You can’t see her but she’s there about halfway down the to-do list and she’s pissed off. How do I know? Maybe it’s the way her perky button nose is snarled. Or it could be the smoke pouring out of her ears. Perhaps the laser beams shooting out of her dark brown eyes was the give away. All I know is that right now I’m glad she’s not a real person . If she was, she’d be swinging and I’m a big wimp who can’t take a punch.
The she in question is my heroine. She’s stuck in a story after finding out the identity of the villain. She’s primed and ready for action, but is floundering around ignored by me as I work my way through the to-do list. More insistent that a hungry two-year-old who hasn’t had a nap, my heroine is ready to get moving but I’m still searching for the time to get the next chapter on paper.
Yes, time management is the bane of an author’s existence. Whether it’s a day job, Internet gossip sites, writers loops or the hot guy mowing the lawn across the street, it’s easy to find other things to do besides write. I fight the time sucking demons myself (as my poor heroine will attest), but here’s how I try to avoid them.
First a caveat: My day job work schedule is super flexible, which is awesome and not an advantage that everyone has. Some days I’ll only work a few hours. Other days, I’m burning the midnight oil way past midnight. It all depends on the workload.
Plotter or Pantser?
I’m a hybrid. I plot out the main turning points of the novel. I write four or five things that have to happen in each of the first four chapters. Then, the urge to write overwhelms me and I start. I go and go until I’ve written myself into a wall. Pulling back, I consider where I am in the overall plot. Next, I outline the chapters I’ve written (often I’ll find and fix plot holes here) and four or five things that must happen in the next four chapters. This revs my writing engine up and I’m off again. Believe it or not, I’m an organized soul and would love to be an actual plotter. However, like many writers I have to fit my writing in whenever I can, so this process works with the scheduling craziness.
Time to Write?
I schedule two hours a day to write Monday through Thursday. Yes, I actually block off the time on my calendar, turn off my e-mail and hide my cell phone. Some days the words flow like crazy, other times I spend those two hours beefing up previously written pages. In addition, I take Fridays off to write, at least until I have to pick up the kiddies from school. This gives me a huge chunk of time to just go for it. I look at these days as a type of book in a day exercise. I write without revision as much as I can in that time period. I’d love to say I don’t have to spend any time with revisions, but that would be a big fat lie. So I fit in my smoothing, beefing up and tweaking for about two hours a night. Yep, the kiddies go to bed and I write until 10 p.m. Then it’s a beer and some trash TV – oh how I love The Soup. Joel McHale is my TV boyfriend, don’t tell the hubby.
So, why is my heroine stalking me? Because life has a way of messing with us authors pulling us away from what we want to do and forcing us to do something else. Hey! That sounds like the definition of conflict. Now I know why we write about conflicts, it’s cheap therapy.
13 thoughts on “The Write Time”
If I HAD to choose which distraction to attend to, it would be the hot guy across the street, of course, but my goodness, your schedule proves to me that you’ve got the dedication and the discipline–maybe your neighbor can add just a dash of inspiration?
I recently discovered that there exist in this world authors who DON’T HAVE TO-DO LISTS. I honestly have no idea how these people function.
I, too, feel your pain, Mermaid Avery. Trix is very happy that I’ve gotten the Mermaid site up and running, but he wishes I would get on with it so he could pull the wisdom tooth of the Great Lingworm and move on to meeting Lizinia the Golden Girl already.
I respect your discipline. You are drawing that line in the sand, making specific time for your craft and sticking to it. During my busy ‘work’ season, I don’t do that. It’s an ongoing challenge for me to stay consistent with my writing. I go in spurts and the manuscripts and my characters suffer from the roller coaster, which is my lifestyle. Thankfully, this past year has been somewhat different (since last year’s Nationals). The workshops and the editor in Orlando made more sense last year than they had before (me getting better at listening I guess). A cool book on this subject is Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit”. Choreography is the foremost of her many talents, but she talks about discipline that becomes routine and finally morphs into habit as the process to doing your craft justice.
Thank you for the insight into your writing discipline. Every writer I know does things a little differently, but we all fight the elusive time management pitfalls. I think it helps us all to see how others handle that ever so distracting half naked god mowing the lawn across the street! Hmmm…computer, or maybe just one more pass by the window?
No to do list? Where do they get their joy in life if not from marking something off?
No kidding! Sometimes I add things to my to-do list for the express purpose of marking through it two seconds later.
You’re so good! I can’t count the hours I’ve lost checking my email “just for a minute.” Here’s to the to-do list that puts “writing” at the top.
I envy your schedule and your discipline. I also write at night after the kidlets are in bed and it isn’t the optimal time but it is the only time. I am not a morning person and getting up early never happens.
This is a great post – mainly because I blew off writing last night to catch up on The Soup! Ha-ha!
But I’m back to it today and I think I might utilize your advice of marking time in my schedule. Great advice!
Lee- I also add things to my planner just so I can cross them off. 😉
I love your opening paragraphs! Here’s to hoping your heroine takes it easy on ya but not too easy! 😉
I wish I had your dedication. Truly. The one thing that made me get motivated this year was NaNo… and my friend Vanessa. One to pull me in, and the other to light a fire under me to KEEP WRITING! It was fun to write a book in a month. I’m not saying that the revising is particularly fun. LOL.
Alethea, I can one-up you on putting things on the to-do list to mark it off right away. I’ve actually put things on my dry-erase board that have ALREADY HAPPENED, but it makes me feel good that I remembered to attend. That’s a victory!!!
Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser or even a hybrid, it only matters if you actually carve the time out to write. The best outlines and plans don’t mean anything if you don’t get BICHOK–butt in chair, hands on keyboard. You are inspiration–I’m going to block off the time and COMMIT!!!
Great post. I don’t make lists, but it’s understood in my house that when the laptop’s on I’m no longer in the building.
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