Thursday, August 1, 2013

How Should New Writers Use Their Writing Time?

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.

When I'm interacting with parents of teen writers, one of the questions I often get asked is, "How should I encourage my writer to spend their time?"

One of the trickiest things for writers who want to be published, it seems, is to figure out how to invest their writing time. Publishing isn't just a quirky industry, there are approximately a gazillion resources you can read on the topics of writing a book, editing a book, getting published, marketing, and being successful.

In my experience, writers tend to fall into one of these two extremes:

The non-writing writer

80% of their time is spent studying how to get published
15% is spent socializing in writers circles or on social media
5% is spent actually writing

The only-writing writer
98% of their time is spent writing
1% is spent fretting about never getting published
1% is spent fretting about having to market should they ever get published

Neither of these are an ideal balance. What I suggest is a breakdown that looks more like this:

10% of time learning about the industry - on blogs, in books, wherever
10% of time socializing with other writers - on blogs, on Facebook, in forums, in person, etc.
80% of time writing, writing, and writing some more

If we wanted to get real particular, we could throw reading or blogging in there too, but for simplicity's sake, we'll focus on these three categories.

The number one job of an aspiring novelist, as Jill and I say in Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft into a Published Book , is to learn how to write a great book. If you don't have a great book, all the networking and Tweeting and querying you're doing won't have much of a return.

But, if you've devoted all your time to writing and no time to understanding the industry or making friends in the writing community, you might be in for a battle as well. That's where I was when I first started trying to get published. I thought I was ready to query, but I didn't know what genre I wrote, or even that I needed to define a genre.

The 80/10/10 breakdown isn't meant to be a rule for how you split up each day. Some days it may play out like that, but if you're like me, this might be more of a weekly or monthly thing. Some weeks, I have to buckle down on a writing project to get them turned in on time, so I ignore email and the industry blogs that I typically enjoy. There are other times where I wish I could be writing, but there are blog posts to write and marketing to be done. I strive for a good balance overall.

How do you feel about the ways you use your writing time? Do you feel good about your balance, or do you think you need to adjust in some ways?

Also, congratulations to the finalists from the, "I've never been the type" contest:
(Listed in alphabetical order)

Abigail Thacker
Alex M.
Anna Schaeffer
Ashley Renee
Brittany Fitz.
Callie O.
Carissa B.
Corwynne F.
Georgina C
Hannah Mummert
Helen G
Ian H
Jane S.
Jenneth D.
Katelyn C.
L. R. Williams
Laurie J. Curtis
Lily Jenness
Marie Herman
Megan K.
Natalie M.
Pavi C.
Plutonian L
Rachel Heffington

If your name is not on the above list, I'll be emailing your feedback to you as quickly as possible. I'll go as fast as I can, but 100+ entries take a bit of time to return. If you're one of the finalists, you'll receive your feedback after the winners are announced, which should be sometime next week.


  1. Er, hehe, do you have the bloodvoicing gift or something? I think I spend a little bit too much time on reading about writing instead of actually writing. But GTW is so addictive... It's so much fun to read the posts from, for example, 2010. Always when I read about writing, I feel inspired to go and write my story. However, when I open my manuscript, I think: How am I ever going to make this a good book with all the 'rules' correctly applied?

    Congrats to all the winners! This contest was really a lot of fun and I hope there will be another one soon!

    1. Arende, that exactly. xD I find that reading about writing really inspires me to write, but it can also really overwhelm me. Trying to remember everything at once...not good! What I try to do is only read bits of that sort of thing at a time, especially if I'm working on something in particular. For example, if I know I'm having issues with using "as he walked out the door, he grabbed the bag" or "flying out the door, he grabbed the bag" (not the best example, but you get the idea) I'll read about that. Or if I'm stuck on something I'm trying to revise or write, like a climax, I'll read about that. This way I can apply it immediately and not have to worry about all the millions of other stuff. :)

    2. I feel like that too sometimes. Thanks for the advise, Amanda.

  2. I was definitely an "only write" writer until about 7 years ago. I try for a healthy balance now, though with editing responsibilities too, I'm not sure how my breakdown works, LOL.

    Looking forward to reading the finalists' entries!!

  3. I guess that really depends. Is it possible to switch between the two? The internet is SO distracting some days, I don't even write. Other days I'm on fire and I just write, write, write. Haven't been checking into how to get published as much, or even what genre I write, but I should. And will. Thanks for this post, Stephanie!

  4. I'm so excited about the results! :)
    I'll own up to it. I tend to lean toward the non-writing writer extreme... I devour writing books and religiously follow writing blogs, but sometimes I struggle to actually sit down and write. That's why I've set a goal for August to write 500 words a day for 30 days. I figure starting small is the best way to approach the situation.

  5. Congrats to everyone who finaled! I recognize a few of those names. ;)

    I think my writing ratio is probably

    15% moaning to fellow writers about stuff
    25% work with characters, whether that's a "character chat," a voice journal, or, uh, talking to another writer's characters...
    15% reading about writing (in books and blogs) or researching stuff for my story
    15% "other" procrastinating
    35% actually writing


  6. This is really helpful! Balancing writing with studying writing and talking about writing is definitely something I struggle with! I study writing in school, so sometimes its easy to let the actual writing get pushed aside. It's also easy for me, as a perfectionist, to want to know as much as I can about writing before I actually tackle writing a story. But I'm working on that ;)
    I'm so excited about this contest! The prompt was a lot of fun for me.

  7. Congrats to all the finalists! I can't wait to read the entries :)

    I definitely need to write more. I spend way too much time online, reading about writing, researching, talking to other writers, etc. However, so far this summer I've managed to get a lot of writing done due to a lot more free time!

  8. Hah! I tend to be about:

    40% - no ideas whatsoever
    20% - worrying about not having any new ideas
    20% - having an idea but procrastinating
    20% - actual writing

    but I definitely see your point. Good reminder, thanks!

  9. From Amo Libros:
    Wait...did I miss a contest?? Phooey!
    Thanks for this post! It's the sort of thing I need to keep in mind.

  10. Will there be another contest soon?

    1. Not in August, with two other events planned already, but we'll have another one as soon as we can!

  11. Aah!! I'm a non writing writer!!
    But it's mostly because I'm stuck (ugh.... writer's block). I dread the first draft so I tend to put it off. Love rewriting....

  12. Congrats finalists! =D

  13. I think I have an okay balance! I just wish I could expand all of it. :P

    Congrats, finalists!!

    1. Gosh, wouldn't that be nice, Jessica? Same here. I feel like I use my time well, just that there isn't enough of it.

  14. Congrats to the finalists and thanks for the feedback, Stephanie!


  15. YAY!!!! I can't believe my name is up there... Congratulations everyone!
    As for balance, well... it would be about 98% of the time writing, 1% socializing (or something a bit similar to that...) and 1% on random other writing related stuff. Or something like that, estimations aren't my thing. XD
    I mostly blame that balance (or lack of balance) on the fact that I haven't thought too seriously about publishing yet. I want to wait until I have a bit more experience with writing, and until I've written something that I feel could become good enough. But I suppose it's not too early to start learning about publishing... :)

    1. My sister, (who hadn't actually read this post, and so didn't know what was considered a good balance) just told me that she thinks mine would be more like 80% writing, 10% socializing, and 10% learning. :P So I don't even know. I guess maybe my balance is good? Or maybe she just doesn't know what she's talking about. XD

  16. I think I might be a non-writing writer. :P Congrats everyone!!!

    abrielle lindsay