slip away on me. 🙂

      Like

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