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A Day in the Life of an Author – Real Life Case Studies

 

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People always ask me, in between showering me with praise of course, about how an author spends their day. Just what do we get up to when everyone else is working an office job or cleaning sewers? (there are other careers available, but I’m not going to list them all here). “Is it all cocktail parties and book awards?” they ask, a look of glimmering admiration in their eyes. “Does your chauffeur drive you around town? Do you get to hang out with the movie stars headlining your latest big screen adaptation?

Once the tears of excitement and joy dry from their rosy cheeks, I offer a hearty chuckle and beckon them to take a knee. “Yes, dear reader. This and more,” I explain, giving their noses a little squeeze. “Why, a writer’s life is one filled with wonderment – would you like to know why?”

And the readers always nod, keen to understand how we higher beings spend our days, keen to understand what it’s like to paint words across the sky… So, as an offering to all the readers and authors out here, this is my guide to what an author should be doing with their day. Here we go. Take notes:

06:00am – you awaken to the sound of birdsong through the open window. After flinging on clothes, you go for a 4 mile run to get the creative juices going. While running, you come up with an outline for your next chapter.

07:00am – after a hot shower, you eat a hearty breakfast packed with low fat proteins and fibres, washing it all down with freshly squeezed orange juice. Your brain is now buzzing with energy and your fingers are already tingling – pulling you inexorably toward your office.

07:30am – with the rest of the family still asleep, you decide to get a couple of hours’ worth of writing done, putting the ideas you had on your run down onto paper. You sit down in your office/reading room/study, pulling your ergonomic chair up to the mahogany desk, and slip a fresh, crisp sheet of A4 into your antique typewriter. Your friends try to convince you to get a laptop, but you prefer the feel of the typewriter – the smell of white-out gets you all giddy, after all – and there’s just no substitute for real ink. No matter what anyone says.

09:30 – after cranking out 3,000 words in 2 hours, it’s time for a break. Perhaps some yoga, darling?

10:00 – with the rest of the family up and about, it’s time to leave the house. They’re far too noisy to allow your genius to escape onto the page. You jump into your electric car and head on out to meet your agent, who’s arranged to catch up with you about your latest work at the local coffee shop.

10:30 – you arrive at the coffee shop and easily park your super-compact battery powered vehicle in between 2 waitresses. Your adoring agent waves you over to your table, having ordered you a grande soy latte, and you get down to business. As expected, she absolutely adores your latest literary masterpiece – the tragic story of a vampire in love with a squirrel – and tells you two major publishers are currently embroiled in a bidding war for the print, ebook, and movie rights. The two of your toast your success and order some pastries.

12:00 – you get home to have lunch with the family and find that, while you were out, The Spouse and The Children have cleaned up the house, taken The Dog for a walk, and have prepared a nice, healthy lunch. Wonderful.

13:00 – it’s time for the big meeting. You’ve arranged to sit down with the producer of the upcoming movie production for your earlier book – another tragic story; the erotic tales of a dominatrix who seduces telephone repairmen – and he’s keen to discuss casting options. Your town car arrives and you climb in the back.

13:45 – at the five star hotel in town, you meet the movie producer at his penthouse suite and take a seat on the plush leather sofa. After a glass (or two) of champage, you both agree that Tom Cruise would make a great telephone repairman.

15:00 – now back at home, it’s more writing time. You sit down at the antique typewriter and get to work…

18:00 – bringing the total count up to 5,000 words for the day, you finish your last sentence of the evening and join The Spouse and The Children for dinner – they’ve all clubbed in and made you a delicious meal.

22:30 – after a few hours of playing with The Children and watching a little BBC Period Drama on the television, you and The Spouse head off to bed, keen to wake up tomorrow morning and enjoy the experience of life all over again…

Okay, okay. So maybe I played with artistic licence a little there. Maybe all writers’ lives aren’t quite so… okay fine. It’s a total crock. Sorry, kids – it’s not all peaches and cream in the writerly world, not even tinned peaches and cool-whip. Fine. You got me. Here’s a more realistic diary for you. Don’t tell anyone.

06:00am – you’re asleep. And you will be for at least another 3 hours. Who the hell gets up at 6am who doesn’t have to???

09:00am – reluctantly, you drag your tired body out of bed and stumble into the shower.

09:15 – trying not to wake The Dog, you avoid the carefully laid traps set by The Children, and make it to the kitchen, where you eat a bowl of coco pops and down a glass of Red Bull. This just about wakes you up.

09:30 – can’t possibly start writing. Too much other stuff to do that cant’ possibly wait. Maybe you should vacuum, but then you’d wake The Dog. Then you’d have to walk The Dog. After careful deliberation, you get the broom out and start sweeping up the mess from last night’s dinner.

