The Real Cost of Writing Hours

All novelists, authors, writers, however you want to call these folks, they talk about word count. Most write down that glorious word count to keep track of how much work has been done. Yet, once you figure out how many words are put on a page, single spaced (500 per page) you can easily count in your head how many words came after that first page and so on. Once you start doing that, there’s really no need to worry about word count. Unless, you catalog the final current edit amount of words changed. Then you can have a base for comparison as you progress in your work.

But then there’s this…cataloging the hours actually worked on a manuscript. I’ve never heard about that in the years I’ve been surfing the internet. Watching YouTube videos on Booktube, Writertube, Authortube. No one talks about this. If there are some writers who have, post your videos.

Now, I did a bit of calculating the numbers using my own hours worked. I’m going off of the year 2020 for the first quarter since its the most hours I did before the pandemic hit the US. In the month of January – March 2020 I worked 335 hours total. I use two forms of calculating time – First, I’ll check the clock and jot down my start time. Then, I’ll listen to New Bliss ambient white noise videos on YouTube. These videos range from 3 to 8 hours. I’ll usually go for an 8 hour video if I know I’ll be typing a lot. If I take a quick break, say bathroom break or a thirty minute lunch break, I’ll pause the video. When I come back, I play the video where it left off. This way I haven’t really lost time in work. Unlike keeping a direct time schedule by a clock itself. When I’m done for the day, I’ll jot down my end time.

I’ll work 2 hours, 15-30 min break, work 2 hours, 30 min lunch, work 2 hours and finally another 15-30 min break. Then off to bed, or squeeze in another thirty minutes of work before I really go to bed. This way, I’ve worked at least 6 to 8 hours in the day. I’m treating this as I would retail work hours that I’m used to when I worked in retail. The system works perfect.

(Mind, I also take full days off my writing. Usually 2 days per week. Nearly a full week off per month. That is put into my average for this diagram)

I started thinking, how many hours would it be for a full 10 years worth of novel/manuscript work? If I take the average from the first quarter in 2020 of 335 hours….see diagram below. (Mind, these hours are a base average from my hours worked. They are not exact)

335 hrs x 4 wks = 1,340 hrs per month

1,340 hrs per month x 12 mo = 16,080 hrs per year

16,080 hrs per year x 10 yrs = 160,800 hrs for ten years

It’s not just the word count that builds up your experience per page, per manuscript. It’s the hours you put into it. It takes about 10,000 hours of training and practice to be an expert in whatever field of work you want to be in. Yet, to me, I think it takes even more hours of work to achieve expert level in manuscript writing (fiction or nonfiction). These hours include the first draft, second, third, fourth and so on when in the thralls of editing, revision and rewrites, call it what you will. It’s all writing.

So, if you look at it even further with the amount of pay authors don’t get when writing a full novel or work of nonfiction, a full 200 to 300 page book, basically an intern level at home, with or without a paying job….

$15 an hr x 8 hrs per day = $120

$120 x 7 days = $840

$840 x 4 wks = $3,360

$3,360 x 12 mo = $40,320

$40,320 x 10 yrs = 403,200 (that’s the amount of a major advance for a first time book, if you’re damn lucky)

All those hours worked for ten years on ONE manuscript for publication, and you got an advance worth $400k, that averages out nicely. But, its getting that $15 an hour paycheck of it’s full 10 years sum given to you finally.

In the long run, this would be helpful to everyone if a Universal Income was implemented into the US economy. That way, if anyone has a hobby or a long time dream to come true (a full time novelist with a paycheck), getting paid $1,000 a week would be nice to stave off the stress of paying bills, repairs to the house and food on the table while in the thralls of writing a novel. The advance would still apply to the author since it is a product they are making for sale in stores by the publisher’s process. All in all, it’s a total win for everyone.

(Disclaimer, this is not a beg on my part for myself. I’m just pointing out some pitfalls in writing to put it into more concrete prospective. A grounded point to humble myself and others in the craft of writing)

Manuscripts breath life for themselves

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I apologize for not updating my blog since late October or November. I had gone through a few things emotionally with my mother’s death and cleaning up my mental state and having to let go of a few things.

As you can see in the photo above, I have been working on book 3. As you can see, I breezed through to chapter five faster than I thought it would happen even with all the notes I have. But, yeah know, being sick with a cold twice really is the pits. Your brain doesn’t want to work and yet you yearn to writing the next chapter. If there’s one thing writers/authors can’t afford is sick days. We need our minds to push out our manuscripts at any cost.

Book 3 Soul’s Little Lie: Echos of the Lost is going to be quite a lot larger than the first two I think, however, I’m starting to think that I’ll have to take book 1 and 2 and put them into book 3 in chronological order of the story. Book 1 would be in the middle and book 2 would be right after that or so and kinda close to the end of it all. In other words, ‘book 1’ isn’t finish after all.

It’s not a bad thing. It just means that this novel(s) was wanting to be written differently. There’s no harm in that, I’ll just have to make sure I arrange the manuscripts correctly in a more constructive way with a few added paragraphs to connect a few areas. If all else fails, I’ll just have the professional editors take care of this rearrangement of the story. At least I have a very good idea how this will all be constructed. This form of editing won’t take too long I don’t think.

In other news, my three beta readers have read the 2nd book. They couldn’t put it down, but they also gave me a great amount of notes to fix up a few areas. This manuscript wasn’t that bad in lack of errors. A lot less than the first one by far. And they told me that the ending was a bit short, rushed and airy. This is what made me think that I should connect the first 2 manuscripts closer together for the 3rd one. I’m willing to do it if I must.

For those who might want to read an excerpt of the second manuscript, I’m sorry I can’t afford to do that right now as it hasn’t been fully edited and I’m more interested in wanting to send the first manuscript out, but if it comes to it, which it looks like it must, I’ll just have to rearrange manuscript 1 and 2 into the 3rd and then send it off. No, I’m not confused, this first time novel is a complete learning experience and never ever are any two manuscripts ever written the same.

Oh, more last thing, as for fan art of book 4, I haven’t touched those five art pieces in a year at least. I have three left and I fear I may have messed up the third one a bit and may have to start over. And, I’ve gotten down a fair amount of notes for book 4 and I can’t wait to get started on that one out of all the others. Been wanting to work on book 4 for nearly five years now. It’s driving me crazy, but I’m being very patient about it. I can’t jump from one book to the next haphazardly like some authors can do. I’m still learning and I don’t want to screw this up.

As always, you can find me on Facebook and Twitter if you ever want to talk to me about writing. Takes for tuning into my blog tonight. I’ll try to keep to a once a month blog as much as I can. Thanks and take care.