Quaraun Novel Update: Starting in 2014, in preparation for the 40th Anniversary of The Twighlight Manor Series (September 23, 1978/2018), all 2,000+ short stories are being compiled into chronological order, to be re-released as a series of 130 novels. All the original short stories are being republished both here on EelKat.com and on Amazon. In the novels, each short story now stands as a "chapter" in the novels. New scenes/stories are being writing to connect the short stories together into novel format.

A Day in the Life of an Author

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A Day in the Life of an Author

[quote author=ShaneJeffery link=topic=177130.msg2499783#msg2499783 date=1391248929]

Hello there. I lost my job recently and whilst working towards seeking employment, I wonder about what a full time writer's schedule should be. There feels to be some pressure at this time to take this opportunity to fast track my progress in writing, but I am probably unable to do so without a set agenda.

It's probably a hard question to ask since most writers have found success from completely different variations of time and effort, but if there was some kind of average or standard to grasp to, I think I would feel better off. These passing days I have lamented on Stephen King's 2000 words a day which I have in the past shot for and succeeded in, but most natural to me without pushing is 1000 words. Which is probably lazy. I know in a work situation the delicate artist with his perfections and idiosyncrasies would not be tolerated. Since I would be employed by myself what sort of discipline should I force myself to endure? 5 days a week? 6 or 7? And how many words - 2000, 5000, 8000? They say that the average writer writes 1000 words per hour. 8 hours a day = 8000 words. If this was a real job would this be my expectation? Of course, I am split between even calling  it a job and not a hobby, since my efforts at this in the previous year have produced nil return, but the hopeful writer in me wonders who he should be. 


Ideally, I would publish a new story every week. (Most stories about 2k to 8k words long.) My work schedule to keep that up is like this:

  • Monday - Wednesday: write story.
  • Wednesday - Friday: edit story & create cover.
  • Saturday: publish story.
  • Sunday: rest.

Repeat the following week.

On that schedule I publish 1 story a week. (I plan on 2 weeks per story for longer 10k stories)

I can do as many as four 5k short stories a week (I've done this in the past, but rarely). The reason it's difficult for me to do 4 a week on a regular basis is because my days look like this:

  • 7AM - 9AM: Wake up (No exact time, no alarm clock, just wake up whenever my inner clock wakes me up)
  • 8AM - 10AM: Cook/Eat and do all those other random around the house things that need doing in the morning
  • 10AM - 11AM: Pick up my mom & brothers, drive to shelter/rescue
  • 11AM - 2PM: Feed/Water/Clean/Brush/Change Litter Boxes/Shovel Manure/etc for all the animals in shelter/rescue
  • 2PM - 3PM: Drive mom and brothers back home, stopping at and errands (bank/store/etc) they need done on the way
  • 3PM - 4PM: Pick up mail, head back home, read/answer letters
  • 4PM - 7PM: Write, Edit, and/or work on cover art.
  • 7PM - 8PM: Go online, check KBoards, FaceBook, Twitter, etc.
  • 8PM - 9PM: Cook/Bathe/Eat and do all those other random around the house things that need doing in the evening
  • 9PM - 10PM:  Check on senior/disabled Dad
  • 10PM - 1AM: Write, Edit, and/or work on cover art and/or Publish anything that's ready to be published.
  • 1AM - 2PM: Go to bed.

This repeats every day Monday to Saturday.

On Sunday, the "Write, Edit, and/or work on cover art." sections are replaced with "Doing Church stuff"; everything else remains the same as the rest of the week.

The shelter stuff is done 7 days a week and takes up no less than 2 hours each day, and can take up as many as 8 to 12 hours during the winter, due to the 75foot long drive way that needs shoveling and the fact that we get 2 to 3 feet of snow each storm, with weekly storms from October to March. (I have owned this animal rescue/feral cat shelter since 1983. At any given time it may have as few as 20 to as many as 500 animals housed in it, including cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, fish, reptiles, horses, goats, ducks, chickens, and various assorted injured wildlife).

This schedule is shortened in the winter, due to lack of sunlight (when daylight hours are 6AM to 3PM), and the fact that power is iffy around here during the winter so we have to get everything done before the sunset, just in case we lose power and have no lights to work with from 3PM to 6AM. When we lose electricity, it can stay out for weeks, as it did when the temps reached -40F 3 weeks ago and left us without power for 24 days. Because we had no power most of January 2014, I got almost no writing/editing/cover art done at all, due to no access to a computer. 

