The Write Life: Word Counts and Work Places

Let's look at the writing offices, habits, and goals of four authors as I update my own writing office space.

Writing offices and word count output

The writer sat at his mahogany desk, smoking a cigar. The house was quiet. Outside the large bay window the sun was shining, but our writer didn’t think twice about going outside.

“Hmm…” he thought. “I had better fix that plot hole today. And kill off….Estella! The cook’s lover who took her love of gossip too far this time!”

Tap tap tap. The sound from the typewriter rang through the house, the halls quiet, devoid of…noisy children.

Dear readers, the above scene is a work of fiction. Agatha Christie had a job as a pharmacist, preparing drugs by hand. That’s how she was able to incorporate poison so craftily in her books. Franz Kafka co-founded an asbestos factory. I won’t comment on any link to his work. Mark Twin really did pilot those riverboats, JD Salinger once worked on a cruise ship as an activities director, and Stephen King wrote Carrie in a trailer. Writers with ample time and space to work on their craft are few and far between. They are writing during their breaks and after the kids go to sleep, in any corner they can find.

Which means I’m in good company.

Hi! Rebecca here. My first project this New Year was to outline my goals for the next four months and get my writing space set up.

I’m working on a new manuscript and plan to have the first draft finished by the end of April. It’s a science fiction novel with strong humanistic and environmental themes (more on that in another post).

How long does it take to write a book?

Stephen King says it shouldn’t take longer than a season to write a book so I set an ambitious goal of writing 25,000 words a month, for the next four months. To give you some context, most books run 80,000-110,000 words in length. Unless you’re JK Rowling or Diana Gabaldon. Then you do what you like.

I wanted to know if this goal was really achievable. Nicole and I talk a lot about our writing goals and plans together. I got some additional info by talking with writers Jabe Stafford, Cheyanne A Lepka, and Sarah Tyley about their goals and how they keep things moving in the midst of daily life.

Sarah Tyley

I checked in with Sarah Tyley and she wrote an astonishing 90,000 words in 30 days for her current novel. Mind blown. Of course, she pointed out that once you have the word count, then you have to edit it and make it something special. Sarah owns a gardening business in SW France, and she makes it a priority to build in one day a week for writing.

On a typical day, she takes care of a few household chores before sitting down to write at 10am. Then there’s a running break at 2 or 3pm which helps her gather more ideas so she can put in another hour or two when she gets back.

Sarah worked overseas as a development worker which was heavy with paperwork and reports. The discipline she built in that position keeps her moving now as a writer.

Cheyanne A Lepka

Cheyanne A Lepka messaged me about writing while working and the focus she has to have to balance things. She happens to have a day job that is a dream job for many people. Cheyanne works as an archaeologist and lives in Ontario.

She travels a lot and much of her writing gets done in motels or on the go. When she has a flight lined up for her day job, she can really get things moving. During Cheyanne’s last flight, she wrote 9,000 words, or about a tenth of a novel. I tried this method out and wrote 1,500 words on a trip to Milwaukee.

Jabe Stafford

Jabe Stafford told me that he found that writing after his day job was exhausting. It was hard getting home after a 9 hour work day and finding the resolve and energy to write. So, he switched to a second shift position to prioritize his writing time.

Jabe dedicates his mornings to writing, when he feels fresh from sleep and can crank out 5,000 words a week—the same as my own goal. He writes a variety of things, including blog episodes and science fiction.

My Writing Goals and Office

Now, I wouldn’t say I’m a perfectionist, but I do really like to have a clean space while I write or work on projects. A blank slate around me means there’s no immediate chores to be taken care of.

And that wasn’t what I had at the beginning of the year. My office is also Oliver’s office, our library, the playroom, and home to the dreaded CRAFT CLOSET!

It took the better part of a day to clean out extra stuff that accumulated, either things that needed to be redistributed around the house or need to be thrown. I moved the couch to the window to center the room and hung my 150-year-old Japanese print over the location of my new desk. I set up a little table for Madeline next to my space so she could play work while I worked.

I also paired down my bookshelves, freeing up two feet of precious shelf space. I took those discarded books to HalfPrice Books and got enough cash to purchase the new illustrated Harry Potter.



writing offices example
writing offices example 2

And my new desk space with my goal board and Daily Greatness planner which has been instrumental in my goal setting for 2018.


And here’s a photo all of the stuff I got rid of from one room in my house! I followed Marie Kondo’s book in 2016 to streamline my house, but clearly I have to do so again.


Finally, here’s where Sarah, Jabe, and Cheyanne do their writing, respectively. Sarah often works in a converted caravan in her yard. Jabe does some of his writing at home, but a lot in coffee shops to fuel while he writes and Cheyanne works on the go and around her home.

Sarah's writing office
Jabe's writing office
4 offices

Thanks for reading. I’ll share more information about my current work in progress next month.  


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Suggested follows:

Cheyanne A Lepka: and @cheyannealepka on Twitter. Archaeologist by day, writer every other time. She’s working on a fantasy book called Erut’s Choice about a girl whose future self has trapped her in the past.

Jabe Stafford: and @OculusWriter on Twitter. He’s currently seeking representation for his manuscript Commanding the Swarm in which robotic bees are created to save America from the famines of 2043, but others have ulterior motives concerning the invention.

Sarah Tyley: @sarah_tyley on Twitter and @SarahTyleyAuthor on Facebook. Her forthcoming debut novel, Spaghetti Head, is about a woman who believes she has a maniac living in her head, running her relationships and dictating her behavior. Already called “not your average speculative self-help romantic environmental political comedy fiction.”

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Suggested swag:

-Daily Greatness Planner @

-Cork board for pinning ideas and goal note cards.

-A miniature desk or table for children to work next to you

-The Art of Japanese Tidying by Marie Kondo

-The Illustrated Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

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