Category: writing

I Wrote Some Fiction Yesterday

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Early this year I talked about my 5-year bout of writer’s block when it comes to writing fiction. The last story I sold, “Gemma Barrows Comes To Cooperstown” was back in 2015. Since then, my ability to write stories seemed to have faltered.

Yesterday, for no reason in particular, I started to write again. I wrote a little over 1,200 words and I guess I have a new story underway. I don’t know much about it yet. I don’t know if I will finish it. I tried to work slower than I normally do, but I was sort of sucked into it and wrote more than I expected.

Whatever it is I am writing, it will be a short story. I think, in retrospect, part of what caused my writer’s block was my desire to try to be a novelist, when a novelist I am not. I wrote one novel draft in my life–back in 2013–and trunked it after writing the first draft. I wanted the experience, but the result wasn’t very good. Plus, these days, novels tend to required things like agents and I don’t want to get into all of that. Short stories worked for me in the past, and maybe they will work for me again in the future.

Part of what worked for me is that I didn’t do any kind of preamble to my writing. Often, I try new tools, or spend time on automations that will “aid my writing” rather than, you know, actually sitting down and writing. Yesterday, I opened Scrivener on my Mac, used my custom short story template that I created years ago to create a new file, and I just started to write.

I would be lying if I said I wrote without thinking about the quality of what I was writing. Ideally, when writing a first draft, I focus on telling myself the story. But I did find myself tweaking the wording along the way, something I try to avoid in first drafts so that I can get the whole idea down on paper. Tweaking and rewriting is for later drafts. Still, I actually wrote and what I wrote was not horrible.

I haven’t been to my writer’s group since before the pandemic–more than two years now–but I recently had lunch with a couple of the long-timers, and it made me think about returning. Now that I have started to write again, maybe that will provide further incentive for me to return. (I belong to a really good writers group–several of the stories I submitted to the group I later sold; and our group has had best-selling writers, and writers who went on to write for Hollywood, and publish novels and do all sorts of amazing things.)

I hesitated to say anything about my writing here until I’d actually finished a story, but I was just so excited that I was writing fiction again, that I threw caution to the wind, and here I am telling you all about it. Forgive me if I come across as both giddy and apprehensive. After all, isn’t ambiguity a quality of good fiction?

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The Scariest Part of Writing is Acceptance

When I decided to become a writer my biggest fear was that I’d never have an idea worth writing about. Experience taught me this was a needless fear. I found ideas everywhere. The trick is figuring out which ideas are worth pursuing.


When I had an idea worth writing about my biggest fear became the blank page, a fear often magnified by a deadline. Repeated experience taught me that a blank page isn’t that scary after all. Eventually I’ll fill it.

When I filled the pages my biggest fear was that what I’d written might not be good enough to submit for publication. I reminded myself that I was a writer, not an editor. I decided to let the editor make the call, and away the story went.

When I submitted a story my biggest fear was that I would be rejected. Although I knew a rejection was not personal, they sometimes felt personal. I reminded myself that I wasn’t being rejected, the story was. After that, rejection was no longer scary.

The scariest part of writing for me is acceptance. I would never have guessed this when I was starting out.

Until the story is accepted, only a few people have read it: me, a couple of beta readers, a slush reader, perhaps, and an editor. The delay between acceptance and publication is agonizing. It is like that moment half-in and half-out of the airplane door, with a parachute strapped on your back, and the ground little more than colored squares and rectangles far below. Instead of a handful of people, thousands of readers will see my work.

Then the story is published, and the fear vanishes. The story is no longer mine. Like the skydiver, I have lost control. I am at the mercy of a kind of literary gravity. If people enjoy the story, I feel good. If people don’t enjoy the story, there’s nothing I can do about it. All I can do is breath in the experience, look in momentary amazement at what I created, and then begin the search for the next idea worth writing about.

Blogging Advice for Beginners

Somehow, the 10th anniversary of my blog passed without notice. I wrote my very first blog post back on October 25, 2005. Back then I was on LiveJournal, but all of those posts found their way here when I converted to WordPress a few years later. Ten years, and 6,032 public posts later, I’m still having fun writing here. Now and then I hear that blogging is dead. Maybe that is true, but it is not dead here. And I’m not sure I believe it is dead in other quarters. My Feedly and Medium are always full of interesting reads.

