how long should i write each day

How Long Should I Write Each Day? Tips for Scheduling and Motivation

If you’re writing a novel, memoir, or other creative piece, you may be asking, “How long should I write each day?” It’s a common question, and the answer is not as straightforward as you might think.

Some writers can crank out a thousand words in an hour, while others struggle to write a single paragraph in that time. So how many hours a day should you write your novel? In this article, we’ll explore tips and advice on how much time you should devote to writing each day.

Should You Write Every Day?

Writing every day is a great strategy for finishing your manuscript. The old saying about eating an elephant one bite at a time definitely applies to the process of writing a novel-length work. You’ll get more done with short but frequent writing sessions than with infrequent bursts of productivity.

Developing a consistent writing habit can help you finish this project and your next books, but like most parts of the writing process, there is no perfect answer to how much you should write every day. And it’s important not to become prescriptive; the optimal writing schedule depends on the writer—and can change for individuals over time.

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Strategies for Writing Every Day

Schedule Your Writing Time

One way to make sure you write every day is to schedule your writing time. Set aside a specific time each day for writing, and treat it like any other appointment. This will help you make writing a priority and ensure that you make progress on your manuscript.

Find Your Ideal Writing Time

Everyone has a different time of day when they feel most creative and productive. Some writers prefer to write in the morning, while others find that their best writing happens in the evening. Experiment with different writing times to find what works best for you.

Set Realistic Goals

It’s important to set realistic goals for yourself when it comes to writing. If you set goals that are too ambitious, you may become discouraged and give up on your manuscript. Start with a small goal, like writing for 30 minutes a day, and gradually increase the time as you get more comfortable with your writing routine. You can also set word count goals.

Or you can set a goal of simply sitting down to work on your project every day, regardless of whether you write 3,000 words of the draft or just work on research or brainstorming.

Break Your Goals into Smaller Tasks

Breaking your goals into smaller tasks can make them seem more manageable. Instead of aiming to write an entire novel in a month, set a goal to write 500 words a day. This will help you stay motivated and make progress on your manuscript. You can use Scrivener’s draft target feature to help with this.

Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

Remember, writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s important to take breaks and not be too hard on yourself if you miss a day or fall behind on your writing schedule. Writing should be enjoyable, not a source of stress and anxiety. If you punish yourself for not being perfect, it’s going to become very hard to convince yourself to put pen to paper at all.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to other writers. Remember that everyone has their own writing process and their own timeline for finishing a novel. Focus on your own progress and don’t worry about what other writers are doing.

clock glasses mug with number 3 typewriter

Quantity Over Quality (yes, you read that right)

“Every first draft is perfect because all the first draft has to do is exist. It’s perfect in its existence. The only way it could be imperfect would be to NOT exist.”Jane Smiley

One of the biggest hurdles that many aspiring authors face is the pressure to produce a perfect manuscript on the first try. While it’s natural to want to write a high-quality book, focusing too much on the quality can often be counterproductive and may even prevent you from completing a draft in the first place. Here are some tips for getting a draft of your book written without worrying about the quality or stopping to edit:

  1. Give Yourself Permission to Write a Terrible First Draft: When you start writing, give yourself permission to write a terrible first draft. Accept that your initial efforts will likely be imperfect and focus instead on getting the words on the page. Remember, you can always revise and improve your work later, but you can’t edit a blank page.
  2. Set Goals: To avoid getting bogged down in perfectionism, set goals for your writing sessions. For example, aim to write a certain number of words or pages each day or each week, without worrying about whether the writing is good or not. This will help you stay focused on your goal of completing a draft rather than getting sidetracked by the desire for perfection.
  3. Turn Off Your Inner Editor: To keep the momentum going and avoid getting bogged down in self-criticism, try to turn off your inner editor while writing your first draft. Don’t stop to correct grammar or spelling mistakes, or worry about the overall quality of your writing. Instead, focus on getting the story out of your head and onto the page.
  4. Keep Moving Forward: Writing a book can be a long and challenging process, and it’s easy to get stuck or discouraged along the way. To keep moving forward, focus on making progress, even if it’s slow. Try not to get too caught up in the details or setbacks, and keep your eye on the finish line.

Remember, the goal of a first draft is simply to get the story out of your head and onto the page. Don’t worry too much about the quality or perfection of your writing at this stage. By giving yourself permission to write a terrible first draft and turning off your inner editor, you can complete a draft of your book and move on to the next stage of the writing process.

Outline Before Drafting

The “pantser vs. plotter” debate is well-documented on social media. But if your goal is to write consistently and finish your draft efficiently, there is no question that outlining is a crucial step in the process.

An Outline Can Stave Off Writer’s Block

Diving into a writing project without a clear plan or outline often leads to frustration and writer’s block. By outlining your book before you begin drafting, you can gain a clear understanding of where your story is going, and you can avoid getting stuck or worrying about your plot along the way.

Outline More to Edit Less

One of the primary benefits of outlining is that it helps you develop a deep understanding of your story and its structure. By breaking down your plot into smaller, more manageable pieces, you can identify plot holes, inconsistencies, and other issues before you begin writing. This can save you time and frustration down the line, as you’ll be able to address these issues before they become major problems.

This can significantly minimize your editing time. It’s far easier to fix a plot or structural issue in an outline (even a deep one) than in a fully written draft.

