How Much Writing Can You Realistically Add Into Your Week?
You’ve probably heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), a worldwide November-long event each year where participants aim to write 50,000 words – a short novel – within a month.
In 2018 (for some reason I couldn’t find stats for 2019), 287,327 writers signed up. Only 35,387 of them “won” – that is, wrote 50,000 words during November.
I’m sure they all started with lots of enthusiasm and dedication. They were planning to write an average of 1,667 words every single day.
But, for many people, the reality of life is that 1,667 words a day – around 1.5 – 3 hours of writing, depending on how fast you write – isn’t very realistic.
One of the problems that NaNo-ers face is that they might not be writing on a regular basis at all. It’s not that they’re already writing 1,2000 words a day and they just need to add in another half an hour or so to reach 1,667. They’re adding a full 1.5 – 2 hours a day.
So, let’s take a look at how much writing you can realistically add into your week.
I’m talking about adding because I’m assuming that you’re not already doing all the writing you want to be doing! Maybe you’re writing nothing and you want to write something, or maybe you’re writing a bit and you want to write a lot.
Right now, your week is already full. There may well be things you can stop doing, or do less of, to make room for writing – but as it stands, every minute of your time is being used in some way.
Even if you’re just lying in bed scrolling on Facebook, that’s still something you’re doing (and it may well be serving you in an important way – providing some downtime, or letting you easily stay in touch with friends).
Unless you habitually spend hours a week staring in silence at a blank wall, you’re not going to magically “find” hours of time for writing. Instead, your writing is going to displace something that’s already there.
This is why it’s crucial to think about what’s realistic, given your current schedule.
If you’ve got time on your hands and you’re using it in unproductive and unfulfilling ways – like watching things on TV that you don’t even particularly enjoy – then yes, you might well be able to add 5 or 10 hours of writing into your week.
If you’ve got a full time job and/or small children, it could be a lot harder to carve out that time. Even writing for an hour a week could be a huge achievement – it certainly was for me when my kids were tiny.
But Shouldn’t We Set Big, Ambitious Goals?
Pushing for a big goal can be helpful, if it keeps you motivated and gives you a real sense of achievement. The problem is, it’s all too easy to end up giving up or even burning out in pursuit of the goal.
When you’re looking at fitting more writing into your week, it’s important to be realistic about the phase of life you’re in. If you’ve got a baby and a toddler, you’re very unlikely to have the same amount of time available as someone who’s just retired.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if you can’t write a lot – a whole chapter a week, five pages a day, whatever your metric is – that it’s not worth writing at all.
Yes, it’s exciting and motivating to make fast progress. But 200 words a day (less than a page) will add up to a full-length novel draft in a year.
Being Realistic About How Much Writing You Can Do
How much writing can you add into your week?
When you’re figuring this out:
- Don’t sacrifice sleep. It’s not good for you, and it’s going to end up slowing your writing down – because you won’t be able to focus so well. You know better than me how much sleep you need, but for most people it’s at least 7 hours, and probably more like 8 – 8.5.
- Do allow yourself enough downtime. You can’t be productive every minute of the day. Make sure you have time to read, watch TV, take walks, hang out with family/friends, or do whatever you like to do to unwind and relax. Writing takes a lot of energy – you need to replenish it.
A good way to begin is by writing out a rough plan of your week. What chunks of time are already accounted for by something specific? Where have you got more flexibility? How could writing fit into your week without displacing anything too important?
If possible, as you plan, work out some “spare” writing slots that you can use if needed. For instance, you might plan to write on Tuesday and Thursday evenings when the kids are in bed – but if it takes ages to settle them one night, it might be useful to have a “spare” slot on a Saturday morning that you can use if you need to.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Writers
Your life and circumstances aren’t going to be exactly the same as someone else’s. Perhaps you know writers who effortlessly write 1,000 words a day, every single day. They might have support and resources that you don’t have access to: perhaps they only need to work part time, or they have a nanny to take care of the kids, for instance.
You also don’t know what risks they might be taking with their health (physical or mental) either. Perhaps they have as busy a life as you, and they’re cramming in lots of writing, and sadly they’re on a fast-track to burnout.
There will always be writers who are more prolific than you. Don’t compare yourself to them. Just work on what you can (happily and realistically) do at this point in your life.
How much writing is realistic for you, right now?
It might be 15 minutes a day. It might be four hours every Saturday morning. It might be writing on the train as you commute to and from work, or writing for an hour on a couple of evenings each week.
Look for one timeslot in the next week or two where you can add a bit of writing into your week. Try adding 15 – 30 minutes, and see how that goes. You can always add in a little more time the next week, and the next, until you feel like you’ve got a comfortable and enjoyable amount of writing for you.
I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.
Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.
If you're new, welcome! These posts are good ones to start with:
My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis first.
You can buy them all from Amazon, or read them FREE in Kindle Unlimited.