A few days ago, a coworker of mine asked if she could get some advice on blogging and social media. I don’t know that I would call myself an expert on either subject. But I offered some lessons I’ve learned over the last ten years. Here is some of the advice I offered on blogging.

1. Post your best work

I’ve tried to get better at this over the years. For a long time I did my blog writing without a net. That is, I typed what I wanted to write directly into WordPress and then pressed Publish. These days, I write these posts in Scrivener, and I schedule them, often days in advance. I don’t rush to get them out. I re-read them and tweak them. I spend time trying to get them as clear as possible before I publish them. It my way of posting my best work.

For someone just starting out, I can’t emphasize how important posting your best work is. It is like submitting a story for publication. You always submit your best work. With the blog, there is not editor or gate-keeper to provide a quality check. Instead, there is an audience, and you want to make a good impression with that audience. The best way to do this is by posting your best work.

It is okay to write stuff and not post it. Looking through the things I have in my Scrivener blog project, I see five pieces I’ve written in the last month that I decided either not to post, or decided that they needed more work before I post them. For me, this is a sea-change from the days when I felt compelled to post something the second I’d finished typing the last word.

When I get asked about blogging, I am often asked about how to get people to read my blog. My response is always post your best work. If it is good, people will read it.

2. Consistency is more important than frequency

My friend wanted to know how frequently to post on her newly created blog. I told her that my experience is that consistency is more important than frequency. If you decide to post once a week, be sure to hit that mark every week—at the same time, if possible. If readers enjoy what you write, they’ll look for it regularly, and there is a schedule they can count on, regardless of the frequency, they’ll know when to look for it.

Consistency is more than when or how often you post. It is also means maintaining a consistent quality to the posts. Not every post will be a winner, but don’t forget the first piece of advice: post your best work.

Knowing how long it takes to produce your best work will help you figure out how frequently you can maintain consistency. If it takes you a month to produce a good post, then don’t try posting more than once a month until you are comfortable with the schedule. If it gets easier, you can increase the frequency of your posts, but only if you can avoid sacrificing quality. Quality is the most import part of writing.

3. Be patient

This blog was, by no means, an overnight success. In fact, I never really cared much about the site statistics until I’d been blogging for 5 years. In 2010, I started following the stats for the blog. I was getting something like 30 visitors each day. In 2011 (I think) I set a goal: could I improve the quality of what I was writing enough to triple that number and get 100 visitors each day? I had a year to do it, and I succeeded. From 2011 – 2014 things kept increasing, and I peaked at around a daily average of 4,000 visitors/day. In 2015, the numbers started falling. You know why? Because I was focused on other things, and I was no longer being consistent in when I posted.

These days, I’m back to posting regularly with a consistent schedule (the main post at 9 am each morning, with an occasional announcement or supplemental post in the afternoon), and guess what? The numbers are back up. Since December 1, I’ve been seeing 4,000-5,000 visitors each day on average. Here is what patience looks like on a timeline:

Blog stats timeline
Click to enlarge

My point here is not to brag. On the contrary, it took me 5 years of posting on consistent schedule, the best possible work I could write, day-in and day-out to get from 30 visitors a day, to 4,000 visitors a day. There was no magic bullet. There was no trick that I tried to get a bigger audience beyond trying to write interesting posts.

My Standard Cover Letter for Fiction

Occasionally, I come across a discussion of what one should put into one’s cover letter when submitting a story to a magazine. I don’t ever recall sweating over my cover letters after an early rejection I received from A. J. Budrys, then editing Tomorrow Science Fiction. He told me that, for him, cover letters were unnecessary, but that if I did include a cover letter, I should keep it brief and to the point. Below are four cover letters for four stories that I sold. The first three letters are the cover letter I used for my first two story sales. The last letter is the letter I used for my most recent story sale. In each case, I tried to keep them brief, and to the point.

1. When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer (InterGalactic Medicine Show, July 2007)

This was the first story I ever sold, meaning that at the time I submitted it, I had no credits to my name. Here is the letter I sent to Edmund Schubert, Editor of InterGalactic Medicine Show in 2006.

