Writing a book is a challenge, even for a full-time writer. Writing takes motivation, discipline, organization, and drive. Especially among first-time novelists self-publishing writers, it’s common to have to squeeze writing time into the margins of the everyday grind. When you find yourself unable to drop everything to write, it’s important to have a strategy so you can work a day job and still flourish as a writer. Here are some ways for you to get the most about of that limited, precious writing time:
Schedule Your Writing Time
Set aside time each day for writing. Keep track of your day job work schedule, your other obligations, and your free time and set aside a writing time each day. Keep in mind the times when you might be more productive. Do you tend to get your ideas earlier in the morning like Hemingway or do you need to reflect later in the day like Joan Didion? Every writer has to develop their own routine or schedule. Even the schedules of famous writers differed greatly.
Many of the famous writers also have a ritual. That’s not just because it’s what you like to do; it helps turn writing into what you need to do. Ritualizing writing helps cement it into your consciousness and protect it from oversight when you have other tasks to complete. If it’s a concrete part of every day, it’s less likely to get lost. EB White once said, “a writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” He has a point. If we don’t set aside a certain time and ritual for writing every day, it can get lost among the right-now chores that need to get done. If this happens, you could end up not writing anything at all.
Make Goals and Deadlines
We’ve all had this problem: You sit down at the computer to work on something important and end up getting side-tracked. One website can lead to another, and before you know it you’ve burned two hours watching cat videos or reading about quantum physics. While web-surfing, TV watching, reading, or going out in public can help you with inspiration, it won’t help you get the words on paper. Your writing time should be when you unplug the distractions and reflect on what they mean for you and your work.
One way to stay away from distractions is to set deadlines. Contrary to popular opinion, writers don’t just write willy-nilly. Deadlines can be incredibly motivating . Your goal could be to write one chapter a week, or instead you could budget a certain number of words to each day. You could even reward yourself if you achieve your weekly goals. This way, you’ll get to a finished product much quicker, and be more diligent in carving out writing time as well.
Keep Track of Your Ideas
Some writers carry around a pocket-size notepad for the purpose of recording the fleeting ideas or inspiration they have throughout the day. Most of what gets written may not ever get used, but even if your notepad is a memo on your smartphone, it’s a good idea to take ten seconds to record the ideas you have throughout the day.
It goes without saying you want to keep digital files organized, but organization also extends to your thoughts and ideas. Background information on characters and plot can be put into detailed character sketches, and outlining can make the writing of your books a much smoother and more efficient process.
Some writers create binders full of character sketches, backgrounds, and stories. Many even have a binder for each character, listing such minute detail as the character’s favorite color, or their allergies—some things that never get mentioned in their books. Others don’t use these kinds of character sketches but plot intricate and interlacing timelines. Others don’t plan at all—just let the book flow freely. Whatever your style, you should at least organize drafts, chapters, and inspirations for your book. This will help you spend less time finding past drafts and keeping track of multiple story lines, and more time actually writing.
Relax, Focus and Have Fun
There may be a finish line, but writing a book isn’t a race. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it. Take your writing seriously, but don’t put so much pressure on yourself that you start to dread it. Don’t lose sight of what made you want to start writing in the first place.
You may feel overwhelmed; writing while also working outside the home can sometimes feel like having two full-time jobs. However, if you schedule your time wisely, set goals, keep track of your ideas, stay organized, and remember to have fun with your craft, you can count yourself as a successful writer.