Thursday, 6 November 2014

Day in the Life of An Unpublished Writer

One of my favourite columns in the Sunday Times is the 'A Life in the Day' column, which goes into detail about what different people do with their day. I like the column because I am inherently nosey - I love hearing about other people's routines [surely this can't just be me?] and so I thought I'd do a run down of my own Thursday writing routine [just in case anyone was wondering what it is I do all day when writing at home!] Bear in mind I'm only a part-time stay at home writer...the other three working days of the week are largely spent running around after small children [although I do still manage to write when they're at school!] but I'm afraid I can't go into my adventures with those persons here. Also bear in mind that my routine isn't set in stone, but this is what an ideal writing day should hopefully look like for me.  I've only been a stay at home writer for a few weeks, so It's taken me a while to actually get into a routine. So, here's what I try to get up to when I'm working at home on a Thursday:

9 am - This is usually when I get up. Yes, some writers like to get up at the crack of dawn and eek out a thousand pages before breakfast, but I'm not one of them! 9am seems like a reasonable time to me, it's late enough that I'll have had a decent lie-in, but not so late that I can't get anything done. I have an unimaginative breakfast of toast with oodles of butter [I have been told off for the sheer quantities of butter I consume, but we all have to have our vices] accompanied with a cup of instant coffee [I actually prefer instant coffee to real coffee, I have also been told off for this]. I'll put some laundry on, as sorting out my life puts me in a productive frame of mind. I usually wash at night in case people think I'm unhygienic.

Mmmm....Instant coffee

From around 9.30 or so I start writing. I'll usually begin with this blog [as I am doing right now] as firstly it's fun [honestly, I would happily blog full-time] and secondly it gets me in the frame of mind to do the less interesting stuff later. I think it's important for me to keep up this blog, as it hopefully showcases the fact that I have some kind of writing ability to potential employers/readers. The blog usually takes a couple of hours to write [it's putting the images in and sharing it that actually takes me the longest amount of time] but I'll admit I could probably write it much faster if I was under duress.


Around 11, I'll stop to take a break - I seem to write best when I have frequent breaks. I can only write in short, concentrated bursts otherwise I get a bit cantankerous and my brain starts to protest! This usually involves watching something on 4OD. At the moment, I'm favouring The Mindy Project or The Apprentice, You're Fired.  At 11.30, I'll eat my lunch, which usually consists of tuna, red onions and potatoes [or something similar!] Yes, it's early, but that's when I get hungry for some reason.

Around 11:50, I'll get to the most tedious part of my day namely, writing to Literary Agents.  I am currently trying to get my first novel published, and this means that I have to metaphorically knock on the door of as many agents as I can. The only trouble is, each agent requires something different from me, some want a synopsis and the first three chapters, some want a letter of introduction, some want an author's autobiography, some want to know what my literary plans are. It's not a matter of copying and pasting the same cover letter again and again - each agent has different interests, so I do my best to appeal to what they're looking for. I do have a basic framework for a cover letter on hand, but I find that more often than not I have to adapt it each week to match the agent's specifications. On average, I write to three agents a week, and it takes me two or three hours to successfully compile everything they're looking for.

Dear Mr Agent...Please will you publish my novel. Thanks. 

3pm - I have to take another break, as at this point I feel mentally exhausted. Sometimes I might venture outside for a walk or I might read in bed for a good 45 minutes, as I find nothing more relaxing than reading.

From 4 to 5pm - I might apply for a writing job during this time, as even doing unpaid writing work will help me build up my writing portfolio. Hopefully in the next few weeks I'll have gained a position writing articles [even if I don't get paid for it] and if that is the case, the I'll use this hour to write the articles. If I don't manage to finish writing the articles during this time, I'll carry them over to Friday.

Dear Miss Employer...Please will you give me a writing job. Thanks. 

5pm - is dinner time, and the end of my working day. To anyone who thinks I'm lazy, bear in mind that I work ten hours pretty much without stopping the other three days, and that I actually write 15 to 20 hours a week on average, and that I'm only paid for 6 of those hours. I also don't think I'm lazy as I actually use my days off to further my career, rather than just sitting round doing nothing [defensive writer is defensive!]

Friday's routine is more relaxed - it's my creative day, my 'play around with words' day, where I might work on my second novel, or work on a play or a short story. Friday is the day where I'll enter writing competitions, finish any unfinished articles and do any additional writing admin or life admin, such as doing my invoices or my taxes [fortunately I only have to do this once a year!] and if I ever get lucky enough to have an agent, this will hopefully be the day I'll meet up with them if they need me to.  I also tend to finish a bit earlier on Fridays, as writing for two days each week [and 6 hours during my other working days] actually takes quite a bit of mental energy.

I hope I haven't put anyone off trying to be a writer, it may be hard going, but it is also really rewarding!  

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