How long does it take you to write 100 words? I’m sure most of us have never sat down and figured this out, even if we’ve done it many times. Still, if I asked you to write 100 words in 100 minutes, you’d likely say you can easily do that. 10 minutes? Probably more of a challenge, but not impossible. 1 minute? Unlikely—unless you really work at achieving it. As with most things in our lives, we develop an innate understanding of how long something takes the more we do it. We feel frustrated if it takes too long but accomplished if we can do it faster than normal.

The routine becomes subconscious.

A tenet of writerly advice is usually “develop a daily writing habit.” Why is this? First, it’s practicing something that then becomes easier with each iteration. Whether it’s a set number of minutes or words each day, the more times you practice this routine, the better you’ll get at judging how much you can write or how long it takes to crank out those words. Just like I know how long it takes to do other chores around the house, I know I can probably spend a solid hour to write 1,000 words. The trick is finding an uninterrupted hour to write.

I think the better advice for developing the habit is to understand the system around what you’re trying to do. Having a daily writing habit is great, but it’s better if you know how to get into that successful “writing mode.” Maybe it’s a cup of coffee in the morning or some instrumental music piped into your sound-canceling headphones. Is it having a reward for your daily writing spurring you onward? Part of the routine of a successful habit is knowing what helps (or hinders) you accomplishing that habit. Don’t feel bad if the stars don’t align every day. Sometimes, we need to take a break to avoid burnout. Just don’t be so beholden to your system that you avoid the habit. Flexibility is key.

I became a writer back in 2007 if I’m going off my first published work. My systems continued to make it happen.

What’s nice about systems is that they can stack and scale. Once you’re aware of what works for you, then you can start planning out your work, not only for one book but for a whole series. For example, I know I can usually get a workable first draft done within the 30 days of National Novel Writing Month every year. The time I take to edit this manuscript depends on the amount and type of edits, but it’s usually 50% longer than the first draft took. I have been using Camp NaNoWriMo events more frequently to motivate myself to edit since the community aspect helps with my discipline. I really enjoy the formatting and cover creation process, so it rarely takes more than a week to finish. Even recording and producing an audiobook multiple times has given me a sense of how long each step of that process takes.

Practice makes perfect…planning.

After 13 years of self-publishing, my systems have become so ingrained in my life that I can confidently release at least one book a year. Knowing what each step takes helps break the daunting task of self-publishing down into more manageable chunks. Even if the diagram above was my best guess at when I’d be in the writing (W), editing (E), querying (Q), and publishing (P) systems, I allowed myself to move projects around. Like, if I got to the end of a trilogy and realized the first two books needed to change from first person to third person, I allowed my systems to shift to other projects. Still, some of my newer systems take some getting used to (it takes a lot longer to burn audio CDs for audiobook distribution than I ever give myself time for). Additionally, when you’re working with other people for editing or cover art, be sure to keep their systems in mind as well, so a deadline doesn’t sneak up on you.

By sticking to something, you’ll likely see improvement over time. When I started writing novels in 2010, I thought those who could write over 100,000 words in a month were insane—until my systems allowed me to do so in 2015. Ultimately, you may try a lot of different systems to simplify your writing process and might not find the right fit yet. Don’t let others tell you how to write. It’s definitely a personal journey that you should enjoy on some level. Be mindful of your writing style—whether you prefer a strict daily routine like Stephen King or a longer world-building process like George R. R. Martin. The goal is to get words on the page. Embrace the systems that simplify that process.


Do you know how fast you write?
What needs to happen to get in “writer mode”?
How flexible are your systems for sudden changes?

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