Stephen King once said to “read and write four to six hours a day” to become a good writer.
Most of us work full time and have a hundred other responsibilities from our homes, social circles, and families. What does being a productive author look like when we don’t have those 4–6 hours a day? In truth, all you need is a few minutes a day, some simple techniques, and determination.
How long does it take to write a novel?
Some simple math reveals astonishing results: if you write just twenty minutes a day, six days a week, you will end up with the equivalent of Fahrenheit 451 and the first Harry Potter book in one year. That’s with two weeks off for vacation.
I assumed a writing speed of twenty words per minute. The average person can type 3–4 times that fast, but writing a novel or a blog requires a lot more thought than just spitting random words onto the screen. Twenty WPM is still reasonable but only if you’re doing the right things while you write.
Give yourself a launch-pad
A lot of writing time is spent catching up on where you last left off and determining how to continue. To avoid this, end in the middle of a paragraph or even the middle of a sentence. You will instinctively fill in the gaps when you return and save yourself a few minutes of recap.
End in the middle of a paragraph or even the middle of a sentence to give yourself a head-start in your next session.
Another similar trick is to open your word-processor right before you go to bed (or before your next writing session) and open it to your current project. The fewer barriers you have to start, the better.
Shut out distractions
If you write for twenty minutes a day, you can easily produce two novels in a year. However, many spend time “writing” with Facebook open in another tab or with their phone sitting face-up next to them. They’re one tap or click or notification away from a ten minute rabbit trail of Tweets and responses, posts and comments, videos and recommendations. Just like that, their writing time is gone.
Leave your phone in another room. Put you laptop in airplane mode. Shut out social media and entertainment for twenty minutes. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.
Finding 20 minutes a day
You may need to sit down and re-evaluate how you’re spending your time. Try to think of the unhealthy, neutral, or even healthy things you can cut out of your life to make time for that which is even more important. Social media, naps, video games, social events — they’ve all got their time and place. After writing.
Try to think of the unhealthy, neutral, or even healthy things you can cut out of your life to make time for that which is even more important.
Somewhere in your busy schedule and hectic life, there is twenty minutes you can use to write. The average person spends 2 hours and 24 minutes on social media. Even if you aren’t average, there’s a good chance you can cut out half an hour of Instagram to pursue your dreams of being an author.
No matter what your situation, you will need to make priorities. Ideally, you could just eliminate unhealthy habits and use that time to write. However, you may need to pick and choose from a few places in the beginning. Later on, you can continue to cut back on unhealthy things and reinstate other healthy habits.
Sticking to your writing schedule
A “schedule” in this sense refers to a birds-eye view of how you’re going to write your two books this year. The calculations I mentioned earlier have built-in breaks. Once a week, you can take a day off. Use it to avoid burnout. If you’re in a busy time of your life or just need a vacation, take a week-long break. If you feel guilty taking a break from writing, you’ll avoid returning. Writer’s block will only compound the longer you’re away. These breaks are there so you don’t feel guilty when you need to step away for a time.
If you feel guilty taking a break from writing, you’ll avoid returning. Writer’s block will only compound the longer you’re away.
Use your time off wisely. Do your absolute best to stick to your timetables so you can write two novels this year!
When inspiration fails you
If you’re depending on inspiration to carry you to the finish line, you’re in deep trouble. Inspiration is wonderful but unreliable.
“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
- Jack London
A daily or weekly routine or even just the habit of writing in spare moments or in huge chunks on the weekends (whatever works best for you) will trump inspiration 9/10 times. You have to sit down at the keyboard even if you know every word you to write will be uninspired and dull. Even if the words are a jumbled mess, they’re better than nothing.
“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page”
- Jodi Picoult
Twenty minutes a day of focused writing, two hours of nonstop effort each weekend, or 120 minutes scattered throughout the week. That’s all it takes to write two novels in a year. Anyone can do that. You can do that.