Dear Mr. Schubert,

Please consider the attached story, “When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer” for publication in the Intergalactic Medicine Show.  My name, address, phone number and email address are included on the attached manuscript, and also listed below.

Thanks in advance for your consideration.


2. Hindsight In Neon (Apex Magazine, April 2009)

This is the letter for the second story I sold. I had one credit to my name. Also, the title was changed from “The Last S.F. Writer” to “Hindsight, In Neon” after it was published. Michael Burstein was guest editing this particular issue of the magazine. I knew Michael, and that is why the salutation reads, “Dear Michael,” instead of “Dear Mr. Burstein.” Here is my cover letter:

Dear Michael,

Please consider the attached 2,400 word short story, “The Last S.F. Writer” for publication in APEX Magazine’s special issue on “the slipperiness of history and the dangers of forgetting the past.”

My fiction has previously appeared in Orson Scott Card’s INTERGALACTIC MEDICINE SHOW.

Thanks in advance for your consideration.


3. Take One for the Road (Analog, June 2011)

I included this letter because it marks my first sale to Analog. I also included it as an example of what I did when an editor (Stan Schmidt, in this case) had rejected stories of mine in the past, but asked me to submit more stories. I was never quite certain how to remind an editor about this. Here’s what I did in the case of Analog, and in this case, it worked for me.

Dear Dr. Schmidt,

Please consider the enclosed 4,900 word short story, “Take One for the Road” for publication in ANALOG.  On a couple of occasions in the past, you’ve asked to see more stories from me.  It’s been a while since I sent the last one (the birth of our first child intervened) but I hope the enclosed story meets your standards.  I’ve also enclosed a copy of the last letter you sent me as a reminder of your request.

My fiction has appeared in Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, Apex Magazine, and the DESCENDED FROM DARKNESS anthology.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.


4. Gemma Barrows Comes to Cooperstown (InterGalactic Medicine Show, May 2015)

Here is my most recent cover letter. Still as brief as ever. Note that in this case, I don’t list credits. Edmund had already published 3 of my stories, and an entire column of book reviews. Edmund, by this time, was also a friend, so this is an example of a cover letter for a market to which I have sold many times:


Attached is a 6,600 word s.f. story for you to consider for IGMS, titled, “Gemma Barrows Comes to Cooperstown.” In another life, I think I would be a baseball sportswriter. This story is from that other life.

Thanks in advance for your consideration.



P.S.: I can’t remember if you told me if you’d be attending RavenCon in April. If so, I look forward to seeing you there.

In each of these cases, I sold the story in question. I’ve sold 11 stories all together, and at least as many nonfiction pieces. In each of these cases, the cover letters use the same general template as the ones above. I will be forever grateful to A. J. Budry’s for taking the time to give me advice on cover letters. It has saves me a lot of time, and I have never sweated over a letter since.

Permission to Write Anything

I have started a new story that isn’t really science fiction It isn’t really fantasy. Isn’t really horror. Yet, for me, the story still falls into the category of popular fiction. I am not trying to be coy with genre here. But it feels like a mainstream popular fiction story that doesn’t fit neatly into the boundaries of any particular genre.

This has been a trend with my stories, lately. “Meat and Greet,” which was published in the January 2015 issue of InterGalactic Medicine Show was more-or-less mainstream story (although one reviewer referred to it as literary). A year earlier, my story, “Big Al Shepard Plays Baseball on the Moon” (IGMS, January 2014) was an alternate history, but was essentially mainstream fiction about baseball in the 1940s, and the Apollo program of the 1960s. And earlier this spring, my story “Gemma Barrows Comes to Cooperstown” was my attempt at writing a long-form Sports Illustrated-style profile. The only difference from real Sports Illustrated profiles is that my piece is fictionalized.

For a long time I have resisted writing these more mainstream stories I think there are several reasons for this:

1. I grew up reading and loving science fiction, and it seemed natural to write science fiction when I began to write.

2. When I began to sell stories, science fiction is what I sold. That is the world in which my writer-friends live, and I wanted to be part of that world.

3. I was afraid to write more mainstream stories because I didn’t know where to send them once they were finished.

4. I felt like I didn’t really have permission to write stories outside my adopted genre. After all, I’ve been writing science stories all this time, who am I to write anything else?

