An Aspiring Writer's Blog Site

Writing is Like . . . Pie

A few weeks ago, I ranted about the concept of having to write every day because there is many times where there are more important things to do to make you a fiction producing machine. It made me wonder, how do I spend my time in the whole writing process? For a month, I have been keeping track of the time I put into the different areas of writing. I wanted to share it. I give you (drum roll)—a pie. A pie chart to be specific.

This represents a total of 94.75 hours I put into the writing process for the month of October and what I did with that time. Here’s a break down of what each slice means.

Reading– This is reading works of fiction. A writer reads . . . a lot. This is also closely related to Craft Analysis, because I certainly do a lot of it while reading, but I also just read for pleasure lots of times.

Writing– Current WIP, various writing exercises, and random writing. Includes rewrite time. I did not do nearly as much writing as I wanted to this month. I hit writer’s block about three weeks ago and it made for a rough month. Oh well—there’s always November!

Research– Any type of research that is related to my WIPs.

Inspiration Searching– Looking for ideas for a new story. I spent quite a bit of time doing this this month. This is mostly non-fiction reading.

Critique Review– Gathering and synthesizing feedback from WIPs.

Story Thinking– Down time to just think about WIPs and possible stories. For me, a lot of this just dead ended for me. Very frustrating.

Craft Analysis– Analyzing other works of fiction (not just reading it, but looking to see what they did right, wrong, etc.), and researching craft in general (for instance, I spent quite a bit of time researching the Hero’s Journey.)

Publishing Research– Looking into the market to find homes for my WIPs.

Click to enlarge!

So, what do you think? Does this reflect the efforts you put into your own writing? What’s different?

Ciao for now.

P.S. Good luck to my NaNo friends!


22 responses

  1. This was awesome. I love all sorts of pie.. the kinds filled with numbers, the kinds filled with chicken and the kinds filled with something sweet. I have a feeling my numbers would look much the same as yours for last month.

    November 1, 2012 at 1:16 pm

  2. Mmm apple pie and pumpkin pie. Fall staples. Oh, about the writing pie. Well, my pie slices would similar to yours only I would switch up reading with writing. I tend to spend a lot more time writing than reading, but that may not be a good thing. I have been trying to read more often though so this could change.

    November 1, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    • Hey, Sara. I usually have the reverse problem too. When I’m writing, I’m writing like mad, but the writer’s block has slowed that area down, so I read more in the mean time.

      November 1, 2012 at 4:34 pm

  3. catherinelumb

    I don’t think I could quantify a lot of my time as you have Dan – I could definitely identify writing time (which over October was probably around 1hr on my days off and 30m when I was working: total estimate of 24hrs, a whole day, not that great in retrospect – will make up for that in this NaNoWriMo period!).
    Back to the point: I couldn’t really tell you how long I spend thinking up ideas or considering story points or plots. It just sort of happens…mostly I don’t realise I’ve been doing it unless I have some revelation…and they can be a long time coming!
    Very impressed that you monitored your own creativity though – shows some commitment to break it all down into the compartmentalised acts of writing as you have. Do you feel that you spent your time wisely? Where are you looking to redress the balance? Will you not bother with Story Thinking now, or do you think that, despite the dead ends, it was useful time?
    Sorry for the long commentary…I’m an evaluation bod and I love stuff like this!
    Take Care, Cat

    November 1, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    • Hey, Cat. I could have done better this month. I didn’t write nearly enough. Its actually embarrassing to put something like that up there. Even if I’m in a stint, I’m going to force myself to write something, even if its just an exercise. The idea behind it is to jog something loose. I’m like you and don’t even realize I’m thinking about a story until later. I’ll continue to think, even if it sucks that I’m in a lull. Overall takeaway–I needed to write more.

      November 1, 2012 at 7:15 pm

      • catherinelumb

        Well, your hours of writing surpass mine by a long shot, so it can’t be too embarrassing!
        Sitting down to write when you are struggling can be difficult, so make sure that you don’t stop enjoying the process of writing by doing this too often. Writing more might be a good solution in the short term, but if you feel that, in the long term, you aren’t producing anything of value then quantity might not win out over quality in this case.
        You’re a pragmatic guy – I know you’ll work it out and end up improving your writing for it too. That’s why I like your blog: you’re always trying and aren’t afraid to discuss when things go a bit wrong. 8o)
        But, now I want pie, so plan to make it my reward for reaching today’s NaNo count. Thanks for the inspiration!
        Take Care, Cat

        November 2, 2012 at 5:14 am

      • Thanks for swinging by, Cat. I appreciate your encouragement. It helps a lot. Way to go on your first day!

