A Ten Step Program for More Writing Time
By Julie Butcher-Fedynich
You write because you love it, right? It can be loads of fun to kill off the nosey neighbor or that kid who wakes you up in the middle of the night blasting his car stereo. Writing as a hobby keeps your brain active and is a great outlet. But, (there’s always a but somewhere) piddling around with your manuscript won’t get you an agent or a book deal.
Before you tell me you don’t have enough time to write, let me tell you that I have six kids. (Right now I’m giving you a look over the tops of my glasses.) If you can beat that, leave your name in the comments and I’ll give you an excuse. If you have less, and you want to be published, we need to have a talk about making more writing time.
Step 1: Find the Time.
Start by keeping track of what you do all day, every day for a week. This is the hardest part but you need to write it down. How can you save time if you don’t know where you spend it? Do you watch the news or read the paper? How about that week you spent on American Idol, or the month you watched Buffy for three hours every night. How many books do you read a week? (I’m not telling you to not read–because that would be counterproductive and kind of stupid on my part.) To me reading is a reward after I’ve reached my word count. I gave up one hour. How much do you want to be published? 60 minutes
Step 2: The Crockpot is your friend.
When I wrote down what I did all day I found that I spent at least an hour standing at the stove, more than that on the weekend. The library has hundreds of cook books; the internet has millions of crock-pot recipes. This step gives you an extra 30 minutes per day and no one starves. Not starving is good.
Step 3: Television has to Go Away
Put. Down. The. Gun. I love me some Castle as much as the next writer. That said, when we turned off the cable, not only did my word count rise, so did my children’s grade point average, and the amount of spare dollars in my wallet. If you TIVO a sixty minute episode of programming, you’ll find that it contains thirteen minutes of commercials. Hello.
Step 4: Plan Grocery Shopping
After you keep track of your weekly schedule, you’ll find that you spend an inordinate amount of time running for bread, milk, and eggs-especially if you have children. I timed it and the average grocery store run took me twenty-seven minutes. Make a menu and go once a week.
Step 5: Invest in yourself
For God’s sake get a laptop and Word. How much of your time is spent waiting for things? You sit at baseball practice and dance classes-sometimes for hours. You wait in line to pick up at school or sit at the bus stop. Look on the record of your week, it will be there. I know for a lot of us this can be our social time. Not anymore. I promise that if you tell the other parents what goal you’re pursuing, they won’t get mad. I’m being conservative when I say you’re waiting at least three hours a week. Let’s divide it into days.
Step 6: Suck It Up and Get Out of Bed
No more late nights for you. Get a decent night’s sleep and wake up an hour earlier. Whether you’re writing or doing the laundry before work-to write later-doesn’t matter. If you need more hours in the day then make them. I like to sleep in as well as the next writer, maybe a lot more than you. (Six kids, remember?) I was born lazy and fight it every dang day. But, if you want to write enough, it gets easy to set the alarm.
Step 7: Learn to Say No
How many time-swamps are you dragged into by family or friends? Why are you always the driving parent or the one who picks up groceries for elderly relatives? How many home decorating parties can one person host? Who calls on the phone and sucks up your minutes like pop through a straw? Quit being a door mat. Sometimes you have to fight for what you want. This was probably the hardest thing for me to do.
Step 8: Find a Place to Write
When you do get a chance to write, where do you go? Personally, I have written in so many weird places it isn’t funny. (I’ve hid in the car in the garage, in the bathroom, and at the park.) I know writers who go to coffee shops and some who leave home for the library. The important thing is to find a place where you can think in a continuous flow. Interruptions cost time. It takes me a good five minutes to get back into the story. Let’s be crazy and say we’re interrupted three times a day.
Step 9: Networking Gets You Nowhere Without a Great Story
You love the internet or you wouldn’t be here. *Eyebrows up* seriously people, it’s wonderful to talk to agents and publishers via Twitter or Facebook but, (oh look, another but) do you need to do it two or three hours a day? Umm…no. Save it for Step 10. Cut your Facebook and Twitter in half or, use them as a tool to have writing competitions. Challenge a fellow writer to a 1K/1hr and see who writes their thousand words. An internet presence is important but not at the cost of your writing time. Let’s cut it in half and use an alarm to make you stop.
Step 10: Take a Day Off
See, now you don’t want to kill me. A day off writing guilt-free! Schedule one day per week to see the people you care about. Sleep in or *gasp* go outside. Let your brain recharge and the next day the writing will be easier. I promise, pinkie-swear.
With the above steps we’ve made 235 minutes available to write each day. On the low scale, you probably write 500 words per hour. This gives you almost 2,000 words per day, 12,000 words in a week. The average novel for adults is 85,000 words. With one day off a week, you’ll be finished in 8 weeks. At this pace you could easily write 4 books per year with time for editing.
Hello book deal!
Written By Julie Butcher-Fedynich