The first two reasons are forgivable, I think, and I suspect many genre writers have done the same. The third reason is easily overcome by some simple research.

It is the fourth reason that has troubled me, the feeling that I need some sort of permission to write outside the genre. Why I should feel this way I can’t begin to say. Permission from whom? I suspect the answer is permission from myself. As a science fiction writer, I have become used to being pigeonholed to a set number of markets. This has nudged me into writing stories that would fit those markets if the stories were good enough for publication to begin with.

But as I said, I have recently started a new story which, while falling entirely into the realm of popular fiction, doesn’t really mesh with the genre boundaries we have today. So whether it was a necessary thing or not, I have finally given myself permission to write these stories. They may be harder to place, but I have to write them. Other writers will understand this, I think. And yet, I am left with a feeling of disloyalty to the genres I grew up with, a feeling that I am abandoning them after all they have done for me.

A guilty conscience, perhaps.

Sometime in the last year, I decided I wanted to be more than a science fiction writer. I wanted to strip away the adjective and be a writer. I have written nonfiction within and without the genre, why not fiction? This is what I am doing now, but the guilt still lingers.

This is not to say that I am giving up on writing science fiction (or fantasy). Instead, I am writing stories. If they turn out to be suitable for one genre or another, great! If not, that’s okay, too. I suspect many of these stories will fall from the nest soon after hatching, but I am hopeful that with practice and time, a few will find their wings, and fly to places far beyond those in which my stories have appeared so far.

If You Are Interested in Self-Publishing…

You might check out a well-done series of posts on self-publishing by Doug Farren. Doug was part of my Launch Pad Astronomy workshop class of 2013. He has had a good deal of success self-publishing, and while self-publishing is not my particular cup of tea1, I’ve found Doug’s posts on the subject both enjoyable and enlightening. If you have any interest whatsoever in self-publishing, go check out his posts on the subject.

  1. I am too lazy for the self-publishing world.

A New Phase of Writing: Life After the Streak

I did my first post-streak writing at lunch today. It was the first time in about 10 days that I’d written anything, after having spent the previous 825 days writing every day. Everything about the writing today was new. Driving home from work a few days ago, I realized that I had entered a new phase in my writing life.

Subconsciously, I needed a break from the old ways. I say “subconsciously” because, although my actions were conscious, I don’t think I realized what I was doing until I sat down to write. Several things were new.

1. I have a brand new keyboard, a das keyboard, the first mechanical keyboard I’ve ever had for one of my Macs, and I love it. I love the feel of it, and the clackity-clack of the keys are reminiscent of a typewriter. It feels different from what I’d been using for the past several years, and that alone made today’s writing a new experience for me.

2. I used Scrivener for my writing. After using Google Docs (and my Google Docs Writing Tracker) for the last 2-1/2 years, I wanted something new. I’d used Scrivener before, and it was nice to use it again. It was like playing ball in an old, but familiar ball field. I especially enjoyed the combination of Scrivener’s distraction-free mode combined with the clackity-clack of the keys on my new keyboard.

3. I started a brand new story writing in a style that I haven’t tried before. It was a a refreshing change, and while I didn’t write much–I didn’t have much time–it felt good.

4. I no longer cared about the stats. Today wasn’t about trying to get in the writing. It wasn’t about word counts. It was about doing something that felt good. It was like stretching my legs by taking a long walk in the woods. I wrote without the streak hanging over my head for the first time in over 2 years, and it was a completely different experience.

“Back it up,” I hear you saying, “you didn’t use your Google Docs Writing Tracker? Are you sick? What’s going on?”

With a little bit of distance, I realize now that writing every day had been phase of my writing career, one that is now over. It was an incredibly valuable phase. Among other things, I learned:

  • That I can write every day.
  • That I don’t need large blocks of time. Ten or twenty minutes will do.
  • That I don’t need preparation. I can start cold, and quickly.
  • That I can work at any time in the day when time is available.
  • That I can write in just about any circumstances. I don’t need quiet.

The streak also served to solidify my own writing process, whereby I write a draft for me, and then a draft for audience. That process has helped me produce more published stories than other process I’ve tried.