10:00 – you call your agent. She doesn’t pick up. Ever.

10:30 – you go to the office/children’s playroom/laundry room and pull out your ancient, wheezing laptop. You start the day’s writing after deleting most of what you wrote yesterday.

10:35 – you check your kindle ebook sales.

10:47 – you check your kindle ebook sales. Again.

11:15 – you wonder whether the Amazon KDP sales reporting systems have gone down.

11:30 – you check your kindle ebook sales.

12:30 – after cranking out 72 words in 90 minutes, you give up and get some lunch. There’s probably a potato in the fridge somewhere that needs eating…

13:00 – following a delicious baked potato, you head back to your desk to check your kindle ebook sales.

13:15 – inspiration not quite so forthcoming as you had hoped, you log onto your Facebook and Twitter accounts and spend the next hour looking for ideas to make your latest book not suck.

14:15 – you check your kindle ebook sales.

14:16 – giving up, you decide to spend the rest of the day complaining about your lack of sales on the Kindle forums, while sending out a few “buy my book” tweets to your Grandma.

18:00 – the house now a tip once again, you get pizza for dinner, because, hey – who needs the hassle of cooking with all this writing you need to do, huh?

22:30 – after a few hours trying to get The Children to calm down and go to sleep, you and The Spouse manage half an hour of “The Big Bang Theory” before exhaustion takes over and you both crawl into bed.

So, to all you readers out there: does this meet your preconceptions? Are we all naught but mortal men? To you other authors: where on the scale do you fit?

Leave your comments below, as usual folks!

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45 Comments

  1. Dennis says:

    WOW! You can hit 72 words a day? I’m lucky to get 60 and I don’t have a dog to worry about waking. I spend all my time reading someone else’s blogs instead of writing my own. Oh well I guess that is the life of a writer. Gotta go check my KDP sales. I think something is wrong with the system today — Someone accidentally bought one of my books — expecting a return any time now.

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      On a good day, I can crank out up to 95 words, although they might not necessarily be in the right order. Shouldn’t you be on facebook right now? I forgot to add that, during the night while there is no laptop access, I will check KDP sales on a smartphone.

      1. Dennis says:

        Of course, I went to FB as soon as I left your blog. Then after FB I went on both my twitter accounts and made sure that I did not really try to sell my book– just building relationships with all the other authors that are tweetheads so later on they can try to sell me their books. In between the two, I tweaked the cover for my paperback file and I am sure that some time tomorrow I will be starting the first chapter of that book. When I get closer to the ending and I know what it is about I will scrap that cover and make a completely new one that may or may not fit the story. And if I can talk my wife into it we will go buy a sleeping dog later today. And the three times I check my KDP, Nook and KOBO dashboards (I don’t bother with smashwords checking but once a day) since I left my first comment all showed that they have system problems — nutting sold!! And my smartphone automatically checks KDP when ever I click the little go online doodad. Home page and all.

        1. Nick_Stephenson says:

          Looks like you’re doing everything right, Dennis – shouldn’t you have sold a million by now? The systems must really be playing up…

  2. Geraldine Evans says:

    Ha! Nick, I had to give a (rueful) laugh at this. But, hey, if it puts off some of those thousands (millions?) of darned would-be authors out there, more power to your elbow! Who needs the competition? Are we up to TWO MILLION kindle books available now? Must check.

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      Nothing beats a little ruing in the morning – I’d recommend it to anyone who’s not tried it yet. As for competition? I’m developing an app that can detect bad writing and automatically remove all traces of the “author” from the internet. Hilary Mantel will be my first victim.

      1. Geraldine Evans says:

        Hoo, hoo! Wicked!

        1. Nick_Stephenson says:

          I know… I’m currently using “Wolf Hall” as a chopping board

      2. Gai says:

        Oh! Why Hilary Mantel? I recently gave my son two of her books for a birthday gift. Recommended they were, by a specialist physician. Should have checked out Goodreads or Amazon reviews first , I now realise. Enjoyed your post immensely and your dialogue with Dennis and Geraldine.

  3. Greg says:

    I think you’ve hit it pretty good there, Nick. The first one must be the dreams of all those new to writing and self-publishing, the second the lackluster reality that quickly sets in.

    If I was writing I’d have to include the 15 to 20 cigarette breaks that occur throughout the day. Are those worse than checking the sales number? Might be a close.

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      sure, it’s hard to take into account everyone’s bad habits – I might be tempted to go out for a smoke in tandem with checking your KDP numbers on your cell phone. Two birds, and all that.

