Lazette Gifford
Publisher & Editor


Workshop: I'd Rather be Writing

By Lazette Gifford
Lazette Gifford

As we head toward another new year, it may be time to look over your plans for 2007.  Setting goals to write, finish, and submit material is always good -- but if you don't do the work, the goals mean nothing at all.

Writing takes time, and finding that free time in an already hectic day is a difficult proposition for people who already have full lives.  However, if you don't make time for your dreams, you are short-changing yourself.  In doing so, you may also be short-changing the people around you, because people who find time for themselves and their dreams are generally happier people than those who sacrifice everything they want for the supposed good for others.

Almost everyone can find a happy medium.  There are those few who really don't have time to write, but there are others who only think they don't because they're not making full use of their time.

Step One:  Deciding how much you intend to write

The first step in deciding what time can be put aside for writing is to decide the amount of writing you want to do.  This is an important consideration which will have a profound affect on the next steps in the workshop.

Don't just decide on some number out of the blue.  Think about it.  If you want to write a novel in a year, how long will that novel be?  Check books and guidelines to material in the genre you want to write.  Find a real number so that you have a base to work with.

Second... do you want to write only a first draft, or do you intend to write the entire novel, edit it, and put out the first submission package by the end of the year?

Let's look at a book of 120,000 words, first draft only, written in one year:

120,000/365 = (about) 329 words a day.  Let's round up to a whole 350 a day.

Even a slow writer won't usually have trouble with this much writing in one day.  However, chances are that you don't want to write every day.  Let's take the weekends off  -- 104 days -- and maybe another 11 for holidays.  That drops the number of work days down to 250.  That brings the total up to 480 words a day.  Round up to 500.  That's still not a large number of words, especially once you get used to writing them.

If you want to both write and edit a book in one year, you might take six months for both parts, which means you'll want to write 1000 words a day.  That's still a relatively low number.  If, however, you want to do pre-writing, like research and outlines, you'll have to divide the time differently. A good balance might be three months for pre-work, six months for writing, and three months for editing and submission.

Work out your writing plans in one year increments.  Even if you know the writing and post work will go over into another year, work out how much you will do in this coming year, and don't worry about the next one.

Okay, now on to the next step:

Step Two: Deciding how fast you can write

If you have been writing for a while, you'll have a good idea of how long it will take you to write 500 words.  Or maybe not, if you haven't really applied yourself to the work, or if something has changed in your life.

Remember that those 500 words are workday words, not counting anything written on weekends or holidays.  It may take you half an hour (in which case you won't have much trouble finding the time) or it may take you two hours.  How do you find two hours in your already busy schedule?

Step Three: Finding the time

Finding the time to write is sometimes harder than finding something to write about.  It takes practice and a willingness to change your usual pattern of life in order to accommodate the new intrusion into your time.

There are many ways to find time.  You'll have seen some of these mentioned in articles in Vision during the last few years.  Here are many such ideas, pulled into one set:

  1. Get up half an hour earlier, or stay up half an hour later.  This is especially helpful if you can do this when the rest of the household is asleep.  If you are not good at waking up and getting right to work, choose the later option.
  2. Another version of this is to go to work half an hour earlier or stay half an hour later and work there -- either at your desk, if you have one, or in your car.  This can also mean getting up early, or delaying dinner for half an hour, but it might give you the time and quiet to do your work.  Cars are not the worst place to write, as long as you are prepared to do so, with either a laptop, PDA or pen and paper.
  3. Write during your lunch break. Even if all you do is jot down a few notes for later expansion, it can still help get you moving when you have the time to sit down and work.
  4. If you watch television most nights, a good way to make time is to record the show and watch it the next day, speed-searching through the commercials.  You'll save 15 minutes for every hour of television you watch by doing this.  Two one-hour shows a night will net you half an hour of free time.
  5. Do not allow yourself to surf the Internet, visit sites, open IM  or chat rooms or anything of the like until you have written your word goal for the night.  You would be surprised how fast you can get the work done when there's something you want to do afterwards.
  6. In an odd variation of this, find a site (like Forward Motion) where there is a strong writing community.  Go into the chat and state that you are there to write your chosen number of words -- and then get to work.  Post word counts whenever you come up for air.  The people in such chat rooms will encourage you, and the part of you that hates to admit failure in public will be up on show.  It can help, especially on those nights when nothing else prods you into writing.
  7. Write in short bursts when you have the time.  This is difficult for people who have trouble getting into their stories, but you might be able to get snippets of material that you can later expand into fuller scenes.
  8. Keep note cards, a small notebook or a PDA with you at all times.  You might unexpectedly be stuck in traffic or have to wait for your kids, or find yourself with any other bit of time that would otherwise be wasted.  Use the time to do notes, to free-write about your novel, or anything else that might help you later.
  9. Trade time for yourself for something others in your life would like to do, and which you normally might not be interested in.  You may find that you benefit from both!

Step Four: Doing the work

Having worked out all the other details, there's only one more thing that you need to do. 

Sit down and write.

Sometimes it's easy to make all the plans, work out the details, and then slip the nice neat schedule off into some corner of your desk and conveniently forget about it while you go on about your life.  Then, in another year, you'll still be thinking about writing a novel and starting to look at a schedule again.

Commit yourself to doing the work this coming year.  But also realize that plans made now may not work quite the way you expect when you apply them.  Be prepared to change and adapt what you decide to what works in real life.

But find the time to write.  Pursue your dreams.