I self-published my first book while working three jobs. This meant that I was editing, formatting, communicating with the publisher, copyrighting, and marketing while I was gone from my home six days a week. How did I do it? More importantly, how can you do it--taking what small amount of time you have to make a big impact?
Here are my top 5 tips for the writer who has little time to write.
1. Get a voice recorder.
If you're a fast transcriptionist, or know someone who is, this technique of audio-to-written word can be an extremely useful time-saver. I've literally recorded entire chapters of my work-in-progress while on the treadmill or driving to work, chapters which I later typed out from the audio. If you're a vlogger, you can use video instead.
Voice recording can also be the key to gathering information from others. I grew up listening to my father tell fascinating stories from his childhood and his younger days. I've wanted to write them down for a long time, but our schedules always conflicted. So I gave Dad my voice recorder. Every so often, I discover a new story on my voice recorder, a story that I can type out as I listen and then edit for easier reading.
2. Write against the clock.
If I don't feel inspired, I tell myself that I must write for X number of minutes, say, 30 minutes. By the time the 30 minutes are up, I've usually found my "groove" and I add another 30 minutes to my timer. In this way, I can complete a solid hour of writing with little fuss.
Music can be an inspiration. I personally enjoy PandoraJourney or DragonStorm's heroic/soundtrack music compilations on their YouTube channels. I choose a collection whose length matches my goal (say, I choose an hour-long collection so that I will be sure to spend an entire hour writing). The driving music is very motivating!
To give myself extra impetus on the days when I'm already feeling motivated, I might give myself a word goal, such as 800 words in 1 hour. Ready, set, go!
3. Get up earlier.
Some of my best and fastest writing has been done at 6 in the morning. The quiet, relaxed atmosphere allows me to concentrate and to make the most of my morning energy. You can imagine the boost to my morale when I can announce that I completed one of my day's writing goals before 8 a.m.!
If you're a night owl, by all means, experiment with staying up late instead. For myself, staying up late is a recipe for frustration. Plus, most sleep experts recommend turning off electronics an hour before bedtime, because the lighting disturbs the normal sleep-wake patterns of the brain and interferes with one's sleep.
4. Have equipment handy.
I keep a notebook on my desk at work, on which I jot down ideas for new stories, particular lines of dialogue, reminders for later plot twists, and more. When I proctor tests, I am able to write entire blog posts while simultaneously supervising the students. Most recently, during a bout of insomnia, I scribbled ideas into my bedside notebook, at 2:30 a.m.
You never know when an idea will occur to you. The prepared writer uses every snippet of time wisely.
5. Plan ahead.
By the time you reach the computer, you should already know what you wish to write. Therefore, the planning must be done beforehand.
When I stuff envelopes at work, I plan the next segment of my story. When I run on the treadmill or around my neighborhood, I brainstorm scenes and even solidify particular dialogues. When I commute to an appointment, I mentally update my plot arc and work out potential loopholes.
By the time I sit down at my computer, I know exactly how to pick up the thread of the story and proceed to the next section. This is my #1 time saver!
Your turn: What helps you make the most of your writing time?
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I write YA/adult fantasy & sci-fi that explores fantastic and interconnected worlds, with stories that burn through the darkest realities with hope and redemption.
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