Doctor's appointments, vet appointments, family emergencies, animal emergencies, and other stuff (which happen about every other week) alter that schedule, and can result in days when I get no writing, editing or other business related stuff done that day.

So actual time spent working is between 3 to 8 hours a day, most days, depending on how time overlaps between on errand to the next, though there are extremes as well, including days I do no work (writing/editing/cover art) at all, and days where I sit down and write steady none stop for as many as 16 hours.

As a general rule I write for about 5 to 6 hours a day, 3 to 4 days a week and edit about 8 hours 1 day a week, and work on cover art 6 to 8 hours a day, 2 days a week. So I "work" about 35 to 48 hours on a normal week.  If I was not also running the animal shelter, my writing time could be doubled. When the shelter is housing fewer animals my writing time increases. Right now I am writing longer hours than usual, because we only have 34 animals at the shelter right now.

When it comes to word counts per day, I tell myself I have a goal of striving for 5,000 words a day, but most days my actual words written tops out around 2,500. On days when I hit a momentum and get into a writing zone, I often average 15,000 words a day. I have maybe 3 or 4 15k days each month. My best day ever was 34,000 words. However in the past 30 years there have been only about 80 days when I wrote more than 15,000 words. 

I don't really work so much in planned hours or word counts. (The schedule charted out above is not a schedule I planned out for myself, it is just the rut-like habit I have gotten myself set into and because I have Autism, once I get into a rut like that, I generally prefer to stay in it, and not change out of it.) Instead of time or word counts, I prefer to write via prompts. 

It takes me 3 days to write a typical story, and 2 days to edit it, and about a half hour to create the cover art, than enough half hour to publish it to Kindle. 

So when you see the time on my chart, which states:  "Write, Edit, and/or work on cover art." The writing part of that means I am doing this:

I sit down to write and I start out by seeking a prompt to inspire me to write a brand new story without any pre-planing. I actually never pre-plan what I'm going to write. I don't even know when I turn the computer on, what it is I'm going to write. I literally sit down at the computer, grab random objects and start writing about them. Random objects could be anything from, I open a dictionary and use the first word I see, to pulling out my Pathfinder card decks (Chase Cards, Plot Twist Cards, Flashback Cards, or Critical Hit Deck) and pulling out a card at random and using that card as inspiration, to heading to 7th Sanctum or Chaotic Shiny and letting one of the random generations tell me what to write about.

Here's an example of what happens if I use the cards:

I take each deck and pull one card at random from each. Just now I pulled:

  • Chase Cards:  Fruit Cart "Oh yeah!" Strength Check DC20  or "Move that cart!" Intimidate DC15
  • Plot Twist Cards: Moment of Undecision - Target is staggered for 1 round; Indecisivness leads to inaction; Not moving leads to unexpected perils.
  • Flashback Cards: Lost! Target gains +10 bonus on Survival check; A wrong turn leads to a discovery; Why haven't I seen this before?
  • Critical Hit Deck:  Disembowel - Double Slashing damage and 1d4 Con damage and 1d6 bleed

(Note, those cards asume you know how to play Dungeons and Dragons, thus the mentions of 1d4, etc)

So what this means is, I need to write a story containing a fruit cart, a moment of undecision, something lost being found, and a disembowelment caused by slashing damage. So now I have my prompt for the day, and next thing I do is sit down and start typing it and see what I come up with.

Or I can go to seventh sanctum and use one or two or three of their 200+ generators to get:

[quote]This laid-back vampire has slitted eyes the color of fine jade. His black hair is really a set of quills that he can use as a weapon. He is tall and has an over muscled build. He has an upturned nose. He can absorb flesh and blood from others to heal his body. He doesn't suffer from standard vampiric disabilities. His diet requires blood of any kind. His outfits are orange.[/quote]


[quote]The swirling amber potion with ivory flakes. It smells like wine, but tastes like nuts and licorice.[/quote]


[quote]In this story, a sloppy monk falls in love with an alchemist on the run from the law.[/quote]

Well, now I have to come up with a story using that vampire and that potion, and figure out how they effect a sloppy monk falling in love with an alchemist on the run from the law.

So now I have two stories prompts to work on tonight. It's absolutely completely random, so every day is an adventure for me because I never know until I start writing, what I'll write. That includes genre as well. When i start writing, I have no idea what genre it'll be, and usually I don't know until I'm half way through the story. So I could end up writing horror today, romance tomorrow, sci-fi the next day, redneck humor another day, local flavor slice of life vignettes another day. Some times I use characters I've used hundreds of times and some times I create all new characters on a whim. The last few days I've been on a "ancient trees coming to life and devouring people" kick...no idea why, but every story I've written this month so far has had a monster tree eat somebody. 

