What Time Is It?
Write every day.
Make writing part of your daily routine.
Set aside time to write.
Anybody who has set out to become an author has been told some version of the above advice. Panels at conventions, critique group members, author friends, and even the iconic Stephen King in his work, On Writing, all stress the importance of putting your butt in a chair every day and placing words on paper. Or, the computer screen, but I think you know what I mean.
I had heard the advice for years and believed I was following it as well as I could around regular life events with my wife, kids, and work. I had sold multiple short stories, nabbed an agent, and completed four novels.
But then in 2014 something happened with my writing that drove home the point of setting a specific time to write every day.
I experienced a perfect storm in my life. My work life, which had always demanded more than 50 hours per week, settled down to the point where I was home every night by a decent time. My four kids had all reached an age where they did not require constant supervision and my wife's job as a surgical nurse had established a regular schedule. So, for the first time in my writing life, I set a specific time to write every day.
Well, technically I set a time at night. School was in session so all of the kids were off to their bedrooms by 10 o'clock. My wife needed to be scrubbed in for surgery every morning by 6:45 so she also headed to bed at 10 p.m. So my writing time was set from 10 o'clock to two in the morning.
The television was off. The house was quiet. No one needed help with homework or to cook something in the kitchen. Those four hours were my time to write.
At first I did not see much of a difference. I was being productive on my new novel but it did not feel like anything special.
But then the words started to pile up. I was dropping full chapters every sitting. The four hours flew by and many nights I needed to force myself to stop so I could get enough sleep for the next day at work.
Before I realized it, I had a full novel at 84,000 words in three months. I sent the manuscript off to my beta readers and began working on my next novel, the idea of which had come to me during the preceding few weeks. I was eager to see if the new productivity would continue with the regimen or if the word count was only a result of my drive for the first book.
The words continued to flow. Chapters followed chapters in that four-hour block of time. The first book came back from the readers and I made changes before returning to the second book. A Saturday came along when everyone was gone from the house and I had no chores on my honey-do list. I knocked out 10,000 words on the novel that day, still a record for me.
The second book took more research than the first and that slowed me down a little but in the end, it was finished at 92,000 words in four months.
Two books and more than 170,000 words in seven months—a production level I attribute directly to setting a specific time to write every day.
My day job has changed since I learned this lesson in 2014 and I now work for a different company. The regimen was amended—I write every night from 9:00 to midnight—but is still in place. The words are flowing and I am on track to complete more than two novels this year.
It is dark outside as I finish this post and my first thought is easy: What time is it?
Kirk Dougal has had works in multiple anthologies and released his debut novel, Dreams of Ivory and Gold, in May of 2014 through Angelic Knight Press with a 2nd edition in February 2015. His YA science fiction thriller, Jacked, leads the launch of Ragnarok Publications' Per Aspera SF imprint in 2016. He is also waiting on the publication of his SF/LitRPG novel, Reset, while completing the sequel to Dreams, Valleys of the Earth.
Kirk is currently working in a corporate position with a group of newspapers after serving as a group publisher and editor-in-chief. He lives in Ohio with his wife and four children. Discover more at his website or hanging out on Facebook and Twitter.
Twitter: @kirkduogal (https://twitter.com/kdougal)
Publisher Website: www.ragnarokpub.com
Netgalley Link: https://s2.netgalley.com/catalog/book/90271