The Google Docs Writing Tracker served me well in this regard, because it was wired up to track everything automatically. All I had to do was write. The data that the writing tracker produced from my daily writing was useful to me in the same way experimental results are useful to a scientist studying a problem. I have enough data, and I’ve learned all the lessons I can learn from it. I no longer see a need for me to track things at that level.

At the same time, a new phase deserves a change. A new school year always started with new school clothes for me. The new keyboard and a different writing tool are the new clothes I needed to begin the next phase of my writing education.

Still, there are some aspects of my automation that I am not quite willing to give up. One thing my Google Docs Writing Tracker did was keep track of what I wrote each day: what I added, changed, or deleted from each piece. I like having the evolutionary history of the things that I write, and I didn’t want to lose that. But I also didn’t want to spent rewriting the Google Docs Writing Tracker to support my own personal quirks for Scrivener. So I went in a different direction.

After each writing session, I am now checking my work into Github (in a private repository, of course). Doing this allows me to see the changes I make each time I write, and I can use simple Git commands to see the history of anything I write, if I am interested. This captures the history of my creation in more-or-less realtime, and that is good enough for me.


I no longer feel like I need to know how much I’ve written each day. I know now that when I feel like writing, I can write, and it doesn’t matter if I write for 10 minutes or write only 150 words. The accumulation gets the job done. If there is a new coin of the realm it is how many things I can complete, and publish. But I’m not quite there yet. In this new phase of my writing, I am focusing on improving my craft–quality, not quantity. With everything I’ve learned over the last few years, and without the strain of the streak over my head, can I write better stories?

The idea that I no longer need to know how much I write is surprisingly liberating. Instead of the word, I’m free to focus on a different scale: the story.



Thoughts on My 825 Day Writing Streak, and Why I Voluntarily Ended It

I always knew that when I started my writing streak, it would have to come to an end. I voluntarily ended my 825-consecutive-day writing streak on Sunday, bringing to an end more than 2-1/3 years of writing every day.

I ended the streak because it felt like it was the right time to end it. But that seems like a fuzzy answer, so I tried to put together a chart that shows several factors that went into the decision.

825 Day Writing Streak

The x-axis is time, the y-axis represents different things, but the higher on the axis the more of something it represents. There are 4 colored lines:

  1. Difficulty in establishing and maintaining the habit of writing every day (red).
  2. A relative amount of time each day that I had available for writing (blue).
  3. A relative measure of my writing productivity (green)
  4. A measure of the overall mental strain of the streak (yellow)

For me, the mental strain of the streak was a linear function. It increased slightly each day, but I didn’t really notice it until it had really built up steam. It probably began to creep into my consciousness at around the 600-day mark. This presented itself in many ways, most commonly, “Uh, I’ve got to find time to get the writing in today.”

The difficulty of establishing the habit hit its peak in the first 100-200 days. After that, it was easy to do, even though I didn’t always feel like doing it. After 200 days, I’d encountered every type of obstacle and had come up with strategies for dealing with those obstacles.

The amount of time I had to write each day gradually increased from about 30 minutes to about 42 minutes, after which it began to decrease again, mostly as other activities crowded out my writing time: school activities with the kids, work projects, sports with the kids, and other things.

Finally my productivity was a steadily diminishing curve, not because I wasn’t writing every day, but because I got into a rut where I was forcing myself to try to get stories right, and doing far more re-writing than I might otherwise do.

Somewhere around the 650-700 day mark things converged. The mental strain of writing every day was compounded by less time to write, and less productivity. That the streak continued for another 150 days or so was out of sheer will-power. I thought I could brute-force my way through the tough part. This just added to the strain.

Knowing that the streak would end at some point, I decided to end it voluntarily, rather than find myself mentally exhausted one day, and feel disheartened simply because I couldn’t get in my writing.

The 825-day streak by the numbers

In the course of 825 days, I wrote 687,907 words. Of that, all but 25,000 words were fiction. That comes to an average of 833 words per day. In terms of time, I spent about 42 minutes per day writing over the course of the streak. That comes to 24 solid days of writing time over the course of 2-1/3 years. I published 14 pieces of fiction nonfiction during the streak.