        November 2, 2012 at 3:12 pm

  4. Dan, you are a likable fellow, but I’m beginning to suspect you of harbouring fascist tendencies. In one of your replies, you say that you “force” yourself to write something, “even if it’s just an exercise.” Presumably, you find these as boring as most writers do. And I’m guessing you don’t like being forced to do something any more than the rest of us. I can’t think of a quicker more efficient way to kill your interest in writing. Perhaps you did all that research and pie-charting because it was a relief from standing in front of the inner Fuhrer taking unpleasant orders! Instead of analyzing yourself out of business, why don’t you ask yourself what you really want? Tape this on the bathroom mirror: “What do I really want to write?” Cut the disciplined bullcrap and be honest with yourself.

    There are other ways of coming at writing than the heavily structured excessively organized approach that obviously isn’t working for you. I hate writing exercises and never do them. I think they are death camps for originality. Loads of writers share this view. I never force myself to write. I follow my natural inclinations and interests. Loads of other writers do this too. I see “inspiration searching” in your chart. You read a lot. Do you make notes? I’m never short of ideas because they come from hastily scribbled notes I make when I read books – something I do anyway. Tons of writers use this method.

    Dan, when all is said and done, the best way to learn how to write is to write. The best way to improve your writing is to write. You have already read enough novels, short stories, and how-to-write books to know good writing when you see it. What more do you need? It all comes down to writing what appeals to you and racking up many pleasant miles. The only thing that’s blocking your writing is YOU! Sieg heil!!!

    November 2, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    • Hey, Thomas. Heh. Wait, let me go get my goose-stepping boots. I see what you mean here. I’m actually being pretty nice to myself about the whole not-writing thing. I have hardly done any writing exercices actually. All of what I write is what I want to write. Unfortunately I haven’t been finding a lot of what I want to write about. You made me think, though, about why I’m not writing and have been doing other things (reading, inspiration finding, craft analysis, etc.) and I’m starting to think its because I’ve hit a cross roads and in the great video game of life– I am about to level up to the next stage of my craft. Thanks for swinging by. Seig heil!

      November 2, 2012 at 8:28 pm

      • That’s the spirit, Dan! I guess you’ve been in one of those gestation periods the creativity researchers are always talking about. Maybe you’ll be there for a little while longer. But don’t get mired there for too long. Most writers turn out books like those they prefer to read. What are your preferences? Btw, nice boots!!!

        November 2, 2012 at 9:01 pm

      • I typically read historical fiction, but I like fantasy too. I actually prefer to write a blend of both-historical fantasy.

        November 2, 2012 at 10:00 pm

  5. Dan you are too dedicate, I could never slice up my time like that. Creative thinking turns to writing which turns to re-reading, more creative thinking and then down time. Reading, dreaming, oh wait a great idea, back to creative thinking.

    Too hodgepodge for me.

    November 2, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    • Its funny, I didn’t really know what I was doing in the whole creative process until I made this chart. I’m still not quite sure what I do exactly, but this gave me a pretty good idea and persepctive on how I work. I know. Its a little weird, but hey . . . glad to see you around. You’ve been quiet.

      November 2, 2012 at 8:27 pm

      • Too quiet. Alas, it is weary trying to write all the time even if it is something I realy want to do. I’ll learn to balance things at some point, or not. Maybe highs and lows is how it’ll go.

        November 2, 2012 at 9:39 pm

      • Yep. Strikes and gutters. Such is life. Don’t be a stranger.

        November 2, 2012 at 10:01 pm

  6. I really like your blog. 🙂
    Very cool pie chart too. I don’t know that I could really quantify how I break down my writing time, especially since I do much of my story-thinking at work when I’m occupied with repetitive tasks (don’t tell my boss!)
    That, and I don’t have nearly enough time to read!

    November 3, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    • Hi, Kirsten! Thanks. I like your’s too. 🙂 Hey, what the boss doesn’t know can’t hurt, eh? Heh. Fortunately, I have a type of job that affords me some thinking time every now and then. That’s nice. We can always use more thinking time, can’t we?

      November 3, 2012 at 10:27 pm

  7. Except it doesn’t taste as good after it’s been left out on a windowsill to cool…be encouraged!

    November 3, 2012 at 7:15 pm

  8. catherinelumb

    Alright, I’m putting this here because as you so rightly point out in this post – a writer should read – so I want to know what you read.
    I’m passing along the Booker Award.
    So, tell me, what SHOULD I be reading? 8oP

    November 20, 2012 at 8:35 am

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