A day in the life of an author: writing
An author’s day can vary from spending most of the day writing, to doing very little writing and lots of smaller tasks.
I want to share with you what one of my writing days might look like. At the moment, I’m writing the second book in the Westminster Mysteries series. When it’s finished and it’s time to work on publishing it, my day will look quite different.
Read on to find out about my day when I’m writing a new book.
9 am: Research
A good way to begin a writing day is with some reading. My books are set in the political world, so I always have a politics book to dip into. I like to read about how Parliament works, the history of politics and biographies of people who work in politics.
While I read, I underline useful sections, put sticky notes on pages I might want to come back to and make notes of any ideas I get.
Another type of research that I do is going to locations I want to use in a book. I might read on the train into London, on my way to Westminster.
When I get there I take photos for my research and make notes of things to remember for later. I can also use those photos for my marketing, like social media posts and my website.
For me it’s also important to spend some time wandering and thinking, without taking photos or making notes. It helps me to observe and soak up the atmosphere. Memories of an impression of a place are just as important as detailed notes about what you’ve seen or heard.
12 pm: Writing
Once I have all those juicy thoughts and ideas swilling around in my head, it’s a good time to do some writing. I like to write in cafes, where I can’t get distracted by the television or other suddenly exciting activities, like household chores.
When I write, I turn off the internet access on my computer, to help me focus. I often listen to classical music. I can’t listen to any songs with lyrics that I can sing along to, because I start typing what I hear. I can usually write half of or a whole chapter in one sitting.
But time spent writing might not involve writing the book draft itself. Other things that I do that I consider part of writing are:
Sketching out character profiles
Developing a chapter breakdown of a book
Planning the plot for the whole series.
I like to plan out my story in advance before I write it. The plan changes quite a lot as I write, but having it there feels like a safety net, so that I never get lost on the way to the end.
3 pm: Marketing
Many authors now do a lot of marketing of their books, to help readers find them. I like to do it after my writing, while I still have a little bit of brain power left.
If it’s a sunny day, I take photos of books that I want to review on my Instagram account. I also use Canva to create social media posts, like a cover reveal for my book.
If I’m not too drained from writing, then I might spend some time writing a blog post or an email to send to my mailing list.
Occasionally I have to make changes to my website at short notice. This happened a few weeks ago when Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister. I have a Who’s who page on my website listing important people in politics. I've added new Prime Ministers twice this year!
By this time, I like to have a cup of tea and a biscuit to get me through the last working hours of the day.
5 pm: Admin
At the end of the day, when I’m almost spent, I reserve my last gasps of energy for some financial administration (yawn).
Authors are often self-employed and they might be running their own business. This means that their tax isn’t automatically taken off their pay and they have to submit a tax return.
Authors have to keep track of all the money they make, as well as everything they spend as part of their business. They then send their calculations to the government to find out how much tax they need to pay.
Before the end of the day, I try to:
Log any receipts for money I have spent as a result of my work
Check sales of my book and update my sales tracking spreadsheet
Chase any unpaid invoices.
Most authors rely on another job for their main income. The reality is that most of these writing-related tasks have to be spread across the week or several weeks. Most of the day is spent working.
Alternatively a full day of writing like this might be done at the weekend, after a week of work.
I’m lucky that the work I do as an editor is flexible, so sometimes I can have writing days like this in the week, without affecting my job. Being an editor is a great second job for a writer!