A Day in the Life: Word Counts, Statistics, and a Pie Chart!

Posted on: 2nd Aug 2012  /   Categorized: Marketing & Promotion

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about authors who increased their productivity by tracking their writing time and pinpointing patterns in it (as in, what hours of the day are their most productive and whether they do better work at a cafe vs. their home office, etc.)


So I decided to track my hours during the month of July as a little experiment. Here’s what I discovered.




I categorized my time into the following fields:


Appearances: Travel time or speaking engagements. Preparation work for these appearances (such as packing) is also in this field.


Business: Business-related tasks that don’t fall under “writing” or “promotion,” such as phone calls with my agent, reviewing and signing contracts, filing taxes, going to the bank, shipping stuff, or organizing my office.


Home Life: Mostly consists of watching TV with my husband, socializing with friends and family, or tasks like laundry or grocery shopping.


Promotion: Includes reading and responding to emails, all social networking (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest…), blogging, interviews, designing and ordering swag, updating my web site, and recording guest vlogs.


Reading: Self-explanatory.


Writing: Includes everything from actual writing and drafting to revisions, editing, outlining, or researching.





Total days tracked: 28

Total hours tracked: 414 (almost 15 hours per day)


The Monthly Breakdown

Reading: 26.5 hours

Business: 34.25 hours

Writing: 77 hours

Appearances: 78 hours*

Promotion: 83 hours

Home life: 115.25 hours

* Includes 64 hours (or four full days) at Comic-Con and one day at the PNWA Conference.


The Daily Breakdown

For a more accurate “day-in-the-life” picture, I removed the five days of appearances. I also added 8 hours per day for sleeping, which is normal for me, and 1.5 hours for misc., such as eating and showering.


An Average Day in the Life

8 hours: Sleeping

4.8 hours: Home life

1.5 hours: Misc.

3.5 hours: Promotion

3.2 hours: Writing

1.4 hours: Business

1.1 hours: Reading

.5 hours: Preparing for appearances



ARGH, if only I didn’t have to sleep!!

Just kidding.

First of all, I have to point out that there really is no “average day” for me. There are writers, of course, who manage to keep very structured schedules and maybe could break their average day up into neat little blocks of time like this. And I envy those writers—I wish I could! But for me, it’s much more realistic that I’ll spend ten hours writing one day and eleven hours doing promotion tasks the next day and then I’ll have a day spent running errands and paying taxes before I sit down and read a whole book from start to finish. Very rarely would you see all eight of the above categories represented in a single day.


So maybe a more accurate title for this chart would be “An Average WEEK in the Life.”


That’s all beside the point, I just felt like I should mention it.


Now then!

By far the biggest surprise to come out of this experiment was:


I was at first shocked to realize that I spend more time promoting than I do writing. (And if you include appearances, I spend more than twice as much time promoting as I do writing!).

But it’s easy to see how it all adds up. I spend about 1.5 hours every morning checking all the social networking sites, and a few hours every week clearing out my email inbox. Then consider that I’ve already spent two hours writing THIS blog post, and add to it all the miscellanea (like designing and ordering swag) and… yeah. That’s a LOT of time spent on promotion! I generally enjoy this type of work and I like connecting with readers and other authors, but when looking at the numbers, it’s easy to see why writers obsess over social networking vs. writing and how best to prioritize their time.

Going forward from this experiment, I’ll be making more of an effort to ensure I’m using that promotion time wisely, and I’ve already begun turning down requests that I know will use up more time than I’m willing to spend.

(Consider, also, that I don’t have a day job. If I did, as the majority of writers do, I suspect the ratio of writing to promo hours would look very, very different. Likewise, if I had children, I’m sure there would be a heavier emphasis on Home Life as well.)




Total words written during July: 44,700

Hours spent writing/drafting: 46.5**


Average word-per-hour rate: 961

Best hourly word rate: 1600

Worst hourly word rate: 250


** As opposed to writing time spent researching, outlining, brainstorming, etc.



I think that 961 words-per-hour is a pretty accurate average for me. As the extremes indicate, I can hit 1400-1600 words per hour when I’m very inspired, or struggle through 250-400 words per hour when I’m not. No big surprises here.

One thing I did find interesting (though again, not terrifically surprising) was that I seem to have consistently high word counts on days when I do short bursts of writing, as opposed to marathon writing days. So, two hours of writing in the morning, an hour in the afternoon, and an hour in the evening tends to produce more words than four hours lumped together.



Average words-per-hour rate by location:

Living room: 1123

Porch: 1044

Bed: 1006

Cafe: 836

Home office: 835



I’m not convinced that the by-location numbers mean anything, especially as I spent varying amounts of time in each location (I only went to the cafe twice during the month, whereas I wrote in the living room eight times). So it’s hard to say if a specific location really does aid in (or harm) my word output, or if that was just a bad writing day, or if I was so inspired I had to sit down on the couch right now and didn’t have time to drive all the way to the cafe, or whatever. I may try to duplicate this part of the experiment again during NaNoWriMo and see if I have any different results.


