The Top 5 Questions I Get Asked About Being a Writer

[Question Mark Illustration by Pixabay, via]

I’m pretty low-key about telling anyone I’m a writer. (Mainly because I feel like what a lot of people think being a writer entails is far more romanticized and exciting than the reality. I mean, it’s interesting to me, but there’s a reason why writing isn’t a spectator event. All the exciting/interesting stuff is going on where no one can see it.)

Inevitably when I do cop to being a writer, I tend to get the same round of questions (to which I provide awkward answers), so I figured I would throw them up here.

Now of course, there is no One True Way or Writing Police to keep everyone on the same path (which would be pretty boring). So this is just how I roll.

‘How long have you been writing?’

My standard answer is, ‘A long time.’ (Usually followed by an awkward laugh.) This question is more complicated than it seems on the surface. Are we talking about writing for fun? Writing with a more serious goal in mind, like finishing a first novel? Writing with the intent to publish?

My brain tends to go into a mini-meltdown when I get asked this one, because I’m not sure what the right/expected answer is (except maybe that I sprung forth from the womb with pen in hand–which I most assuredly did not).

I started writing for fun in my late teens. (I turned 40 this year.) I committed to my first few novels in my early twenties. Now you would think that when you start writing not just one, but multiple novels, you’re pretty serious about the whole thing, and I thought I was. But it wasn’t until I started to publish my work about eight years ago that I really started to think about writing as an actual career and increased my productivity accordingly. In my mind, this was when I made the mental shift to becoming a writer.

So yeah. It’s complicated.

‘How do you find the time?’

I’m always a bit baffled by this one. I feel like people want me to lean in with a conspiratorial whisper and drop some kind of mind-blowing secret.

I don’t ‘find’ the time. I make the time, just like you do for anything else that’s important to you. As far as I know, there is no magical ‘Writing Time’ that exists outside the laws of the space/time continuum. (If only. *sigh*)

Sometimes, life gets in the way, and the time you manage to squeeze in isn’t as much as you would like, but a little bit of time is always better than none at all. You just have to keep chipping away at it, whenever you can. Usually, you have to decide what you’re willing to give up or cut back on to gain that time. (Sleep, TV, the rabbit hole of the Internet/social media, etc.) Conversely, you also need to know what you’re not willing to give up (and make sure the people closest to you are on board with everything).

Yes, there is such a thing as ‘found time,’ which can be useful. I used to do some of my writing during my train commute when I was working downtown. But ultimately if you’re not willing to give anything up for the dream you’re chasing, you can’t really expect to get very far (or at least not very quickly).

So no exciting/sexy secret here. I just make writing a priority.

‘Do you have a special writing space?’

Nope. (This is where I see the disappointment when I answer. I think I’m supposed to have some sort of secret Boho studio, where I lock myself away for days on end to focus entirely on my art, in a fugue state, while drinking heavily, lol.)

Don’t get me wrong. A special writing space would be a nice thing to have. But I live in an apartment, and space is at a premium. And really, writing is something you can do pretty much anywhere. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve written on the train. In addition, I’ve used the staff break room during my time in retail, and my hotel room on vacation, among other places. I’ve used a tablet, laptop, lined notebook, and desktop PC over the years–they all get the job done. (Although I tend to use my desktop PC for the most part.)

To me, my ‘special writing space’ is all mental. (Much more convenient, since I carry it with me wherever I go.) When I sit down to write, I put on my headphones and start my Writing Playlist. (A mix of classical piano, epic movie soundtrack pieces, and even some Nine Inch Nails–all instrumental, with no distracting lyrics.) My phone is nowhere near me, and the only software I’m interacting with is my manuscript. No checking my email, going on Facebook, using Google to research something in my story… Nothing. Just writing.

And when I say ‘just writing’ I mean exactly that. Not editing or formatting, or anything else that’s writing adjacent. That’s a separate process.

The music in my playlist tells my brain it’s time to write. All I have to do is try my best to get out of the story’s way. I’m familiar enough with the songs to know when I’ve reached the 30-minute or 1-hour mark, and I decide beforehand what my time or word-count goal is for that session.

So no sacred space–just an iPod and a focused mindset. (Boring, I know.)

‘Where do you get your ideas?’

Everywhere. Literally everywhere.

It’s funny. When I first started taking my writing more seriously in my twenties, I was terrified of running out of ideas (as if they were a finite resource). I treated every new story idea like a precious jewel. I would write each of them down in a notebook, so I would have something to come back to later, when I finished whatever else I was working on.

I haven’t looked at any of those ideas in probably close to 10 years, and by the end of this year, I will have broken 50 completed titles (not including bundles). And I already have my project schedule planned out up to the beginning of 2021. I may never go back and look at those hoarded story ideas, and still have more than enough to write.

What I eventually found out was that the more you write, the more ideas you get. It makes sense, really. The more time you spend in that creative mindset, the more your mind seems to gravitate towards it, and the more you start to trust that creative voice. You get little sparks from things like movies, TV, music, reading, people-watching, or conversations with friends that get the ball rolling, and start you wondering, ‘What if?’

‘What if [blank] happened?’

And that’s it.

Yes, that’s when your internal gremlin comes out to let you know that every story has already been written, and probably by someone much better than you. (Blah, blah, blah.) And that’s why the trick isn’t being able to come up with ideas.

It’s having the courage to tell that gremlin to shut the hell up.

‘How long does it take for you to finish a book?’

*sigh* There is no short answer for this one. And honestly, I’m not sure what people want to hear when they ask. I think most people have this vision of writers agonizing for years over a single novel. I did do this in the beginning, because I was writing on a very part-time basis.

Basically what it comes down to is how much time you have available to work on the project. I have taken a year or more to complete a novel. I have also taken only a few months to complete a novel, when I had the dedicated time available.

It just comes down to basic math of Words Per Hour x Hours in Chair. (Not sexy, I know.) So if you have the opportunity to put more hours in, you’re going to get done faster, just like pretty much anything else in life. (You can also work on increasing the Words Per Hour side, but you will eventually hit a certain limit of your capabilities.)

Obviously, it also depends on the type of novel you’re writing. Epic fantasy titles like Light Chasers, Soul Seeker, and Storm Rider are all over 100,000 words, so they required more hours to complete. Most of my other novels clock in at around 80,000 words, with some of the Kira Brightwell crime fiction titles leaning more around 60,000-70,000 words. They obviously took less time on the writing side. (But required more time on the research side.)

And a new novel in a new series is also going to be a bit slower going for me than writing something in Lasniniar, where the world and characters are familiar and established. I’ve definitely gotten faster in both the Kira and Lasniniar novels as I’ve become more comfortable with them. (But then there’s also the increasing need as each series goes on to check the previous works to make sure I’m sticking to my own canon…)

So… yeah. It depends. (See? This is why I feel awkward when people ask me about this stuff.)


Now that I’ve completely ruined the mystique of being a writer, I’ll go back to my current list of writing tasks, which includes paperback formatting, and working on a new Legend of Lasniniar, to be revealed next week, with the release of Making Waves. 😉

Want to stay in touch?

Join my newsletter group to receive sneak peeks and book release news, plus exclusive access to special offers.

Your information will remain private, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Posted by Jacquelyn

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.