      Productivity tip of the day.

  4. Julie Mayerson Brown says:

    I’m a little late to the game here – thank goodness we authors/writers/bloggers have wonderful, hilarious, self-deprecating senses of humor! Thanks for a reality check – best of luck, writing friends 🙂

  5. Gary Kittle says:

    So true.

  6. Tracie Podger says:

    Love it! ha ha

  7. Emma-Lee Walker says:

    My kids keep asking if I’ve finished my book yet.
    ‘No my little darlings but Mummy wrote 3 whole sentences today!’
    ‘Really mum? I wrote a whole story today and I’m only in kindergarten.’

  8. Bekiwe Hlongwane says:

    I set assessments and I have to concoct innovative new ways to ask the same thing, Did you understand what you read? For me it’s sorting my Dropbox. Deleting and moving files around helps me think, it clears my mind. And then I write a poem. Then only can I set a question on the effect of globalisation on the corner shop in middIe class South Africa. I’m 150 disorganised Dropboxes and 3000 poems away from writing my own textbook. Whoohoo!

  9. Dayle Duncan says:

    Hahahahahaha, too true!! And the Muse never comes. Then imagine all the words you could’ve written earlier on in the day.

  10. Leslie says:

    Ha! You had an agent to CALL!!! 👍

  11. K T Bowes says:

    I have to factor in getting up at 4.45 am to go on the treadmill followed by no time for breakfast and a dash through the city to The Proper Job. At some point in the evening, Husband plies my overheating laptop from my cold, dead hands so I can actually get down the bed. I think I need to keep going out to work though; it’s somewhere people are paid to speak to me and I can get dressed.

  12. Joy V. Smith says:

    Sleeping late is one of my favorite writing perks–I”m not counting how many times the dog gets me up–and often I have to get up early for a variety of reasons, and…

    1. Anirudh shekhawat says:

      Pretty sure that there exists something quite opposite to a writer’s block, a time when words happen and sentences happen in the head. A short duration when the writer comes alive and reality knocks on the doors of perception. Complexity of thoughts dissapears under its own weight and the world takes on a meaning.

  13. Facebook is the true mind sucking time eater of them all. But if/when I can manage to resist (which isnt too often) I can crank out a 3 piece luggage set of words or edit as many. 😀

    but i have to confess my most productive clock arrangement is getting up at 4am and go straight into writing (no one is awake in the house, no one is on facebook at this time, so there is no one to talk to you). Stop around 10/11am (that’s when you have to walk the dog) Have lunch, then hit the beach for a swim or walk or god forbid do errands or hoiuse work, go back home and write a little more or edit the morning crap, have dinner then go to bed somewhere between 5 and 7pm. (Before all yoru facebook friends get online)

    I’m a nocturnal kind of person so these are really weird hours but that 4am thing is MAGIC HOUR. hahaha

    loved the shorty story ^^

  14. You’re awesome and spot on!

  15. It’s like a verbal mirror! This made me laugh out loud (and cry inside jut a little). Makes you wonder why we do this to ourselves.

  16. Chris Brooks says:

    lol! Love it! I think you’ve been stood over my shoulder with a web-cam…..

    High points this week – signing up for the ‘Awesome Courses’ course. Low point, cleaning up after one of my rescue dogs found a wild boar in the woods up the mountain from me, just well decayed enough to have developed ‘personality’. I had to clean up the result from the lounge. Sigh…… Still, it’s material for my “Scrumping for Lemons” book.

  17. Anita Cox says:

    Substitute red bull for French Roast and I’m right there with you! A small win happened for me as I wrote the final word in the first rough draft. It was very satisfying. I celebrated by checking my KDP dashboard. 😀

  18. Teddy says:

    I had a busy week — signed with a host and bought my own domain (teddyhester.com), built an author website, and joined NaNoWriMo to write my funnel novella next month! Last week I got lists of review sites and free book sites for when I’m ready to launch and to grow my email list. I already opened my MailChimp account, but now I need to learn how to use it and to set up my campaign. Fun, fun, and more fun!

  19. Rob says:

    Love it Nick. I found myself scrubbing the underside of the kitchen table as well as all the chair legs because they simply needed to be done before I could crack on with writing. Procrastination is ever my companion when attempting the scribbles!

  20. You must embrace technology, Dear Boy. Never mind an ageing laptop, I have a Mac, and a dictation program. It’s so super efficient that I simply don’t have the time to confirm that I haven’t sold any books, on any platform, in the last five minutes—I’m too busy shouting at the stupid dictation program, the one that makes me so productive. I simply fail to understand why the stupid thing doesn’t understand my accent. Never mind, I can produce about three times as much gobbledygook in any given time as I could when I used to type.