Finish Your Manuscript More Quickly By Outlining

Another benefit of outlining is that it can help you stay focused and productive during your writing sessions. When you have a clear plan and structure for your story, you can simply put your head down and focus on writing, without worrying about where the plot is going or what comes next. This can help you stay in the creative flow and make steady progress towards completing your manuscript.

Additionally, outlining can help you stay motivated and engaged with your project over the long term. When you have a clear roadmap for your story, you can more easily envision the finished product and stay excited about bringing your ideas to life. This can be particularly helpful during the challenging middle stages of a project, when it can be easy to lose steam or become discouraged. When you’re writing a tough scene, for example, you may look ahead to a scene or chapter you’re especially excited to work on.

pen and crumpled paper, how long should i write each day

Minimize External Rewards

This may seem counterintuitive, but be careful about rewarding yourself for writing sessions. You may be tempted to reward yourself with a treat, a cup of coffee, or a pleasant activity, but doing so too often can actually damage your motivation in the long run.

Read about Mark Lepper’s classic study on rewards and external motivation. While the initial study was on young children, similar studies have been conducted on adults. Basically, the difference between our expectations and the actual result impacts our brain’s dopamine release. So if you set yourself up to expect an external reward, it can become more difficult to motivate yourself to complete an activity, even if it’s something you really enjoy.

The Perfect Amount to Write Each Day Changes…Sometimes Daily

It’s important to remember that your writing process is not set in stone. It’s okay to adjust your writing routine based on changes in your life, your mental and emotional state, and the demands of the manuscript you are working on. For example, if you are going through a particularly stressful time in your life, it might be necessary to scale back on your writing goals for a little while. Similarly, if you are struggling with a difficult section of your manuscript, you might need to spend more time working on it than you originally planned.

Flexibility also means being open to trying new things in your writing process. If you’ve been working on your manuscript for months and feel stuck, it might be time to switch up your routine. Try writing in a new location, at a different time of day, or with a new writing tool. You might be surprised at how a small change can make a big difference in your writing.

The key to being flexible is to stay in tune with your own needs and the needs of your manuscript. Don’t be afraid to adjust your writing process as needed, and don’t feel guilty if you need to take a break or change your routine. The important thing is to keep writing and keep moving forward, even if it’s at a slower pace than you expected.

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How Much to Write Each Day

Unsurprisingly, there is no magic formula for how many hours a day you should work on your novel. The amount of time you should devote to writing each day depends on your schedule, your goals, and your personal writing process.

However, writing regularly (ideally every day) can help you make progress. Set realistic goals, find your ideal writing time, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss a day or fall behind on your writing schedule.

Remember to be flexible and switch up your writing schedule when necessary. With dedication and persistence, you can finish your novel and achieve your writing goals. Happy writing!

FAQs About Writing Every Day

Q: How long should I write each day?

A: There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The best amount of time to devote to writing depends on your schedule, goals, and personal writing stamina. Start with a small goal that feels easy to accomplish, and gradually increase the time as you get more comfortable.

Q: What if I can’t write every day?

A: It’s okay if you can’t write every day. Life can get in the way, and it’s important to take breaks and rest when you need to. However, try to make writing a regular part of your routine, even if it’s just a few times a week. You can also try setting a goal to simply think about your project each day. You’ll be amazed at how much motivation you have to write when you get a great plot idea considering your work while doing dishes.

Q: Can I write for too long each day?

A: If you push yourself too far, it’s possible to burn out. Don’t put your word count goals ahead of your personal and mental health. Make sure you get enough sleep and exercise, and don’t forget to tend to your relationships.

Q: Should I always stick to my daily writing goal?

A: While it’s important to prioritize your writing goals, it’s also important to be flexible. Life happens, and sometimes you might not be able to meet your goal. Don’t punish yourself for missing a day of writing or failing to meet your goal. If you do, you might find yourself deciding it’s easier not to write at all.

Q: How do I stay motivated to write every day?

A: It’s important to find what motivates you to write. This can be different for everyone, but some tips include setting a specific writing goal, finding a writing buddy, and reminding yourself why you were passionate about writing this book in the first place.

Q: Can I write my novel in bursts instead of every day?

A: Some writers prefer to write in bursts instead of every day. However, while this may feel more productive because of the big word count at the end of the writing session, it’s usually less efficient than writing a little every day. It also makes it more difficult to get into a good flow. Experiment and find what works best for you and your writing process.

Q: How do I avoid burnout?

A: Burnout can be a real problem for writers, especially if you push yourself too hard. To avoid burnout, always prioritize health and self-care. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, and make sure you’re not neglecting other areas of your life. Writing should be enjoyable, so don’t forget to have fun and let your creativity flow.

Q: What if I get stuck in my writing?

A: If you’re having trouble motivating yourself or figuring out what to write next, the first step is to identify the source of the issue. Did you outline? If you don’t know where your story is going, it can be very easy to get stuck. Are you taking care of your other needs? If you’re not getting enough sleep, for example, you can’t expect your mind to function at full speed. Figure out the source of your “writer’s block,” and even though it’s hard, try not to get frustrated or angry with yourself. Focus on your passion for your project and for writing.How Many Hours a Day Should I Write?

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