Was it valuable?

Absolutely! I learned that I can write under just about any condition. During the 2 years I taught myself to be able to start writing without any warmup. I learned to be more efficient with my writing, and I honed my overall process for writing stories, working through drafts in a way that makes sense to me.

Of course, I will continue to write. But I no longer need to prove to myself that I can do it every day. I know I can, and now, when I write, I will be much less-focused on the numbers. The numbers have done their part.

A mental rest period

But first, I need some rest. I have not written since Saturday, and it feels pretty good not to have that streak hanging over my shoulders. What have I done? Well, I’ve played video games, something I rare did over the last 2-1/3 years. My days feel a little easier knowing that I don’t have to find time to write. When I feel rested, and idea strikes me, I’ll start writing again, but with a focus on finishing each story, rather than trying to break my record.

In case, it was absolutely worth doing for me, and if I had to do it all over, I don’t think I’d change anything. The experience was invaluable in many ways. Now, I’m just looking forward to enjoying some time without having to worry about getting any writing done.

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.

How Much Can I Write In a Day?

I have this daydream. Not of winning the lottery. No, when I daydream, it’s of becoming a full-time writer. What would it be like not to have to report to a day job? To set my own schedule, and write. Would I be disciplined about it? For the last 815 days I have been writing in 20-40 minute chunks for the most part. Would I be capable of adjusting to a schedule which would allow me to write for hours each day?

Well, I am not a full-time writer, but it is still possible to experiment. And one such experiment is taking place this weekend. Me and couple of other writers are getting together for a “writers retreat.” We have an Airbnb reserved at a point halfway between where I live and where they live, and tomorrow, I’ll drive down and we’ll get started. Roughly 48 hours where I can simulate what it might be like to be a full-time writer.

Actually, it is a poor simulation, since I’ll be away from my family, and away from distraction. It is more isolation than simulation. Still, it is not often where I have two days to nothing but write. And so I wonder: how much can I actually write in 2 days?

Looking at my data over the last 815 consecutive days that I have written, my best day1 came on February 24, 2015 when I wrote just over 7,100 words. I spent nearly 6 hours writing that day. But of course, I had other things to do as well.

Best Writing Day

But beginning tomorrow, I’ll have about 48 hours that is essentially dedicated to writing. How much could I possibly write in that amount of time? Well, assuming that I’ll spend 14-16 hours of that time sleeping, and another 5 hours driving, that takes us down quite a bit, to around 28 hours. Then there is time for meals, which can knock of another chunk of time, but it might be reasonable to assume somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 hours spent writing.

I can write roughly 1,500 words/hour, which means in 20 hours, I could produce 30,000 words. Let’s call that the maximum. Actually, if I could manage to produce 30,000 words this weekend it would be kind of cool, if for no other reason than it would push me to 700,000 words in my consecutive day writing streak:


Realistically, given that there will be other folks there doing the same thing I am doing, I have to expect a slower pace. That said, I know exactly what I am going to try to do this weekend: finish a full draft of a novella that I have been struggling with for well over a year. I know the story well now, as I have written a first draft before. (Although not a good one.) My second drafts are always complete rewrites, and it is the second draft that I plan to produce over the weekend. I expect it to be in the neighborhood of 20,000 words. Producing 20,000 words in 20 hours is 1,000 words/hour. Call that the minimum.

So, somewhere between 20,000 – 30,000 words over the course of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Anyone want to guess how much I will actually write? Leave your guesses in the comments, and I will post my results when the weekend retreat is over.

  1. Best meaning most words written in this instance.

Earlier Tonight on Twitter I Revealed My Secret to Drafts

I was overcome, earlier today, with the sudden desire to reveal my closely held secret, as a writer, to what I really mean when I talk about draft.

So there you have it. When I talk about drafts and writer, know you know what I really mean.

On Medium: Building a Writer’s Toolkit, Part 2: My Writing Process

Over on Medium, just published the second installment of my series, “Building A Writer’s Toolkit.” In Part 2, I discuss “My Writing Process” with an emphasis on all of the non-writing tasks I have to perform as a professional writer. Being able to find tools that can help automate these non-writing processes means more time each day to spend actually writing.

You can head over to Medium to check out the post.