    1. Chris Brooks says:

      lol! Been there. Done that. All those bloody dictations programs are set up for american accents aren’t they. And here’s me with a Yorkshire accent that can clean burnt pans and crack plates……

  21. Leonard Aberts says:

    You forgot about all the untitled books you look at each day and come up with nothing for a title, cover idea, or even a marketing plan. Or the burst of creativity that produces a 1,000 words and when done you look at it and think about how crappy it is and start again or put it aside for the later that comes WAY later. Or the folders full of unfinished stories and books you dust off occasionally to see if there is anything good that magically grew in them. Or the long list of book marketing videos and courses you try to get through with your head on the desk and a bit of drool dribbling from the corner of your mouth as you stare blankly at the screen. You even start to think that, “Hey if Nick buys my book in hardcover for a chopping board at least I would have a sale!” Maybe this is your new marketing plan…

  22. I nearly didn’t have time to waste reading this article. Since I was busy checking my KDP Sales…. 🙂

  23. Tracy Krauss says:

    This is absolutely hilarious. I think the most telling part was ‘checking the kindle ebook sales’. I try to avoid that one but inevitably there are other traps!

  24. Danie Botha says:

    The sweet reality is I’m often practising scenario two while dreaming and writing about number one. And, on a good day – hover between the two.
    Yip, good old exercise to flush the thinking and writing parts with oxygen.
    When no cold potatoes are to be found in the fridge, a small piece of 72% dark chocolate is a sensible replacement in the diet! (Confession – it seldom remains a small piece.)

  25. Rebecca says:

    That was eerily accurate…I even had a baked potato for lunch today! 🙂

  26. Jamie says:

    Nick, too funny! Love the part about not waking the sleeping dog! 🐶 The life of a writer is nothing if not blood, sweat, and tears. Period. You ROCK, my friend…love your spirit!

  27. A funny take on my writing day… somewhere between the two scenarii. But with a mountain of unread books and papers and forms on the desk…

  28. The word count target isn’t a problem for me, but first I must clean the house, walk the dog, deal with the children, do the shopping, and all those other really important, super urgent tasks… and oh, look, it’s really late and it’s a school night and I suppose I had better go to bed! 😉

  29. Larry says:

    I note that in neither account do you once mention getting dressed. This is correct. Many people don’t realize that such an activity is rarely part of a writer’s or artist’s daily agenda.

  30. Anirudh shekhawat says:

    Pretty sure that there exists something quite opposite to a writer’s block, a time when words happen and sentences happen in the head. A short duration when the writer comes alive and reality knocks on the doors of perception. Complexity of thoughts dissapears under its own weight and the world takes on a meaning.

  31. Rachsun Neal says:

    I understand you deal a lot with facebook, but what about instagram? Do you have any courses on instagram training?

  32. Anne says:

    Ah, this is the advantage of a traditional publisher. I can only check my sales twice a year, by looking at royalty statements. It saves so much time (that can be used on Facebook and twitter, of course…)

  33. Lizette says:

    Well, this was a fun read. 🙂 I’m actually an editor, after spending years doing content writing (I can still relate to your day!) and now I’m supporting hubby with his first novel. I must say, he impresses me. In between homeschooling the kids and doing the daily bread-and-milk run, jogging and swimming and playing taxi, he gets out a good 1,000 words a day. Hoping he can get it done over the holidays and that I can edit it before the new year picks up in full steam.

  34. That was priceless! You had me in tears I laughed so hard. So true though. Good to know I’m in good company with the daily challenges of real life. As much as I want to write everyday, it never happens. Sometimes days and weeks go by. But it doesn’t matter because I always come back to it. Been at it since 1985 and finally published first novel in 2015. Second one planned for 2017. And that 10k course material to implement too. Oh and full time job and part-time business. Got to do what we have to do! Keep writing.

  35. I don’t find the writing part so hard. Collect titles for short stories and then just write them. I have subscribed since October 2016 to Nick’s course and it has inspired me greatly, having written 25 short stories since then and created the book covers (and internal adverts to collect emails) for anthologies and as separate tales. My problem is FORMATTING as nothing I do seems to get the right result, not Scrivener, not Word, and Calibre requires HTML. I can pay others to do the formatting but I have a lot to do. Am I the only dumbo in the world who can’t work this out? I have just acquired a book on the subject but I don’t have much faith, after all of the tutorials I’ve taken notes on, that it will provide any simple path. Nick addresses the subject of course, but we need more detail Nick! Please Nick, do something, even if you have to get up at 6am!!!

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