And now we come to the most slippery writing tool/technique of all….
Finding time to write.
I managed to write the first draft of The Loyal Heart in about a month and a half at the beginning of 2008. And the first draft was 250,000 words long. I worked on it for three to five hours in the evening on weeknights and roughly eight hours a day on the weekends. How the heck was I able to find all that time do to it? Well, I’ve just broken up with a serious boyfriend, I was getting over months of crippling depression in which I’d managed to push all of my friends away, and I had no extracurricular hobbies or interests at all. In other words, I had no life outside of Aubrey, Crispin, Jack, and Ethan’s lives.
I’ve also heard, as I’m sure you have too, that a writer’s life is a solitary life. You know, there’s a lot of truth to that. Generally speaking, writing is not a collaborative process. It’s something we have to knuckle down and do on our own with as few distractions as possible. Unfortunately, life is full of distractions.
So how do you put your Nike’s on and just do it?
I am a firm believer in the fact that part of that answer lies in the whole philosophy behind NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo, for those who don’t know, is a yearly writing challenge hosted by The Office of Letters and Light. Every November participants from across the globe take up the challenge to write 50,000 words or 50,000 words worth of a larger story before the end of the month. The trick to winning NaNoWriMo is to write a little bit each day. It doesn’t matter if that little bit is any good. The point is to write it. If you do the math it comes out to about 1,666 words per day.
In other words, the key to getting something written is to set yourself a word count goal for each day. When I’m drafting a story I set myself a word count goal of 2,000 words. Secretly in my mind that’s actually 2,500, but if I make it to 2,000 I’m happy. I do a pretty good job of sticking to this goal.
But time. I still haven’t created more hours in the day for us all to work.
Ah, see, that’s the thing. I’ll confess right now that I haven, in fact, done most of my writing while at work. The company I work for had a bit of a slow period, and since there wasn’t a ton of other stuff to occupy my time and mind I wrote. I wrote a lot. So does this mean I got paid to write? Mmm, maybe.
Then all those nasty layoffs happened. In the last month and a half I haven’t had time to breathe at work, let alone write. And yet here I am grinding my way through revisions of a delightful little historical romance that takes place in Montana in 1895 called Our Little Secrets.
How do I have time to do this?
I ask myself that same question all the time. But really the answer is all about sacrifices. If you’re a writer you have to give up a few things for your art.
I stopped watching television (live) on December 21, 2007. I knew I was going to start writing soon and I also knew that television was a major distraction for me. Watching TV was also something I did with my ex-boyfriend and as we were about to enter an election year the very last thing I wanted to do was sit through political commercials. So really I had several reasons for quitting the boob tube.
The end result, though, was that without “my shows” tying me down I had hours and hours to write. Believe me, cutting out TV made an incredible difference.
And I hate to say it, but when it’s time for the rubber to hit the road, when you have something you absolutely must write, whether by your own dictate or because you have an editor dangling a deadline in front of you, gone are the yoga lessons, the coffees with friends, and the long chats with family. Say goodbye to nights out at the movies, videos from Netflix, and rolling around with the cats. When that time comes, writing is not just your job, it’s your life.
I wish I could remember who it was recently that said to aspiring and indie authors these magnificent, oh-so true words: The habits you develop when you are just starting out will become the habits you have when you are under contract with a deadline looming. If you can’t treat this as seriously at the beginning as you would were you being paid big bucks then you’re never going to make it. Harsh but true.
So there you have it. My methods of time management for writing involve varying stages of doing what needs to be done to meet word count goals and sacrificing other things I like to get the damn thing done.
And now, since Our Little Secrets is due at my editor on March 26th, I’m going to stop writing blog posts and put my revising hat on.
But how about you? How do you find time to devote to your writing?