Monday, February 13, 2012

Making the Most of Your Writing Time

by Calista Taylor

Unless you're lucky enough to be making a living from your writing, you're likely scraping together your writing time between work, kids, and a dozen other obligations. For me, writing time is precious, yet it's too easy to squander it with distractions and a lack of direction.

Luckily, it doesn't take much to make the most of your writing time. Here are a few things that I find helpful.
  • Plan out your writing for the day. Even though I'm a pantser and don't plan out my manuscript, I do find it helpful if I take a few minutes to plot out the scenes I'll be writing that day.
  • Eliminate interruptions. Turn off your internet, so you're not tempted to constantly check your email, Twitter feed, Facebook page. Turn off the TV. Pick a time of day when you're most likely to be left alone to write, whether it be before everyone gets up for the day, or when everyone's asleep.
  • Set a word goal. Just like with NaNo, having a goal for your daily word count can help keep you motivated. It doesn't need to be anything insane for it to help—even if it's 500 words a day. Just make it something you can work towards and is doable for you.
  • Set up a "writing nook". Whether this is an office or just your own spot on the sofa, make sure your nook has everything you'll need to keep you focused on work. A comfortable seat always helps, as does an area where interruptions will be kept to minimum.
  • Create a story board. In your writing nook or on your computer, try and keep a story board of images that will immediately pull you into your story. This will help cut down on the time you spend "warming up" to your story, so you can easily get back into the scene you were working on. Pinterest is a great new site that allows you to easily "pin" images to virtual boards.
  • Keep writing. If you come to a section of your manuscript where you'll need to research something, or you've come to a scene that isn't quite working, mark the area so you can come back to it, and keep moving forward with the next scene. Most research can wait a day, and oftentimes the solution to a problematic scene will become apparent once you've moved further into your story.
I hope these tips help you make the most of your precious time. Do you have any tips that keep you focused and allow you to make the most of your writing time?


Jean Oram said...

This is very timely for me, Cali. It's so easy to let our writing time slip to the bottom of the list.

Lately, I've been trying to write at least 30 minutes a day during the week days. Over on AgentQueryConnect there is a thread going on called the Writing Odometer (started by BBC!) where you can post goals and then circle back and say whether you accomplished them. I find it helps keep me a bit more accountable if I've posted it somewhere.

I'm not as visual as you are, Cali (check out her Pinterest board it is incredible. The images are simply stunning!! I hope you don't mind me sharing that here, Calista.) but I do find ways to help me jump right back into a story. For me, it is using a program called Scrivener. It's incredible. (Only $30-40) Well worth the money for me. I can keep my notes, images, research, and everything all in one place. I find I can jump around in my story easily and figure out where I am in a jiff.

And that spot on the couch with a cup of tea and my laptop works lovely!

Matt Sinclair said...

The story board idea and use of technological tools like Pinterest is a great one I'd not included in my personal list. Thanks for the timely post!

Christopher Hudson said...

Ditto on the storyboard thing ... I'm gonna try that.

Jeremy Bates said...

Very informative publish here. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me. I’ll definitely be back again.

Jean Oram said...

I've found storyboarding handy using sticky notes on a huge piece of cardboard. You can move the notes around and slip the cardboard under the bed. :) What do you guys use?

Calista Taylor said...

Jean, thanks for turning me on to Pinterest! It's been a huge help!! And feel free to pass on my boards. : ) As for keeping track of notes, I use OneNote (or a similar, free version, Evernote).

Matt & Christopher, the storyboards have been great for getting an immediate visual immersion into my story. They also help me with all the little details that I usually overlook when writing. In addition, they're great for getting those creative juices flowing. I can't recommend it enough.

Jeremy, so happy to be of help!! Glad you'll be joining us again!

Alleged Author said...

It is completely hard for me to eek out time between teaching and everything else to write. BUT setting aside time does work very well!

Maria S McDonald said...

Great post and valuable piece of advice. I do all of the above... I used to have this pet peeve about leaving things unfinished, but am more and more embracing the idea of coming back to a difficult passage at a later stage and moving on to something else to keep the momentum going.

Leslie Rose said...

I've gotten better at putting notes in my WIP where I need to research or rethink without dropping the writing flow. It's so tempting to "birdwalk" away from the word count.

E.B. Black said...

Rather than using images to get me back into a scene, I use music, usually instrumental music, like the kind that would make a dramatic/good movie soundtrack for my book, to get me back in the mood for a scene.

Calista Taylor said...

Alleged, it can be hard to find the time when most schedules are crammed tight. But I guess that's why it's good to make the most of the time we have. : )

Maria, I was the same way, and would spend hours looking stuff up instead of writing. So now I set it aside and keep plugging away. Far more productive.

Leslie, I only recently started leaving myself notes, and it's certainly helped keep my momentum going.

EB, great tip! Music is excellent for pulling you into a story.

Jennifer Merritt said...

Great post,Cali. Your Pinterest page is gorgeous.

I skip research when I'm writing and sometimes even parts of difficult scenes. I write in all caps what I want to include or come back to, then forge ahead. It's increased my productivity significantly.

I love the idea of using story boards - visual or not - to get back into the story. When you write in short blocks, warming up again is a huge time drain.

Calista Taylor said...

Thanks, Jennifer!! I've had a blast putting together the pinterest boards!

I find the same problem with writing in short blocks. Finding a way to reduce the warm up time can really add up when it comes to productivity.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great post, Cali! I've thought about story boarding, but I haven't done it yet. I've got to give it a shot one of these days :)

Calista Taylor said...

Jemi, you should definitely give it a try!! If you're a visual person, it can really help. : )