Monday, 29 September 2014

Making Time To Write

When I was working on the last draft of my novel-length project, Between the Sleepers, I was working four full days a week and writing 1000 words a night Sunday to Thursday as well as most of the day on Friday if I didn't have appointments.  I was also reading A LOT, and people kept asking me how I was managing it.

It's difficult to answer this because I think the true answer was I wasn't really managing it very well.  A lot of things probably didn't get done, for example laundry and exercise, and I was sleeping a lot less than I would have liked.  Now I'm getting ready to do it all again for hopefully the last time before I start submitting to publishers.

The key for me is enthusiasm.  If I can feel excited about writing then a daily word target of 1000 words is literally less than an hours work.  No one ever said the 1000 words had to be any good.  When I am redrafting, I work with the current copy printed out beside me and I type each page up again in a new word document, allowing myself to go off script when something isn't working or if a new idea grips me while I am reading it.  When I'm really loving what has been written, this is a breeze. These writing sessions are 50% typing practice and 50% patting myself on the back.  But when I can't stand what I've written, it's a lot harder. The opening of my novel is very sparse, I am realising, and now that I am trying to make it the absolute best it can be in one last draft, sitting down to write can be like strapping myself into the stocks to be laughed at while people throw tomatoes.  So tip number one?

1. Take advantage of writing sessions when enthusiasm is high!

which has a counter point of:

2. Give yourself permission to be feel down about your work, but remember that IT CAN BE FIXED.  Don't push yourself on days when you feel REALLY bad.

image found on Tara Moss's Facebook page


I found that having a routine was quite helpful.  From studying creative writing at university, my brain has been trained to be able to get on with work when it absolutely has to (although brand new work is a lot harder because you need the germ of an idea.)  This is really similar to an exercise that Dorothea Brande prescribes in her book Becoming A Writer in which she says you need to make an appointment with yourself to sit down and write at a particular time and keep the appointment no matter what.  Because I have a retail job where customers need me available, and because my home life requires me to fit in with other schedules, my writing appointment tends to be not so much time based as activities based, so for example I will say "After I have eaten dinner I will write 1000 words."  And most of the time I manage it.  I do find that showering etc. BEFORE dinner helps because I'm not thinking of all the things I have to do before I can sleep.  I write my 1000 words, clean my teeth, grab a book and go to bed with it.

3. Make a writing routine that works with your life, and then stick to it.

image found on Pinterest


On Fridays, this routine changes a little because I don't usually have to go to work.  I like to sleep in until past 7 am (GLORIOUS) and then go to the gym, where I listen to the New Yorker Fiction Podcast while I exercise.  Funnily enough, doing the exercise helps me feel awake during the day, even when my limbs are tired.  Sometimes I have appointments, like Chiropractor visits or getting my hair cut, but I try and keep these to the morning.  In the afternoon, I like to put a load of washing in the washing machine and write for the length of the wash cycle, which is 30 minutes.  Hang out washing, and repeat.  Lately, however, I have to be careful not to write whilst sitting on my bed, because I sometimes put the laptop aside to rest my eyes and end up sleeping for an hour...

4. Write around time based chores, like washing clothes or baking.

When I do a particularly good stint of writing, I like to celebrate, and the best way to do this is with something sweet!

5.  Reward good habits and good achievements.

image found on Pinterest



All this being said, it's early days of the new draft, so here's hoping I'll be able to stick to the same old routine.  Enough about me?  How do you make sure you have enough time to write?




3 comments:

  1. Oh gosh, I'm tired just reading about your routine. I try for 500 words a day when I'm writing a first draft, more with a 2nd. I think you're amazing!

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    1. Gee thanks, Annabel, I take that as very high praise. :) Thanks also for reading this blog, as I think you were one of the first people to ask me about my routine, so in my mind, this post was written for you (and also Natasha, who also asked.) Unless of course I have dreamed both conversations...

      Yes, I definitely get tired... last night I only made it 96 words before I realised my brain was frazzled and I konked out. But I did do some all important Google Maps-ing, and discover that I needed to change my character's journey home in order to have him disrupt a cricket match by accident! (It reads better than it sounds I hope.)

      500 words a day would still be a hard slog, I imagine, because I don't think you'd be content with any 500 words but the right ones... sometimes my 1000 words are no good at all, but I go for quantity in first draft, not quality.

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  2. I don't have a word count I aim for. Some days, I'll write 4,000 words. Others, I might be lucky to get 250 ...
    You are so self-disciplined with your routine and writing and I think you're amazing, too! I can't wait to read the next draft of Between the Sleepers, and I'll be looking out for a certain, ahem, scene that Natasha's upcoming blog post will help you write!

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