Tips and Tricks for a Busy Writer

By Rachel Burkot

We’re all busy, right? If you say you’re not, I don’t believe you. Everyone knows that pursuing a creative career, passion or hobby requires sacrifices. And time is the #1 sacrifice. Time with loved ones, time making money at a day job, time watching TV or sleeping or reading. Luckily, there’s a solution that doesn’t involve ignoring your children or your spouse for the sake of your novel. But it’s a scary phrase: time management. Mastering this elusive phrase may feel like finding the pot at the end of the rainbow, but it’s possible!

If you spend more time being jealous of the prolificacy of Stephen King than you do actually writing, don’t worry. You might not put out a whopper-sized book every three months like he seems to, but with some clever tricks, you can be just as productive as you’d like to be. Here are some short and simple tips for time management when it comes to juggling family and other commitments with writing, not to mention social media promotion and all those other things writers have to do other than writing. Enjoy, and happy goal-setting!

  • Figure out what time of day works best for you to be creative. Some people are early birds, some are night owls. Syncing in to this ideal time, as much as your daily schedule permits, will allow you to more productive, ultimately saving time, because everyone has a window when they’re naturally more productive, particularly where the unique brain power of creativity is required. Can you wake up two hours before your kids get up and get your writing time in then? (This’ll likely mean a sacrifice of sleep.) Can you stay up two hours after they go to bed and get to work then? (This’ll likely mean a sacrifice of TV or reading or other “veg” time.) Sticking to more or less the same schedule day after day will make it feel more like a job, and the routine will help you to stick with it.
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  • If you have young kids, work around their schedules. Unfortunately there’s really no choice in this — young children have this power over us! Two words: Nap. Time. Most kids sleep on a pretty reliable schedule, so as soon as you put your kid down for sleepy time in the middle of the day, have that laptop ready to go — whether it’s for a forty-five minute writing sesh, or a three-hour one! Use it or lose it!

 

  • Word in shorter, more focused bursts. If you need to bang out some chapters, try a method such as writing for thirty minutes, in a hyper-focused, no-interruptions kind of way. Set a timer, silence your phone (or better yet, put it in another room!) and do not allow yourself to go online. Consider even disconnecting from Wifi so it’s not even a temptation. Then take a five-minute break to go on Facebook, make a cup of coffee, flip through a magazine or make a quick phone call. Or do this in one hour/ten minute intervals. Whatever works best for you. But it’s likely more mentally rewarding than being seventy-five percent focused on writing for an entire day, while that other twenty-five percent of you constantly has one eye on an email or some other distraction. Or, if you can’t go totally off the grid in these bursts, consider a strategy where you only interrupt your writing for a different task if it can be completed in five minutes or less. If it will take longer, set a time later on to take care of it.

 

  • Set parameters for social media. Some of you love social media, some hate it. Fact of the matter is you all have to use it for promoting your books. If you enjoy it, the balance between using it for promotion and writing may come naturally. But if it doesn’t (maybe you even dread this part of being a writer), tell yourself that you will use it for 30 minutes each day for promotion. That adds up to 2 ½ hours per week. Not too shabby! Sure, it’s not as much fun as actually writing, but it’s part of the gig.

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  • Set weekly goals for your writing. If you have a contract with a publisher, they’ll provide deadlines for you. You know when you have to turn in a manuscript, so you’ll work toward that deadline. Because, well, you have to. But here’s the thing: If you’re uncontracted, working toward a deadline just as if you had a contract can really help you along mentally. Otherwise, if you continue to think of it as a hobby, or just something you’re futzing around with in spare moments, you’ll never finish. And whether you’re contracted or not, setting weekly and/or daily word count goals is an excellent way to help yourself stay on track in more digestible bursts, gives you a tangible way to measure progress, and plus it’s great mentally, as you see yourself inching closer, every day and week, to your target word count for the novel! Plus, nothing feels better than meeting a goal or crossing something off a to-do list

 

  • Finally, reward yourself! If you meet your goals, treat yourself to something! Maybe you have a small, different reward (a scoop of your favorite ice-cream flavor) each week on Friday night if you meet the goal you set on Monday morning. Maybe it’s fewer but bigger rewards (a bigger purchase, new clothes or a pair of shoes you’ve had your eye on) if you meet three different, important goals along the way toward The End.

Following a few or all of these tips can really help with mastering the art of time management in a creative field, where parameters and guidelines may not be the first thing you think of when you set out to get that book written. Now go forth and set some guidelines for yourself!

 

Rachel is an agent with Holloway Literary. Learn more about her here and then follow her on Twitter @Rachel_Burkot.

 

Holloway Literary Authors Discuss Making Time to Write

By Kortney Price

Finding time to write is hard. Why? Because life likes to throw about ten million other things our way to keep us from devoting time to a less important task. How can you possibly take an hour to work on your story when you have to show up at your day job, pay bills, cook meals, keep your house from becoming a hazardous waste zone, and heaven forbid we miss the latest episode of Criminal Minds.

