With a full-time job, social life, family, and other obligations, you may find it difficult to find time to write. Here are five tips for finishing that project in a time-boxed manner.
- Get your butt in that chair. You may be familiar with the “butt in chair time” concept if you work in technology or other demanding field. The idea is that you’re not putting in the work unless you’re present at your desk. That’s a terrible concept in the workplace, but it’s fantastic for writing. I have some good news and some bad news: Your muse? She doesn’t exist. If you wait for your muse to show up before you sit down to write, you’ll never finish that poem/project/novel. What counts in writing is butt in chair time and fingers on keyboard time (or pen on paper time, if you roll that way). Sit there. Even if nothing is happening. Learn to love writer’s block. Eventually, the words will come.
- Read, read, and read. When it’ s not your allotted time for writing, read some more. Reading is absolutely the best way to learn how to write. Pick books that are totally different from your writing style, very similar to your writing style, and everything in between. If you’re writing a romance, read plenty of romances but also plenty of mysteries, and vice versa. Get some inspiration. No, browsing the web doesn’t count (see below).
- Shut down social media. Close those tabs. Your BFF can wait for you to post that kitten photo another day. You can hold off on looking at your BFF’s kitten photos until another day. All the kitten and puppy photos will still be there, when you’re done writing. Prioritize the writing.
- Don’t write and edit at the same time. Editing is by nature a destructive act. It must be done, but when you are there to create, just create. Save a separate allotment of time for editing. When you’re in revision mode, then you can put on your editor’s cap. Separate the two. Say, Saturdays are for revisions, and Sundays are for adding more words. When you’re there to add words, resist the urge to go back and change what you’ve already written.
- Set a schedule. Whatever you have time for. I set aside 2-3 hours a day in the evening. Whatever it is, stick to it. Make it regular. Get your coffee/herbal tea/snacks lined up. Free yourself from distraction. Get someone else to do the dishes/do the laundry/babysit the kids for that precious hour or two. You’ll be surprised what you can write in a short period of time once you stick to the schedule. When the time is up, stop writing! This may sound counterintuitive, but you can’t write if you never recharge. Eventually you’ll train yourself to write on the schedule, recharge off the schedule.
I used to think time stretched infinitely
It does not
It flows in lumps
Some of them stickier than others
I struggle with a bolus of grief-time
That I can’t swallow
Image source: Plants and Their Application to Ornament (1896)
Another short snippet from my novel-in-progress, Glue.
The sky was dark as I arranged my things: glue to the left, scissors to the right, and paper in the middle. It was only a pencil outline, but I could already see the bird, wings outstretched above an endless ocean. This bird’s feathers would be cerulean, darker than the warm azure sky, but lighter than the cool indigo ocean. I was fourteen years old and obsessed with color.
What do you think?
Another short snippet from my novel-in-progress, The Trick.
Small annoyances got under her skin and grew more obnoxious over time. Jake’s voice, once a soothing baritone, developed a scratchy rasp. The way that he ate food, slobbery and loud, started to madden her. His caramel and honey scent turned to bitter licorice, and the hazel of his eyes turned a puke-toned green. Not literally, of course, thought Helen. But that’s how things go over time, don’t they? They acquire qualities one never imagined on first meeting.
What do you think?
I am in the throes of novel writing.
I am working on the third act of The Trick, in which the heroine (Helen) goes a little baby-crazy, and her immortal vampire boyfriend must make a decision: start a family, or live without her.
I’m stuck because I don’t know how to write about baby-craziness. I never felt it myself. I have only witnessed it in others, and I fear turning it into a stereotype. Also, my novel is only at 48,000 words. It’s a wee bit too short.
In essence, I am stuck, with a fairly static third act. How do I make it as dynamic as the first two acts?
Act 1: They fall in love. Falling in love is fun to write about.
Act 2: They travel and enjoy the world. Vincent recalls previous girlfriends. Helen starts to worry about aging, and asks to be turned. They fight about it.
Act 3: Helen’s fear of aging and her desire for a family runs into conflict with Vincent’s non-human nature. Conflict is good but this act feels flat to me.
What do you think?
A snippet from my in-progress upmarket vampire story, The Trick
For a moment it all stopped and everything was silent. Helen listened for the tweet of a bird, the honk of traffic, or the chatter of a squirrel but heard only the sound of her own breathing. In the absence of external noise, the rhythmic beat of the pulse in her ear grew louder.
Helen marveled at the motionless tableaux. Gold and red autumn leaves were suspended in the air; a moth was caught in mid-flitter; even the feathery clouds, picking up the shine of the moon, had stopped moving. Helen touched a leaf hanging in mid-air and wondered, What kind of magic is this?
I will be sharing snippets from my novel Washing off the Glue in the hopes of getting some constructive feedback.
The first two paragraphs:
Marie came to Burning Man to let go of a memory.
Ten long years of searching for Dad, and she had nothing to show for it. What if he’s sick? What if he’s dead? She had no way of knowing. That’s the part that killed her. Rachel, her best friend and roommate, was probably right: She should give up the search and start living in the present.
I am told “absent or missing fathers” are a cliche in novels, but I’d like to think I have a novel (so to speak) approach. It’s not about the father; it’s about the main character, Marie, who embarks on an obsessive search for him, and encounters all sorts of problems of her own.
What do you think?