Sunday, October 18, 2015

Finding Time to Write

8:00 AM Posted by Tara , No comments
50,000 words. That's a lot of words, and they take a lot of time to write. And time is a commodity most of us have little of these days. How on earth can you fit writing a novel, in a month, into your already packed schedule?

Well, we're writers. We're creative. We can figure it out!

Get wibbly-wobbly with your timey-wimey

Develop a writing routine before November starts.

It takes time to get yourself into—or out of—a habit. Think of how tough it is to get used to a new class schedule at the start of a semester, or to switch from day shifts to night shifts at work. Similarily, it can be a challenge to suddenly devote a couple of hours a day to writing when writing isn't something you typically do.

So start training yourself now. Spend half an hour each day writing, around the same time you anticipate you'll be writing in November. It doesn't necessarily have to be fiction; you might work on your novel's outline, or character profiles, or world-building. You could try writing a journal from your protagonist's perspective, or letters between two of your main characters, or a series of short prequels to the events of your novel. If you're going to pants your story, start flexing your pantsing muscles by writing short drabbles based on random prompts. Come November, you'll already be in the groove of writing every day, and the 50,000-word marathon will be much easier to run.

A little preparation goes a long way.

October is all about getting prepared... but not just with an outline or character profiles. There are plenty of things you can do this month to make your day-to-day life easier in November, thus freeing up time to write.

If you usually cook for yourself, put together as many make-ahead meals as will fit in your freezer. Plan slow cooker meals that require little effort (and if you don't have a slow cooker, invest in one). Stock up on quick and easy meals, like soup, sandwich fixings, macaroni and cheese, hot and cold cereal, and frozen foods like chicken fingers, pizzas, and hamburger patties. Less time spent in the kitchen means more time spent on your novel!

Make sure all your laundry is done before Nanowrimo starts so you won't have to worry about it for awhile. Wear every last thing in your wardrobe in November so you can put off doing more laundry for as long as possible, and leave whatever you can in your hamper until December!

If you live alone, get your home in tip-top shape in the last week of October so you can let housekeeping chores slide a bit over the next month. If you live with others, offer them a trade of services: if they walk the dog, vacuum the carpets, or do the dishes throughout November, you'll return the favor in December.

If you're a student, talk to your teachers about Nanowrimo and ask if there are any assignments you can complete ahead of time so that you can devote more of November to writing your novel. If you work full-time, book a few vacation days in November—the first and last of the month are great choices.

Cut out unnecessary time-wasters. 

In No Plot? No Problem, Nanowrimo founder Chris Baty suggests keeping a journal of your daily activities to identify where you can use your time more productively. While there are some time-consuming tasks you can't avoid—going to work or school, basic acts of personal hygiene, and eating, for instance—there are likely many more you can limit or cut altogether, at least for a month.

Are you a social media junkie? Limit your time on Facebook, Twitter, and the like to fifteen minutes a day, perhaps with your morning coffee or before you turn in for the night, or only during breaks between writing sessions. Outside of that time, turn off app notifications and hide browser bookmarks to avoid temptation. You can also use programs like Cold Turkey or FocalFilter to block websites of your choice for a set period of time, to make sure you don't get distracted when you're supposed to be writing.

Do you spend an hour or two every night watching television? Put your PVR to good use, and save your favorite shows for the weekend—or December! If you don't have a PVR, many networks will let you watch full episodes of their programs online. If there's a show you absolutely can't wait to watch, try to reach your daily word count goal before it airs so you can enjoy it guilt-free.

What about socializing? Tell your friends ahead of time that you'll be writing a novel in November, and therefore may not be able to get together as often as usual; they'll be less likely to badger you to go out or to get upset when you turn down invitations if they know you're trying to stay focused on writing. You might want to keep one night a week open for social events (it's good to get away from the computer every once in awhile, after all), or make plans to catch up with your friends in December.

A good rule of thumb is to put off recreational activities until you've hit your word count goal for the day. That gives you added incentive to get those words down, and a reward for doing so.

Sleep? Who needs sleep?

We all need sleep, obviously, but you can probably get away with a little bit less of it in November. Now, I'm not suggesting that you cut your eight hours a night down to four—neither you nor your novel will benefit from exhaustion. But sacrificing a little bit here and there won't hurt.

Try getting up thirty minutes earlier than usual to pound out a few hundred words before work or school. If you're a night writer, stay up half an hour later. If you sleep in on the weekends, don't—or at least, sleep in less. Imagine all the words you could write if you weren't in bed until noon!

If your going-to-bed routine includes playing Candy Crush under the covers, open up your favorite note-taking app instead and brainstorm ideas for what you'll be writing the next day. If you go to sleep with your novel on your mind, you're more likely to wake up ready to write.

Make the most of every minute.

Write while you're in line at the supermarket. Write on the bus to school. Write while you wait for a class or a meeting to start. Write on your lunch break. Write while your dinner is in the oven. Write at the laundromat. Write during commercials. Write every moment you can. You may only get a hundred words in here and there, but that can add up quickly; you might get halfway to your daily goal before you really sit down to write! Carry a notebook and pen with you at all times, or download an app like Google Docs or Evernote to sync your on-the-go writing to your computer.

And when your hands are busy, keep your mind on your novel. When you're in the shower, washing dishes, or driving, envision the last scene you wrote, or brainstorm potential solutions to a plot problem you're facing, or plan out what you're going to write when you get back to your computer. You can even use a voice recording app to write hands-free!

It's also important to identify when you're the most productive, and schedule your writing time accordingly. Do words flow easier in the morning or at night? Do you tend to write more in short spurts or long sessions? I'm hopeless at writing in the evenings, so during Nanowrimo, I'll get up at 5:30 every morning to get most of the day's writing done before I go to work. I also lose focus if I'm at it for too long, so I prefer spreading my writing time out over the course of a day instead of trying to hit my daily goal in one sitting. Every writer has a different sweet spot; try a variety of approaches early on to figure out yours. Once you know what works for you, take advantage of it!

Use your time wisely

When it comes right down to it, you need to make your novel a priority if you want to be successful in Nanowrimo. Writing 50,000 words in a month is hard work, but it is entirely possible if you truly make the effort. That might mean making certain sacrifices to ensure you have time to write every day, but I promise you: when you validate your novel at the end of the month, you'll know it was worth it.

Leave a comment and let me know what tricks you use to find time to write!


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