Writing for love and money (but mostly love)

As a long-time lurker, newbie poster, I’ve noticed that there are more than a few would-be writers among us Dopers, and probably a good few published authors as well. I just thought it would be nice to start a thread where we could encourage each other to keep going, share ideas and resources, and just generally help each other out. Apologies in advance if this has already been done to death in previous threads. I’ll start with what is probably a very common question:

In between working a 9-5 job and general daily responsibilities like families and friends, how on earth are you supposed to find the time to write? Seems like if I’m lucky enough to grab 3-4 free hours a day, I’m going to be writing for years before I get close to finishing a 400 page novel.

So published authors with day jobs, aspiring writers juggling life and writing, just where do you find the time?

Well, I’m a fast writer. 3-4 hours is more than enough for me to bang off 2000-3000 words. I wrote a 60 000 word novel (as mentioned in another thread) in four weeks. Once you really get rolling, you’d be surprised how much you can get down (to the point where you wish your fingers could keep up with your brain). If you’re serious about writing, write at least 1000 words a day (2000 is even better, if you can manage), every day. The every day part is important, because it’ll take a lot longer to write if you take breaks in between. You gotta keep the momentum going to get the maximum usage out of your time.

I was really on the stick for a long time writing every day and taking writing classes. I even got a grant to write an ethnography of the animal shelter through my college. (My proudest writing achievement ever) Then we moved and I havent written more than a few paragraphs in the last year. Mostly because I am so miserable and I hate it here!! (Not the SDMB but where I live now)

Write every day… really… you do build up momentum and it is so easy to lose just like ProjectOmega said!!!

I would wake up with an idea in my head and would get up at whatever time of night and spend an hour or so at the computer. I’d find the time when I was really into it. Writing was so absorbing that even when I was busy with other things the writing was always pulling me to the PC.

If you write a thousand words a day, you can finish a novel in three months. I type 50 wpm, so to do 1000 words a day, it takes around 20 minutes.

Obviously, it isn’t all that smooth (Fred Pohl once pointed out that a good typist could write a novel’s worth of word in a week – 40 hours – but the problem was putting the words in the right order). You also need to think about the story, but there is always plenty of time for that – while commuting, while doing the dishes, just before falling asleep, while you’re on the toilet, etc. Then when you get to your computer, you’re all ready.

Set a time aside for writing – half an hour is fine; an hour is even better – and do it every day. A year from now, you’ll be gratified at how much you’ve accomplished.

Hmmm…thanks for the sound advice, guys. So how many of you have had your work published, and how many of you are still working at it?

How many of you outline your story from beginning to end before you actually start writing?

How much background work do you do before you get started on the story proper?

I’m in the process of finding an agent. 2 1/2 weeks and still no takers, so it doesn’t look good for this round of query letters.

Outlining your story is generally a bad idea, unless you’re trying for some in-depth allegory stuff, a hardcore mystery or something historical. Otherwise the story comes off sounding rigid and plotted. Just think of an idea, get a base idea for a character and put them together and see what happens. If you have an ounce of writer’s blood, they’ll mix perfectly and eventually explode into something that resembles a novel.

What do you mean by background work? As in research for your topic?

ProjectOmega, I’m sorry to say it but 2 1/2 weeks is chicken feed in the scheme of things. It usually takes a lot longer than that for any replies to queries. It’s not time to give up hope yet.

Most authors would disagree with your opinion on plotting too. My SO doesn’t plot in advance but he’s rare. He co-wrote one book with me where we did plot it as we went but in general he just sits down and writes. Everyone else I know who is published plots in advance. As someone who does manuscript appraisal, I can tell you that plots matter and most writers need more than a strong character and a base idea. Rigid and plotted beats flabby and disorganised any day for me. Plotted doesn’t need to equal formulaic.

Background research – just making sure that things make sense, that any science you use is accurate, that things are feasible. Backgrounds and histories for your characters. That kind of thing.

My friend is writing a story and I am helping her. I had her make sheets for every character and to put down everything she wanted them to be. This was very helpful especially when I would read her stuff because I could refer to her character sheets when I thought something a character had done/said didn’t fit. She also outlined her plot although that is always subject to revision :slight_smile:

Yeah, maybe I’m jumping the gun on the time frame. Four weeks is the acceptable period of time to give agents to reply, so I still have time to kill. (Actually, I’ve gotten two “Your book isn’t something we’re looking for right now” replies so far, but they don’t count :p)

I understand with your rationale about plotting. I should have said that for me, personally, I don’t like plotting. I prefer to have things come as they may. After all, if a writer can’t see what’s coming, neither can the reader, right? More suspense and overall realism. As for flabby and disorganized, that’s what second drafts are for :wink: Fair enough if plotting is something you appreciate, though.