How Much I Wrote During Last Weekend’s Writing Retreat

It occurred to me that I never reported back on just how much I ended up writing on last weekend’s writing retreat. I was originally supposed to get together with 2 other writers, but one had to beg off at the last-minute for very good reasons. So there was just two of us. We had a great townhouse in Richmond, Virginia to ourselves for the weekend.

When I guessed at how much I could write in a day, I put my estimate at somewhere between 20,000 – 30,000 words. I fell a little short, producing about 17,000 words over the course of the three-day retreat. Considering I generally write around 800 words/day, producing 2,400 words over a 3-day period, 17,000 words is pretty amazing. It also makes my 30-day rotating chart look kind of funny:

Writing retreat chart

I also set a new single-day word-count record of 7,700 words. My previous record, set back in February was 7,100 words. Here is what that looks like for all-time (going back to July 2013):

All time record

I wrote those 17,000 words in just under 10 hours of total writing time. I use RescueTime to automatically capture how I spend time on the computer. When I filter this data for the retreat weekend, here is the hour-by-hour breakdown each day for when I was writing during the retreat.

Writing Time, October 16

Writing Time, October 17

Writing Time, October 18

We did our writing together, at a table in the kitchen of the house we had, and so Friday was spent catching up while we wrote. After the first full hour of writing, you can see that my time spent writing drops off a bit, so that maybe 30-40 minutes of each subsequent hour was spent writing.

On Saturday, I spent the better part of the first four hours writing, after which, I got a little mentally tired. I’d take a break, then write, then take a break, then write. I pushed myself to get the one-day record before we broke for the evening to watch baseball.

Sunday morning, I got in about two hours of writing time before getting into the car for the drive home.

Some take-aways from the weekend:

  1. It didn’t much matter when I wrote, morning or afternoon. I was equally productive. This almost certainly comes from learning how to write anywhere, at any time during my (now) 822-consecutive-day writing streak.
  2. After 4 hours of more-or-less constant writing, I hit a productivity wall. I can still write, but not nearly as much. Things fall off a cliff after 4 hours. What this tells me is that if I was a full-time writer, I could go for about 4 hours each day on new material. For me, that is somewhere between 4,000 – 6,000 words per day. The rest of the day would need to be spent on other writing-related work, revisions, etc.
  3. I can write socially. Usually I write alone, but we sat in the kitchen together, chatting from time-to-time and it didn’t seem to affect my concentration. I sort-of knew this. My kids interrupt me while I write, and I’ve taught myself to be able to stop, and deal with them, and return to what was working on with minimal fuss. I’ve also gotten a feel for this when I write at conventions.
  4. It was fun to have a full weekend to do nothing but write, and I managed to produce 90% of a novella that I’ve been wanting to finish for a while now. But I also missed my family. I feel more comfortable writing when I know they are around.

I was very glad to have the experience, and I’m particularly glad that I was able to push this novella almost to the finish line. Now if I can just get it across that finish line in the next week or so, I can move on to the next story.

Questions about the retreat? Drop them in comments and I will do my best to answer them.

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