Tip 1 in a series designed to assist you sprinting to the finish line this November as you type with abandon during Nanowrimo 2014.
“Set aside time for your writing.”
Who has enough time? To do anything? And do it well? And still have friends and family speak to you when it’s all over?
You do, that’s who.
Let’s start with the basics. What is enough time to write?
For me, a productive writing session takes at least an hour. This includes the time needed to:
- Find a secluded chair in a coffee shop, bookstore or library. A power source nearby is a bonus.
- Think up polite responses to questions such as “Hey, are you writing something? Are you a writer, then? Have you been published? What are you writing now? Do you know [insert name of famous best-selling author here]?” It happens. I am polite; sometimes I get creative. They get used to me and leave me alone. Eventually.
It helps if I buy a cup of coffee every once in a while, assuming I am in a coffee shop. Hey, they gotta stay in business, too.
- Set up the laptop and try to connect to a wireless network. Easier some days than others.
No network nearby? That’s okay. Less distraction; more writing.
- Make sure whatever I write is saved to an online storage service, such as Dropbox. All it takes is one massive computer crash. I speak from painful experience.
Again, no network access? I’ll use a flash drive.
I reserve 5:30 – 6:30 am every weekday for writing. Saturday will often be a little more lenient, giving me a few hours to write. Sunday? Depends; it’s a long story.
With advanced planning, I can usually get a solid 45 minutes of actual writing during my hour.
Does this schedule work? It did for me; it may or may not for you. Working in this fashion, I finished Nanowrimo just under the November 30th deadline with a 52k word first draft. Here it is, six months later and my draft has changed numerous times, finally ending up as a 75k word completed novel.
“But I have responsibilities. I don’t have any spare time, not even an hour a day.”
Yes, many of us have children, spouses, and pets. Then there’s always the cooking/cleaning to do, and you can’t totally dismiss the job we use to earn money needed to pay rent. I hear you. I get you. I am with you.
So keeping in mind these other responsibilities, I found the best results come from having a regularly scheduled time for my writing. My family knows this time is reserved; and since it is so early in the morning, they are sleeping anyway. They don’t even miss me.
Support from family and friends is essential. Feed the pets. Be nice to your spouse. Help the kids with their homework. It’ll pay off when you need the extra time later checking for continuity errors, too many adverbs, the nefarious “that” and other grammar flotsam and jetsam.
I know one writer, a man with a six-book contract, who shuts himself in his basement for three months at a time to write. If you want a six-book deal, I guess this schedule might be worth it. But his method is not my choice. It must work for him. Not sure if he gets any Father’s Day cards, though.
Have a plan and hit the hour typing! This is your hour for all activities related to your project. This would include writing, research, plotting, outlining, reading, etc. We’re only talking an hour here so use it as efficiently as you can. The more actual typing, the better.
Maybe there are other times of the day where you could find five minutes here, ten minutes there to do a bit of research. You might be able to read a book from your chosen genre while eating lunch. While everyone else is watching television, you could perhaps scribble down thoughts of characters, story arcs, and plot points.
Speaking of reading, there is a great little book about finding available time when you have a super-busy schedule. It’s called Time to Write, by Kelly L. Stone. A quick read, this book gives plenty of examples of successful writers who overcame scheduling obstacles. If you can afford one of those giant, fancy coffee drinks at your local coffee shop, then you have enough money for the book. And the book will last longer.
Finally, avoid time-suckers. Well, if you think about it, you could read Facebook, Twitter, and yes, even blog posts at other times during the day. You can grab a bite to eat five minutes before your hour. You might even reward yourself with a dinner out, after your hour.
And there is no harm in holding a family meeting the day before you start. Explain your desire to write, with the caveat you won’t be abandoning anyone. All you want is one hour a day. They can have the other 23. Then promise the family you will take them on holiday once you are a rich and famous author. (Well, it could happen, you know.)
Bottom Line: Professional writers started out just like you. If they could find time to write, you can, too! It’s all about doing the “other stuff” before, or after your hour.
Now stop reading and go write!
Next up: What’s genre got to do with it?