I’m often asked how many hours a day I spend writing when I’m working on a manuscript or screenplay. I’ve heard that some writers try for a fixed number of words per day, and I read an article somewhere that compared writers like Anne Rice, who averaged 3000 words a day, to Ernest Hemingway, who did well just getting 500 words down on paper each day. I don’t set a word count, and my daily count varies greatly from start to finish of a 90,000 to 130,000-word first draft.
As I’m beginning a novel, I’ve already spent countless hours working on the storyline in my head as I go about the daily grind, but also, throughout the night, I will wake and work on it while the house is quiet, trying to fit the initial chapters in place and set up the narrative. As I get it going, I’m still doing lots of research on places and events that I want to weave into the story, and that doesn’t change much as I proceed, so I may just get a thousand words down during an eight to ten-hour day.
Once I roll past, say, 50,000 to 60,000 words, I’ve got the ending pretty much figured out, though it is always subject to change and usually does as I add characters and dialog; in fact, the story begins to take on a life of its own, with me just along for the ride, as new characters appear, sometimes most unexpectedly, that drive the story in a new direction, and at this juncture, I’m laying down 3,000 to 4,000 words a day, with a few 5,000 word days mixed in. As I get close to what I planned as the ending, the story directs itself and decides where and when it ends, but at this point, I’m in the zone, and time matters not. I could write all day and night if I were allowed, but I pull myself away, in body anyway, to feed and water and maintain a relationship, though my mind never leaves the story until I can finally push out the final chapter like a whale birthing a calf, and with one last thrust write…….