Thoughts, epiphanies, or questions? Has anyone else ever tried tracking their writing time or think you’ll give it a shot? I’d love to know what you discover!


  1. Kelley commented on:

    Thanks for posting about your experiment. I am such a geek for statistics like this, so i find it very interesting. And there’s even a pie chart!!!

    I’m also curious about the word-rate-per-location numbers. Even though the cafe and home office numbers are slightly lower, the overall numbers don’t seem to vary *that* much. It does make me wonder if there’s something distracting about those two locations, or if it was just coincidental.

    This might be hard to gauge, unless you want to delve even deeper into the geekery, but I also wonder if the quality of the writing varies depending on location or length of time per writing session (shorter bursts vs. long days of writing). [That is to say, how much of the writing done in a cafe needs to be revised later. But that might not even factor in. Probably not.]

    So interesting! Okay, I’ll stop blathering.

  2. Jessica Spotswood commented on:

    Fascinating! I’m always curious how other writers spend their time. Now I want to keep track myself for August! Like you, I tend to have writing days vs reading days vs promotion days. But I’m curious how much time I spend in the various categories on a weekly basis. I suspect I’ll be horrified by my internet/promotion time…

  3. Tamara commented on:

    Uggg this would have been a NIGHTMARE to track all the time. I wouldn’t have had the patience for it.

    Thanks for putting all that effort in – we appreciate the work!

    I remember you saying once that you were more productive at the cafe than at home, so hmmm…..

  4. Marissa commented on:

    So glad you guys found it interesting. Like Jessica, I’m slightly obsessed with other writer’s schedules and use of time, so it was a neat experiment. Definitely thinking I’ll do it again in November to see how Nanowrimo effects things.

    Kelley ~ I love the idea of trying to gauge quality along with quantity but HOLY COW that would be so difficult! lol. Although I’ve never tried to test it, though, I feel like every “first draft” scene gets scrapped entirely regardless of how fast I write it or where I write it at. But who knows? It would be interesting to try and test…

    Jessica ~ Let me know what you find out while tracking your own! Curious to know how similar our writing/promo stats are…

    Tamara ~ I KNOW, I was surprised at the cafe numbers being the lowest, because I still feel like it’s my best writing time. I wish I would have gone more often last month. (Should be noted, I think, that one of the cafe times was while writing the VERY last chapter, and you know how I struggle with those). So yes, I’m hoping to have much more favorable stats for my favorite writing spots nex time. ^_^

  5. Leeanna commented on:

    This is such an awesome post. I geek out over stuff like this. Maybe you should get a Fitbit, then you could track your sleep 😀

    I’d love to try something like this myself, but I think a huge chunk of my time would be “procrastinating.” Of course, that might make me buckle down and try to spend my time more wisely….

    Thanks for taking the time to track your life and compile this post!

  6. Lo commented on:

    Honestly, your posts are so inspiring! I’m trying to get more organized and use my time more effectively, AKA not procrastinating when I should be writing and also writing quality over quantity.
    VERY cool post. I love writing in cafes and I’d say I do the best and most writing there, although sometimes at my boyfriend’s place I get surprisingly a lot done, well, only when he’s not home distracting me hehe.

  7. Kate commented on:

    I love your books!!! I just reviewed “Cinder” on my YA book blog, It would mean a TON to me if anyone who reads this comment would visit, comment and subscribe to my blog!! Thank you guys, and you’re amazing Marissa!!!

  8. Michael Holley commented on:

    thanks for posting these honest stats. I think every writer struggles to come up with some kind of comparison to how their routine fairs with others.

    like you mention in your post, the detailed numbers aren’t really that significant but the overall trends are interesting, especially Promotion vs Writing. This social media lark takes time, and although it’s fun, I’d be amazed if not every single person has had a doubt as to its productivity.

    jolly good…

  9. Marissa commented on:

    Thanks, everyone, I’m thrilled you found the post helpful and interesting. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one neurotic about statistics. ^_^

    As I’m still getting used to this “full-time writer” lifestyle, I may do this experiment again next summer. It will be interesting to see what changes!

  10. ~ Alina ~ commented on:

    Thanks Marissa for making this experiment and posting about it. I am always interested in how other writers utilize their time. It’s heartening to know that other people have high writing days, then promotion days, then other/family days.

    I track also track my story writing, story editing, story planning, promotion/research, and critiqueing hours. Every time I sit at my computer to do one of these five categories, I have a spreadsheet that I fill out. When I see that one category is lacking in hours I make a point to schedule time for it (especially writing and editing).

    It’s always neat to see how other people optimize their time. Thanks for sharing your experiences! ^_^

  11. Marissa commented on:

    Alina ~ Thank you for sharing your own time-tracking process! I’m really intrigued by the idea of breaking the writing time down so specifically to make sure you’re getting a good mix and balance. I know for me, the “story planning” element specifically can fall by the wayside when I’m deep into a project, but spending even just an hour on it a week would probably cut down on a lot of revision time! Thanks for the idea and best of luck with your writing.



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