Saturday, June 12, 2010

Writing in Space and Time

You're running out of time...tick-tock, tick-tock.  Writers have a lot of responsibilities outside of creating a compelling story.  There are the queries, the proposals, revisions...and if you're awaiting a book release..Oy vey!  Marketing, promotion, travel -- all of these things have to fit into your schedule. 

Problem is...when do you write? When do you pound out another 350+ page book? When do you block out the chapters? When do you do your research?

Writing to be published, not for a hobby, is a job. A full time job.  You have to commit hours to it.  Whether it's during your kid's naptime, after work, or during your beloved television have to put in the hours at the computer to make any real progress. 

An agent once told me that writers under contract are expected to produce a book every 4-6 months.  Months, people, from research to revisions.  Whew! Sounds daunting...but it can be done, is done regularly by authors everyday. The way to do that is to have a schedule. An iron-clad, cannot-alter, leave-me-to-do-my-work schedule. And you have to commit to it.
Now, few of us can quit our day jobs to concentrate solely on honing our craft. But most of us can fine-tune our time management.

It's helpful to set a goal, a deadline, and meet it as if your advance depended on it. Because if all goes well, you will have to be able to do this for real one day. This is not as hard as it seems with some little tweaks to your work habits, you can do it.
  • Be reasonable. Don't try to pound out 300 pages in three months. You'll burn out and probably end up burning the manuscript.  Try 10 pages in ten days, a chapter in a week, or a scene a day.
  • Write it down. Pick a day to be finished with revisions, line editing, everything having to do with your manuscript. Mark the date your calendar.  Treat it like a a publisher's deadline. Don't fudge it...don't go easy on the deadline like the professional you are.
  • Block things off. Do research when you need it.  If you don't absolutely need to know the tensile strength of suspension bridges yet...wait until you're ready to write that scene to do it. Nothing throws a writer off on a tangent faster than "research" that ends up in a webcrawl through Failblog or YouTube.
  • Track your time. There is a cool pdf tracker here for free. Write down the hours you spend actually writing your story. Not revising, not "tweaking a scene", not polishing a query...but writing new stuff
**And blogfest entries DO NOT count. Research and edits don't count, but build them into your timeline so can finish by your "deadline."**
  • Clear a space. Painters set up near windows. Photographers have darkrooms. You need a writing space. A place where you can write without interuptions. That can be in your room with the headphones on, or in a coffeeshop that none of your friends go to. It takes a while to get into the groove of a scene. Don't cut yourself off at the knees by inviting distractions.
  • And finally...Don't Procrastinate, just...don't. It not only slows you down, but stresses you out.
There are a lot of other ways to manage your time. Some online programs offer stop watches, organizers, and task trackers for free or a small fee.  Sometimes its as simple as joining a critique group that meets regularly. Knowing a group of peers are expecting your next chapter is very motivating.

What are your tricks and tips for staying on track.  What are the pitfalls that eat up your time? I'd love you hear what you have to say.

Until next time...Go Write! No, really. Go start typing.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Raquel, those are some great suggestions and ideas.
Now, as commanded, I am off to write!

Zoe C. Courtman said...

Whip, cracked! Off to write - thanks for the kick in the pants!

Beth Zimmerman said...

I enjoy these pep talks and bits of advice and encouragement. Some days I even think ... maybe after our next busy season at work, when things slow back down and I have time in my schedule again, maybe I will find my book and write it. Maybe.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with Alex, great suggestions and ideas. Thanks for sharing.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

When I first get up, setting the clock early by an hour and a half. Before I go to bed, which means getting much less sleep than I want.

Those are the time that I write. I block out scenes as I drive in my job as a blood courier.

A question of my own : Is there a listing for the blogfests soon to come? I signed up for a couple and now, Zoe has taken down her list. Rats. Roland

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Love these tips. Maybe I should start by delinating a place to write in.

Watery Tart said...

Raquel... funny you should post this now. I have my FIRST deadline for an actual book looming way out there (December 31)--my contract will be every 9 months--that was my choice--6 or 9, but with the day job... and I want to write my other stuff, too, not just this series...

I worked backward. If the deadline is December 31, I wanted AGENT feedback Dec. 1, which meant getting it to my agent October 15, which meant feedback from Writer's group Sept. 15, which means I need to GET IT to the writer's group August 15. Giving me a week for the most agrievous typos, I set my first deadline August 8 for myself. It translates to about 3 chapters a week (~40 pages a week, or about 1250 words a day)--this is the productive end of normal for me--I can do 1500-2000 some nights, but 1000 is what I can COUNT ON. (since what I have is about 90 minutes in the evening)

I already wrote the first 4 chapters (they were the audition that got the deal). So right now I am finalizing timelines and should start the actual writing mid-week.

Anonymous said...

Excellent suggestions!

Raquel Byrnes said...

That is actually a really great way to go about it. I'm gonna jot that down for when I have a book deal.

Congrats, by the way...will look for you on the shelves!

Anonymous said...

Great post! It's definitely hard to find time to write when you're busy with all the other stuff--blogging, querying, networking, etc, about overload!!