If you are planning to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November, you will need to develop some time management skills.
Writing daily is easier once it becomes a behavioral habit. Making the best use of your time requires a little self-discipline.
Most of us have jobs and a family, so our time for personal projects can be limited.
First, you must give yourself permission to write.
Your perception that it is selfish will be your biggest hurdle. Trust me, it is not asking too much of your family for you to have some time every day that is sacred and dedicated to writing.
When I first began writing, I was in high school. I wrote some short stories, but mostly I wrote poetry and lyrics for songs. Later I married the bass player in a heavy metal band and began writing songs with him.
During the 1980s and 1990s, as the single mother of three children, I held down three part-time jobs. I couldn’t afford cable, so with only four channels via the antenna, TV was pretty minimal at our house. Card games, dominoes, books, and the library were our usual evening entertainment.
It was during this time that I began to write fiction seriously. We read books so quickly that the library couldn’t stock new ones in our areas of interest fast enough for us. So, when my children were doing their homework, I sat in front of my second-hand IBM Selectric typewriter and pecked out fairy tales to read to them.
In the summer, I did that while they watched videos or played Super Mario et al., on the old Super Nintendo.
That gave me at least one hour every night in which I could write, sometimes more. Yes, I did have to help with some of their homework but having me there, typing away next to the gerbil cage seemed to keep them on track, and I did get several pages written every night.
It was all crap, but I made it sound better when I read it aloud to them.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was developing discipline and a work ethic in myself as well as in my children.
Two of my daughters write fiction as well as holding down jobs and raising families. All five of our kids are hardworking adults who are raising families and who also have an artistic life in music or writing or both.
Having an artistic life means you allow yourself time to create something that is meaningful to you.
The following is a list of ideas to help you carve the time to write and still be a full participant in your family’s life.
- You must decide what is more important, your dream of writing or watching a television show that is someone else’s dream. Do you want to create, or do you want to be entertained?
Personally, I would say that if you didn’t like the way Game of Thrones turned out, too bad.
It was George R.R. Martin’s creation, and he did it his way. He has written more than thirteen novels, numerous short stories, novellas, and too many screenplays for me to count.
GRRM did all that by sitting down and writing every day. He is an award-winning author because he makes the time to write despite his heavy schedule as a speaker, screenwriter, and editor.
So, don’t waste your time complaining about how George did it and don’t bother searching for a replacement show. Write your own Game of Thrones and do the way you think it should have been done. Writing fan fiction is a great, time-honored way to start your writing career.
- You have the right to take an hour in the morning and the evening to use for your own creative outlet. Get up an hour early and write until the time you would normally get up. That will be the quietest time you will have all day. Give up that 9:00 p.m. TV show and write for one more hour. There are your 2 precious hours.
If you use those two separate hours for your stream-of-consciousness writing, you could easily get your 1,667 words written every day, possibly more. I am a slow keyboard jockey, and I can do about 1,100 wonky, misspelled words an hour during NaNoWriMo.
But they ALL count, misspelled or not.
- Write for five minutes here and ten minutes there all day long if that is all you can do. Every word counts toward your finished manuscript.
- I took my lunch to work and wrote during my lunch half-hour whenever possible.
- I also wrote on the bus when I didn’t own a car.
You don’t have to announce you are writing a book if you don’t wish to—I certainly didn’t feel comfortable doing so. If you want to spend your lunch time writing, politely let people know you’re handling personal business and won’t have time to chat.
Some offices will allow you to use your workstation computer for personal business, but most of my places of employment frowned on that. I brought a notebook and pen as I didn’t own a good laptop. By writing down all the thoughts and ideas I had during the day, I had a great start when I finally did get a chance to write. If your work allows, bring your laptop or your iPad/Android. So you don’t get into trouble with the boss, sit in the lunchroom (if you have one).
You can also set aside a block of time on the weekend to write, though that can be difficult, as setting aside an uninfringeable time on a weekend can become a hardship, especially if you have a young family. This is where getting up early for that one quiet hour can really keep your story flowing out of your head and into the keyboard/notebook.
Writers and other artists do have to make sacrifices for their craft.
It’s just how things are. But you don’t have to sacrifice family for it. Sacrifice one hour of sleeping in, and sacrifice something ephemeral and unimportant like one hour of TV.
By writing in short bursts whenever you have the opportunity, you might get your first draft finished, and get that certificate that says you completed 50,000 words in 30 days.
But more importantly than any winners certificate, you will have created something special, something unique that is a piece of your soul, your intellectual child, as it were.
A novel is nothing but an idea and the discipline to sit down and write it from start to finish.
Inspiration and self-discipline—that ability to start and finish a project that began as an idea, a “what if,” is what creative writing is all about.
You can achieve your goal of 50,000 words in 30 days if you give yourself permission to create and make the time to do so.