The Three Day Writing Rule

It is not easy to write a book, and if you’re a writer who thinks it is, then you’re in for a shock when after you’ve typed your opening sentence, it takes you (what feels like) one thousand years to type, The End.

The hard reality is that writing a book takes blood, sweat, tears, bottomless cups of tea, heapings of self-doubt, and a good few years.

I’ve spent the last five years being a serious writer and have only just managed to get a four book YA series written. And when I say written, I mean I’ve got four pretty complete drafts that are still being periodically edited. And by five years, I mean it’s taken me countless, half-assed drafts and a total of seventeen whole years to go from the initial first idea to the point where I even had drafts completed that were good enough to show to anybody else. Writing. Is. Not. Easy.

But it wasn’t just the fact that writing is time-consuming or that life (rightfully) got in the way that made the journey from idea to finished draft so long. I spent a lot of that time not doing any writing at all.

Sure, I was always thinking about the story, but as for sitting down and typing out actual words, it didn’t happen often, or at all for a stretch of about six years.

So what was the thing that changed that? Why was I able to get four books written to a semi-complete stage in only five years, when I’d struggled to write the first drafts in the twelve years before that? It was all down to…

The Three Day Writing Rule

This rule is simple: don’t go more than three days without writing.

You don’t have to write much. Sometimes all I could scribble down in the five minutes I had to myself was a sentence. Other days it was pages filled with anything and everything that came to mind. The point was to keep writing daily while I could, and when I couldn’t, I would make sure to only put writing on the back burner for a maximum of three days in a row.

Why three? I figured three days more than covered weekends (which, let’s face it, are really made for sleeping in), and that three days was also enough time to have a break from writing, but not so long a break that it became too easy to do everything but plant myself in front of my keyboard.

Now, when it comes to implementing the three day writing rule for yourself, it isn’t hard and fast. You can make it two days, or five days. It also isn’t something you have to do. You aren’t any less of a writer if three days for you represents the only amount of time you can write in any given week/month. The three day rule is a gateway rule, it gets you into a writing habit and keeps you there—which is exactly what you’ll need if you want to complete your book in much less time than one thousand years.

— K.M. Allan

26 thoughts on “The Three Day Writing Rule

  1. Good luck with finishing your series. Things can always be edited more, nothing will be perfect and you will change as time goes by prompting further revisions in style. There comes a point when you just have to say “I’m done.”

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  2. Firstly, the intro to your blog has made me feel good at a time when our old friend self-doubt had come for a visit. Writing a book IS hard, and while I’m sat here doubting if it is any good, I am forgetting the most important thing; I did it. I stuck with it.
    So thank you for the boost!

    Also, I think you are so right about the 3 days. It is far too easy to fall out of habit, and yet we still need a break sometimes. This offers the perfect ‘work/life’ balance for writers, especially those who do not write full time and have to fit in other jobs around it. Another fab post 🙂 xx

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    1. Thanks, M. Sorry to hear self-doubt has dropped in for a visit. Kick it out! 😅. Yes you did write a book, and you should be very proud of that fact. I got a rejection yesterday that made me doubt what I’m doing, but I’m pushing past it, and so can you. We’ve got this 😊.

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  3. I love this post. Since I decided to ignore all advice that makes me feel like an inadequate writer, I have adopted one rule only – and it pretty much fits in with your Three Day Writing Rule.
    I make a point of connecting with my WIP daily (excluding weekends if I feel like it, or family holidays), whether it be for a marathon writing session, or just to fact check with Google (in fact, I just wrote a blog post about this yesterday). Other than sitting at the computer, I have no other rules. No word counts, minimum time spent, etc. I tried the more disciplined approach, but have realised it goes against my rebellious nature to be told what to do – even by myself! I’ve been much more productive following this method, and the quality of my writing is so much better for it.
    It would be great to see more of this kind of advice out there!

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    1. Thanks, Marie! I’m with you on word counts etc making things feel too disciplined sometimes. As long as I’ve worked on my WIP in some capacity daily, I’m happy. Even if all I did was add five words 😅.

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  4. Ruth Miranda

    hell yeah, I try to not go two days without writing one of my WIP’s – I don’t count blogging here, it’s a different type of writing and it won’t get me back to writing books, much on the contrary eheh.

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      1. I also sometimes use writing for blog or instagram as a ‘warm up’ as it feels like I’ve accomplished something (then again I’m only starting out lol but it’s helped so far!)

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      2. thanks, I’m working on it, but self-doubt is a biggie when I see everyone else jump to thousands of followers while I’m approaching 400 (which I’m actually quite proud of haha)

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  5. Yeah but not but.
    Yes, writing is definitely hard.
    And yes, you need a LOT of discipline to continue writing.

    But we all need to find a schedule which fits our own lives. That is a real challenge. Most writers have a ‘day job’ too, and life commitments. So, grabbing precious writing time can be incredibly difficult.

    When I was writing Broken & Damaged Love I was really fighting life on all sides. I ended up booking a room in a retreat for 48hrs. No work, no people, not even hubby. Just me and a laptop (and coffee & biscuits). It was a wonderful venue, and utter bliss. Draft 1 was completed. Sometimes, drastic times call for drastic measures.

    Write when you can. Make time. Silence your inner critic; push past, especially in draft 1. Just get the words down.


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    1. Totally agree, TL. I’ve written when working full time, part time, and in periods of unemployment. Sometimes all day, only an hour a day, or only the few minutes it takes me to string together one sentence. It is all about writing what you can, when you can, and what suits your lifestyle. I found I didn’t make any real progress until I got into a consistent habit of writing, and implemented the three day rule. It works for me, but I understand that it might not work for others. Going on a 48 hour writing trip, away from distractions, sounds like it worked for you, and would be something I would totally love to do one day. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 😊.


  6. This is a great post, especially because you are so honest about how long it actually takes to write a book! I’m working on my first novel and started the actual writing process two and a half years ago. I plan to finish the manuscript in September and you’re right it does feel like the thousand years you mentioned, mostly because everyone else seems to get their novels written so much quicker.
    I refuse to get caught up in this train of thought though, it can’t be about the speed though, it’s about the process and I wouldn’t change it for the world, I love what I’ve learned about writing about myself, about the story and also about the writers I have met and I love the three day (or in my case the ten minutes a day that usually turn into an hour or more cause it’s the only way I can trick my inner teenager) rule because it allows you to include the bits of writing that aren’t writing cause the three days sleeping in or doing stuff are precious observing and thinking days. Right, so what I’m actually trying to say is THANKS 🙂

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  7. There was a time (in my prime) when, if I wasn’t sitting in front of a typewriter/keyboard five or six days per week I felt guilty. A little over a year ago I hit the proverbial brick wall. Family illnesses, deaths, etc., set me back on my heels. I’m only now coming out of it and realizing I HAVE to put my butt back in the chair and get to work. I have plenty going on, including recently signing a contract for reprinting a historical fiction saga, the offer of a novella-size book of short stories about a private eye set in the late ‘forties & ‘fifties, and the fifth novel in my current mystery series. All this has been weighing on me, and now it’s time to get on with it. So K.M., thanks for the kick in the rear this post has given me. 🙂

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  8. I dig this rule! It’s been near impossible to write with the kids home all day every day, but I’m trying to at least keep sketching or working out the storylines in my head–anything to keep a toe in the creative water 🙂

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