I think, it is BECAUSE I have this completely scatterbrained style of writing, that is the reason I'm not well suited to novel writing. On the other hand, it is BECAUSE of this scatterbrained style of writing that I am able to write so many short stories across so many genres/themes/topics and pop out a new short story every day at the drop of a pin.

I've sort of trained myself to see ideas in everything and can come up with a story for anything you toss at me. However, taking that idea and stringing it out into a lengthy work of fiction, that's another matter entirely. It's rare for anything I write to span past 17,000 words, and most stuff ends out shorter than 10,000 words, and lots of stories end at fewer than 5,000 words. I can come up with lots of quick story ideas, but stick with them long enough to make them into a novel? No way! That's not a talent I have. I'm very hyper when it comes to my inability to stay on a single topic very long, which is the issue I have with novel writing.


I simply can not stay interested in a story long enough to spend more than a day or two writing it. It's also why I rarely read novels, too. If I can't read a story in one sitting, I never finish it and the same goes for writing, if I can't write the entire story in one sitting, I never finish it.

Well, all of this translates into the fact that I simply do not follow market trends at all. I write whatever the mood tells me to write whenever the mood strikes me to write it. I never write anything that I am not passionately driven to write, so I never drop a project because I may not sell. The way I figure is, if I'm driven to write it, than somewhere out there, there is somebody driven to read it. So I don't worry if it'll sell 1 copy, 10 copies, 100 copies, or tens of thousands of copies. 

I've never written anything that was a trend or considered highly marketable. I can understand worrying about money/income, but being a short story writer, sales are low anyways, just because short stories are not big sellers to begin with, and that does seem to affect my outlook. In short story writing the only way to succeed financially is to just keep writing more and more and more and more. In novel writing, however you are putting out less volume so require more thought into each story. Because so much time is put into a novel, you have to consider is writing a better seller more important than writing the one you are more passionate about.

I feel that short story writers have more freedom in this respect, because we/they can write whatever they want, whenever they want, and as each short story takes a week or less to write, there's no huge amount of time lost if the story flops. Whereas a novel writer spend weeks, months, or years on a story and can't be as flippant about what they decide to write, as short story writers can be.

So you see, I don't sit down and think: "I'll write 1,000 words" or "I'll write for 2 hours." No, I sit down with a random prompt and i write until I reach the end of the story.

At the end of DAY ONE I have the narrative of the story written. The beginning, middle, and end of the story is laid out in the space of about 500 to 1,000 words. 

On DAY TWO I take that narrative and I write the dialouge. By the end of DAY TWO, I have a story about 2,000 to 5,000 words long.

On DAY THREE I take the narrative and the dialogue and combine them together to create a single story.

So when you see the time on my chart, which states:  "Write, Edit, and/or work on cover art." The editing part of that means I am doing this:

On DAY FOUR and DAY FIVE I edit the story. I use about 7 different editing software programs, (Grammarly, Edit Minion, Ginger, TheasurusChecker, etc) 

My favorite ones are:



http://www.spellchecker.net/spellcheck/ (which also has a thesaurus and replaces over used words are well as fixing spelling and grammar.)

I run the draft through  each of these programs, and than I print it up and do a manual edit in red ink pen on paper. Than I type up my edits to the draft, and run it through each of those editing programs again. Than I have my beta readers read it and let me know and thoughts, errors, etc. I do the final edit, run it through the editing software one last time, and then I convert the draft to a .doc to upload to Kindle.

So when you see the time on my chart, which states:  "Write, Edit, and/or work on cover art." The cover art part of that means I am doing this:

On DAY SIX I head to mourgefiles find a story matching photo(s) or I use my database of Dover Clip Art dics (which I have several of) or I use one of my own photographs (I have taken more than 15,000 photos while on book tours, car show tours, etc, so I have lots of photos I can use, which means I often am using images that are 100% unique to my covers because I took the photo with my own camera). 

I use Corel Paint Shop Pro X6 Ultimate to edit the image(s). Than I use Chasys Draw IES Artist to take the edited image and create a book cover. (My computer has 3,500 fancy display fonts on it, and Chasys Draw IES Artist has the best font editing ability of any image editing software I've tried, so that's why I use it for the final cover image.) It typically takes me 30mins to 2 hours start to finish, to create my covers.

At around midnight at the end of DAY SIX, I take the finished cover and the finished .doc file and upload both of them to Kindle.

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