Scalzi is talking about The Rules over here, specifically the advice to "write four hours a day."
And why he thinks it's not so useful. And I foresee this sparking an entire blogosphere full of writers talking about their process and their schedule, so let me be the first lemming off the cliff.*
(And truepenny is smart about similar topics over here. And Toby Buckell talks about the writing speed thing here. And Caitlin Kiernan talks about it here.
It takes, in other words, as long as it takes.)
See, the thing about writing is, you have to figure out what works. And then you have to do it. And doing it is the hard part.
For me, I need a limiting behavior. And I also need adequate time to feel like I don't have to write quickly to stay on track for a deadline, because the fact of the matter is that I don't write quickly. I write consistently. It's different. If I only have a couple of hours a day to write, and a deadline, I panic.
When I was working full time and trying to write to deadlines, it made me physically ill. Not a good scene. Part-time was doable, though I was also tending to spend all
my non-work time writing, which wasn't good for me either, although I was rather productive. Working overtime and writing, for me, don't happen. See, my obsession is finishing things. I write to get to the end of the story and find out what happens.
Now that I am writing full-time, I have games I play with myself. For example, I get up in the morning, make tea or coffee, and write at least
three pages. This is a pretty small chunk of wordage, frankly--but it's enough to advance the story somewhat, and it's enough to make me feel like I have worked. If I pry myself out of bed between 6:30 and 7:00 am, then I can be done with those pages by eleven at the latest. (Remember when I said I wasn't a fast writer?) Sometimes, on a good day (today was a good day) I'm done by 9:30. Call it, usually, a three-hour writing session, maybe four. The cat gets up around nine and wants breakfast.
After that, I get to eat something, get cleaned up, do whatever else I need to do (this pro writer thing isn't just writing. There are page proofs, interviews, research, contracts, business nonsense, copy-edits. There is slush to read. There is Stuff. Stuff takes up a couple of hours a day. Every day. Some days it can take ALL DAY.)
Usually, though, before I do the Stuff, I go to the gym or try to get a walk in, weather permitting. Exercise is important. It keeps you sane, and healthy. And I do good thinking when I am walking.
I also try to practice guitar.
And read, research, etc. I don't actually count this as work time, though often it is related. Or I do bloggy things. Or housework. Or run errands. Or see friends.
Most nights, after dinner, I'm back at the laptop. That's generally when my online writing group congregates for evening writing session. Another three pages is the goal for me, at this point. If I'm on a roll, I go over. It might be on the same project, or a different one.
So call that another three hours. Maybe four. And then after that bed around midnight most nights, and a sleep broken by intermittent cat fits, and then up and do it again.
Figure I work about a ten hour day, then. Now that I am restricting myself to a saner writing schedule, instead of the marathons I used to pull, when I'd get up at 3:30 am, go to work, come home around ten, and write until I fell over at 11 pm. I wrote a lot of books that way, and severely strained my health. I don't recommend it.
That early writing session gives me permission to have much of the day to do stuff that isn't
writing, which I never had before, and that's wonderful--because continued creative output requires continuous creative input
So yeah, I do work hard.**
But yanno what?
I get to do it in my pajamas.***
*this comment libelous to lemmings
**So does Scalzi. So do plenty of writers who somehow manage to hold down a day job and/or raise a family, and get their words in every day--whether it's five thousand or five hundred or fifty words a day. I am not nearly as tough as some of my colleagues. (I know people who say they can't write when they're not employed: me, I have a hell of a time putting out consistent and quality work when I am trying to focus on the day job. I'm a little more than a little manic, and a little OCD. I fixate
. And nothing else in the world is important to me when I am locked onto something.
In with both feet, or not at all. Which is why, once I start really writing a book, all I want to do is finish it
, and I have to find ways to reassure myself that I am making progress, so I won't berate myself for not being finished yet and work myself sick. A hare with good stamina is a terrifying thing, but you know, you can kill a horse if you run it long enough.)
***None of this indicates that the way I do it is the way anybody else should do it.
The world is full of prescriptivist people who will tell you that their way is better, is somehow intrinsically superior, and who will attempt to convert you to their system. This is due to insecurity on their part, as near as I can tell (you ever notice that the people most interested in telling you how wonderful marriage is are the ones who will be divorced within a couple of years?). I am not one of them.
The important thing, as near as I can tell, is discipline. Getting the words on the page somehow. And it doesn't matter if you do it two pages a day every day except leap day, or if you hang around the house staring at the ceiling and smoking cigarettes for three months and then sit down and write the draft in two weeks, strung out on whiskey and espresso. It doesn't matter.
What matters is that the draft gets done.