“When it comes to managing writing time, Nora Roberts’ quote is my favorite: “I had the blood and fire rule when my boys were young. You know, unless it’s blood or fire, don’t bother me.”She’s right. Whether it lasts ten minutes, a couple of hours, or an entire day, my writing time is sacrosanct. I eliminate all distractions (social media, TV) and focus on my story. I typically write five days a week with a goal of 2,000 words a day. It’s a matter of applying my butt to the chair and writing. It’s that easy…and that hard.” Katie Oliver, Carina UK author

distractionsGenerally speaking, making time to write has a lot to do with how you view writing. If it’s not important to you then you won’t make it a priority over Twitter scrolling or Netflix binging. It will become a less important task. If your story and writing are important to you, making them a priority will come much more naturally.

“I’ve learned that I can make the most of my writing time when I plan in advance, so when I spent nights writing, I’d spend the rest of the day plotting: While commuting to and from work, while walking around a local park at lunch, or while sitting through boring meetings. I’ve also found that setting daily or weekly word count goals keeps me focused. I wrote my first book for Harlequin, The Seven-Day Target, in five weeks by setting a daily goal of 2k words. That’s roughly two hours of writing every night, and it was worth giving up television on weeknights to become a novelist.” Natalie Charles, PocketBooks author

So the fact that you’re reading this means you want to make time for writing in your life, and the best way to do that is to schedule it. Whether you keep meticulous notes in a daily planner or are of the I’ll remember that camp, scheduling time to write is the most surefire way to actually make time to write.

First thing you need to do is figure out what is draining your schedule. One tip I found was to write down everything you do and how much time it takes for a few days. By being honest with yourself and writing down exactly how long you spent on Pinterest, you can accurately see what you can trim up and how you can reorganize your time to make space for your story. This may involve cutting one or two binge-watching sessions or hitting snooze one less time in the morning, but between those and your writing time, writing definitely takes priority.

“For me, I’ve had a 500 word writing goal for several years now and it’s really helped me succeed because I know I can accomplish it. I also know that I write best in the afternoon so I spend the morning running errands, cleaning, and doing whatever else I feel like I need to do so that when I sit down, I can focus on writing. I also give myself scheduled days off to recharge. Unless I’m on deadline. Then I divide the pages out by how many days I have to complete the task and get to work!” Amber Mitchell, Entangled Teen author

scheduleSo you’ve chiseled out 30 minutes a day to spend on writing. When should you actually sit down to write? That’s up to you. Use a few days and see what time you feel you’re at your most creative. If you can barely form sentences early in the morning, you might want to find another time to schedule the writing part of your day. Try writing over your lunch hour, right when you get home from work or later before bed. You should try to always schedule your writing time at the time you’re at your most creative.

Once you’ve done all of the work to make time and figure out what time works best for you, you have to stick to your guns and protect your writing time. You wouldn’t cancel a doctor’s appointment last minute because your neighbor dropped by for coffee, so don’t say to yourself oh, that can wait. It’s okay to tell your neighbor that you’re busy and schedule another time to sit and chat.

“For me, it’s not so much about making time–I’m fortunate enough to be able to write full-time–as it is about forcing myself to unplug from the outside world for a six-hour stretch every day. No internet, no emails or texts or phone calls at all, which is exactly as hard as it sounds. But I am ruthless about both unplugging and protecting my writing time. Writing is my business, and in order for me to succeed, I have to produce words.”Kimberly Belle, MIRA author

Some writers work their schedules so they only work four days a week at their day job and spend the fifth day writing, others have written multiple books during their morning commute. Here are a few more tips on creating writing time,

  1. Save the TV for the weekend – If you can record your show during the week, save it for a day when you have more time and can fit both your show and your writing time in your schedule.
  2. Set a Realistic Writing Goal – Whether you want to write 2,000  or 500 words a day, the important thing is that you set a writing goal that you can stick with and hit every single day. The main focus should be to make progress and establish a writing routine.
  3. Your Commute – I once met a writer who wrote four books on his daily commute to and from work. If you take public transportation, bring along your notebook. If you drive, check out any dictation apps you might like (check out our favorites here.) Your daily commute is time you have to spend anyway, so why not make it productive?
  4. Stick to your Writing Times– That scene is working wonderfully and you’re totally in your writing zone when you hit your word count or time limit. That’s when you stop. If you stop when the writing is good, you’ll always have something to start with tomorrow. It will also keep your mind on your story when you’re between writing times.
  5. Minimize Distractions – If you’re trying to keep your writing time but keep getting interrupted by family, pets, phone calls, or noisy neighbors, try creating a writing space where you can literally close the door on distractions. Make this space completely devoted to writing and not only will you be distraction free, you’ll find that your brain will recognize that it’s time to write when you’re in that space.

Between jobs, family, friends and life, everyone has other things trying to take over their writing time. The challenge is to take your spare minutes and turn them into time for you and your work in progress. Take a week or two to write down how you spend your time and find your spare minutes. Then find what works best for you and get to writing.

Kortney Price is an Associate Agent at Holloway Literary. Learn more about her here and then follow her on Twitter @kortney_price.