It’s no surprise that writing is a notoriously solitary and time-consuming endeavor. Whether it’s a blog post, a magazine article or your work-in-progress high fantasy manuscript, there are many different ways to get the words on the page. This requires several habitual behaviors and a level of long-term diligence that is unheard of for almost any other creative endeavor.
The daily schedules and word count outputs of successful authors also vary wildly. Stephen King stated in On Writing that his daily goal was 2,000 words before he was allowed to step away from the computer. Meanwhile, bestselling fantasy author Sarah J. Maas recently described at a book signing that at one point she’d written upwards of 20,000 words of a new novella in one day. That’s 1,000 words an hour for 20 hours straight! You can imagine my shock and self-doubt at my own numbers in comparison to Maas’s. I had to take a step back and remind myself that every single writer is different, and our brains made to create at different speeds.
Comparing Your Writing Schedule to Successful Writers
Attempting to emulate someone else’s output and schedule might only result in you wasting many hours on words that will never be kept. This is not effective for revising a manuscript to completion. This doesn’t mean that learning about other authors’ schedules and daily word count goals can’t provide a framework to reference for our own work. It’s important in every task to push ourselves, to improve and to strengthen our abilities as we become more capable of completing them over time.
For me personally, I’ve found it helpful to learn about other successful writers’ schedules and deviate from there based on my own abilities. Writing is so personal and solitary that it can be hard to know whether you’re “doing the right thing.” Sometimes having an idea of what has worked for others can make a huge difference in our own writing careers. The below figures are based on self-reported statistics as well as online sources:
Stephen King said that his daily goal is six pages a day, which he estimated takes around three to four hours. He begins writing between 8 and 8:30 every morning. He does it in the same place (at his desk) with everything “arranged” in their routine places until he reaches those six pages at least.
It’s been found that spaced repetition increases our brain’s neuropathways for learning, comprehension, and memory.
This bestselling author stated that while he was writing a novel he’d wake up at 4 a.m. and spend between five and six hours writing. He’d then devote several more to exercise before a strict 9 p.m. bedtime every night.
Bestselling author and activist Maya Angelou described her daily routine as such: waking up around 5:30 a.m. with the intention of sitting down to write by 7 a.m. Angelou called her workspace a “mean” hotel room, with very limited items inside (a bed, Bible, deck of cards, dictionary and a bottle of sherry). She said that she tried to write until 2 p.m. unless things weren’t going well, at which point she’d conclude by 12:30 p.m.
Simone de Bouvier
This French writer said in a 1965 interview that her writing schedule consisted of morning tea followed by work from 10 a.m. to around 1 p.m. After work, de Bouvier would devote the afternoons to social engagements. When she would return home, she would then continue writing from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. in the evening.
Find more successful writers’ schedules in this Mission article. If you need writing or editing assistance on your own manuscript, the staff at Midnight Publishing is only an email or phone call away! We have spent over a decade assisting authors to polish and perfect their writing work and would love to speak with you. Also don’t forget to check out our 2019 insider’s guides to publication for curated, up-to-date advice on all things publishing.