Word Problems for Writers

1. You have 20 minutes to write before your child wakes up, or you have to go to work, or your cat finally chews through your computer’s power cord. You turn on your computer and see that you have 5 new emails, 1 Facebook friend request, and 5 new Twitter followers. If you open the emails, Facebook, or Twitter, how much time will you have left to write?

2. Your novel has 3 protagonists. They all have distinct names, very different occupations, and are so fully formed that you find yourself talking to them more often than you talk to your family, your friends, or your colleagues. 2 of your family members, 3 of your friends, and 70 of your colleagues are beginning to worry about you. To put their fears to rest, you decide to share parts of your novel with all 3 of your friends, 1 colleague, and 0 family members. The chapters you share with them clearly illustrate how distinctly wonderful each of your protagonists is, and you are certain that everyone will feel so much affinity for Charlie, John, and Bob (a plumber, a bus diver, and an astronaut) that they too will start talking to them in the elevator, in their cars, and at the grocery store. 3 days and 45 minutes later, you receive 4 separate emails from your friends and your colleague, and they all say the same thing. We’re really sorry, but we can’t tell the difference between Charlie and John, or Charlie and Bob. Are they triplets? How do you solve this problem? Note: There is more than one correct answer.

3. Your rent is $1,450.00, not including utilities. Your monthly salary leaves you with $60.00 remaining after you have paid rent, utilities, and gone to the grocery store once. Someday you would like to buy a house, or purchase a plane ticket without using a credit card, or send your child to college. You do not have time to get a part time job or work overtime, because writing and revising your novel takes up 90% of your time outside of your day job. How do you solve this problem? Note: There is more than one correct answer.

4. You have 3 hours to write today. You spend 1 of those hours researching the history of the ice trade online, and 1 hour searching for a new pen and journal on Amazon. How much time do you have left to write today if your computer crashes just as you add a fancy pen and journal to your Amazon cart?

5. Your protagonist has already spent 75% of the novel selling tickets at the movie theater down the street from his house. After many sleepless nights, you realize that the novel would flow better if the movie theater didn’t exist and your protagonist spent 25% of the novel at the local swimming hole, 25% of the novel dating, and 25% of the novel looking for X. Your editor needs your revisions in two days, and you have 100 pages to delete and/or rewrite. Solve for X.

6. You have spent the last 30 days writing 5 or more pages per day for National Novel Writing Month. While you were writing the next great American novel, it all made sense. At the end of the month, when you take the time to read your Nanowrimo novel, you realize that only the first 5 pages are worth salvaging. Calculate the time it would take you to rewrite your entire Nanowrimo novel, minus the 5 pages that might or might not appear in your final draft.

7. You are 100% introverted, but in order to sell your book in this day and age, you have to transform yourself into a 100% extrovert. List three ways to undergo this transformation while maintaining 90% of your sanity. Note: There are no wrong answers.

8. You quit your day job and today is your first day working from home. Within the first two hours of working from home, your babysitter quits, the phone rings 3 times, and your best friend shows up with a picnic lunch. She has just discovered that her husband is having an affair, and you are the only person who has time to listen to her tale of woe. Instead of having 8 interrupted hours to write, you now have 45 minutes. Solve this problem. If there is no solution, try again tomorrow.

9. You have written 75% of your novel draft, and the end is in sight. You are proud of your accomplishment, and you share your excitement with a friend. Suddenly, everyone you know is asking about your novel, and just as suddenly, you have lost 100% of your desire to write. List 3 ways to motivate yourself to finish your book. There are no wrong answers.

10. Your novel is 100% fiction, but 93% of your friends and family believe that it is about them. 10% are thrilled with the novel, and 83% are tempted to burn it. The other 7% don’t care. They only read half of it anyway. How do you move beyond the lackluster response to your 1st novel, and begin the 2nd? Conversely, your novel does so well that you can finally afford to buy a plane ticket with cash if you want to. You are worried that you can’t possibly achieve such success again. List three ideas for your second book. Sit down and begin writing.


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