(Writers: There are a lot of good tips in this post for NaNoWriMo.)
“Gosh, I wish I had time to write a novel.”
How many times have you heard that, fellow fiction writers? I often want to answer this way: “Well, yes, I manage to write when I’m not watching soap operas and eating bon-bons.”
And then there’s this one: “You can make the brownies for the bake sale since you don’t work.
Again, I bring out the soap operas and bon-bons.
The truth is, if you want time, you have to make it. If writing is a priority, then you will make the time you need to do it. This month, I want to share a few tricks first and mention a few time stealers last.
My favorite way of mapping out my writing time starts with knowing the end page count I am aiming for. This is usually genre specific. Of course, you can just write and write until the story seems to be told, but if you need to be more structured (if you have a time limit or time goal for your book, or . . . gasp, a deadline. . .) here’s one way to work it out.
I know that the book I am aiming for is 300 pages long. I know I have 6 months to write it. I know that I only want to write on weekdays. So, using calculus and algebra and all those higher maths, I calculate. . . . 6 months times 4 weeks each. . . .carry one. . . is 24 weeks times five days per week. . . carry four. . . . EQUALS 120 writing days. Now, I generally mark out a few for emergencies that come up - let’s subtract 5. That leaves 115 writing days.
300 pages written in 115 days - that’s 300 divided by 115. . . carry two. . . . that’s 2.6 pages per day. Now that doesn’t sound quite as daunting, does it?
Now, getting those pages written can be a challenge. I have found that when I start a project, that 2.6 pages (or whatever my goal is for that project) can take me three hours to write. But, I also find that as I train my brain to write, it goes faster and faster. By a few weeks in, I find that that same 2.6 pages are getting pounded out in record time. For this reason, you may want to start with a page a day and work up to two or three or four. For this, of course, it might be nice to have your calendar and a calculator handy :)
Many writers will ask, at this point, if they can just do it by time. For example, can I just write from 7:00 to 9:00? I guess you can. Hello, you can do whatever you want. However, for me, I can SIT and stare at the blank page for two hours and be no nearer completion of my book. That’s why I had to train myself to produce.
Remember BiC-HoK? Butt in Chair - Hands on Keyboard. Folks, that is the ONLY way that I’ve found to get a book written. To sit in the chair and write and not get up until the pages for the day are done.
Another hint here. When the pages for the day are done - STOP. Even if it’s in mid-sentence. Don’t finish the scene. Just stop. Tomorrow, when you sit down, your brain with click in right where you left off. (That is, of course, if you’re training it consistently.)
The name of this game is consistency. If you take days and days off from the project, your brain stalls. If you’re in the work every day (you can take weekends off, I find), your brain continues to brew the story and, when you sit down, it’s ready to write.
Another trick is to offer your brain an “on switch”. By this I mean a trigger that tells it that it is time to work. I have found that just lighting a candle beside my desk does this for me. It might be music, or simply shutting the door. But if you do something consistently, your brain will learn (like Pavlov’s mutts) to click on when it’s time to write. Last summer, I spent a lot of time at the beach writing (I know, I’m really evil for rubbing it in). What I found, though, is that even when I wasn’t there to “write”, my brain didn’t know it. I kept having to scramble for paper and pen to jot down ideas and phrases.
Of course, we all work differently. But give this thing a good honest try before discarding it. The plan may need tweaking for your individual preferences, but that’s perfectly fine.
If you plan your work, calculate your pages, get your butt in the chair. . . then proceed to spend three hours playing solitaire or reading email, the work will not get done. Email is my personal bug-a-boo. I belong to a number of writer-related Yahoo groups - great resources every one of them. And it is terribly easy to rationalize that, since they’re WRITING groups, it’s okay to check them while I’m writing. RIGHT? NO! NO! NO!
One thing I’ve done to combat my urge to check email is to write on a computer that doesn’t have email. One advantage of that is that, if your writing computer isn’t hooked to cyberspace, there’s no danger of virus-wipes.
I often promise myself a game of solitaire at the half way mark. But, if you do this, you MUST be strong and stop at one. You know yourself better than anyone. Don’t cut yourself any slack. You’ll be glad when you stack up that three hundred pages and write THE END.
A few other time stealers:
The telephone. Don’t pick it up. Get caller ID or a special ring for your kids or spouse. Then, let all the others go to voice mail. Schedule a time (after the pages are done) to return phone calls. I find that the more I do this, the more my friends come to respect what I do. They realize that I’m really working and not just sitting in front of the TV.
The TV. If this is a weakness, then just don’t turn it on until AFTER the pages are done.
Reading. I am a firm believer in reading. Not only to learn craft, but also to fill up the idea well. When I’m regularly wringing out my creative brain onto paper, I need to fill it back up again. Reading helps me. (Actually movies do too). But, again, you must put it in its place and not let it take over your writing time.
Those are just a few of the most common time-stealers. I’m sure you have hundreds more. The key is to make your pages a priority. Get them done BEFORE letting the stealers in :)
Well, that’s about it. BiC-HoK. Get the pages done. Just do it :)
Jax Hunter is a published romance writer and freelance copywriter. She wears many hats including EMT, CPR instructor, and Grammy. She is currently working on a contemporary romance series set in ranching country Colorado and a historical romance set in 1775 Massachusetts. She lives in Colorado Springs, belongs to PPW, RMFW and is a member of the Professional Writer's Alliance.