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This Writing Life: Fits and Starts

8 May, 2013

My writing schedule has been a bit of a mess lately. In fact, I’ve really gone from writing 2-3 hours every morning and one in the afternoon, every day, to never knowing from day to day whether I’m going to write at all. Of course, my output has suffered as a result, but in the process I’ve developed ways to keep myself writing, no matter how hectic my life becomes. Here are a few of the tips I’ve picked up:

  • Notes, notes, notes. When you can quite easily go a full week without even looking at your latest project, it’s imperative to keep copious notes. Sitting down to your latest WIP and discovering you haven’t the faintest idea what happens next can completely throw you off balance, leaving you wasting time and potentially taking your novel off in a direction you hadn’t intended. And notes aren’t just useful for first drafts: I have lists of potential blog posts to write, plot ideas for future novels, and changes I want to make to my current second draft novel (in this case, a detailed, chapter by chapter list to keep me on track even when I can’t remember what changes I made before). Notes and planning will help you remember what you’re supposed to be doing, when your head is full of everything but writing.
  • Alternate projects. I have a bad habit of never being able to work on just one thing at once (I never read one book at once, either). There’s the novel to edit, the serial fan-fic to write, this blog to maintain, a writing course… The only way I’ve found to deal with so many projects is to alternate between them. Yes, progress can be slow, but this way I have much shorter gaps between working on each project (I might spend an afternoon on each at least once a week, for example), meaning I’m less likely to forget where I’ve got to on any single piece – and meaning I keep up with the rolling deadlines for my serial fiction.
  • Write in any spare moment. This is one you’ll hear a lot from busy writers, but it’s quite a skill to master. I still prefer to have an entire free morning or afternoon before I start writing, but sometimes you can be just as productive in a spare half hour. Being able to sit down and focus straight away takes practice, but you can accomplish a lot this way – as long as you remember those notes!
  • Life both is – and isn’t – all about writing. Working out how important writing is to you, and how much time you want to devote to it, is another tricky skill to master. If your life is already full of things you have to do (like going to work), you have to decide how much of your limited free time you want to spend writing. Do you go to the cinema with friends – or do you write? Do you spend a sunny afternoon in the park – or do you write? (I know what I’d do: write in the park!) Even the most dedicated writer is going to feel the strain if all they do is write, but whilst it’s important to take breaks, sometimes you have to make sacrifices, too.

Writing when you don’t have much time can be hard work, but there are plenty of successful authors who started out writing for 10 minutes every morning before work, or every evening once the kids were in bed. Remember, always, what you want to achieve: to finish this story, edit that book, submit to a favourite publisher or sell to a favourite ‘zine. And remember, too, that it’ll all be worth it in the end!

One Comment
  1. 9 May, 2013 9:50 am

    There are some good tips here. I am long over due… Merci beaucoup!

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