Writing A Novel: Making Time To Write 

Making Time To Write “I’m Like, Super Busy”

If you’ve been following along, you know I’m in the midst of writing my first novel. (If you’ve missed those previous posts, you can check them out here.) In my last post, I wrote about the process of editing my first draft and doing the prep work for draft two. In that time, I’ve made some progress, but not as much as I would have liked. The main issue? Making time to write. The difference for me at this point is making time vs finding time. Time is always there and I certainly have downtime. I just choose to use it exactly as it’s called – downtime.

The following list of things may seem like excuses, but for me at this point, they’re realities. Being a husband and father, house work, summer garden and yard work, enjoying time with friends and family, full-time employment, vacations, Game of Thrones, and then all the little things. It’s a big list. Dedicating time to my book is a priority that has to fit in there somewhere.

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Deadlines and Staying Focused

Believe it or not, but writing these posts is in of itself, extremely motivating. It’s a reminder to me that I’ve got a lot to do. Additionally, when I’m at my desk, I have a white board hanging to my left with a big long-term to-do list staring at me. It has a few different sections, but the one related to my novel currently includes the following (including the crossed off items and notes):

March 15: Edit draft one COMPLETE

July 15 30: Complete draft two (GOING TO MISS THIS DEADLINE MOST LIKELY)

August 30: Finish draft two grammatical edit

September 30: Submit manuscript for publishing?!

I’m optimistic that I can hit some of these deadlines, but my note about finishing writing draft two is probably unrealistic. I can edit a lot quicker than I can write, so if I’m able to crank out a rewrite in six weeks, I may just be able to hit my August 30th deadline.

The September deadline however is a completely uniformed one, and likely a topic I’ll write about soon. I don’t know the first thing about preparing a formal manuscript for submitting to publishers, let alone with a query letter should be like! Regardless, for me, setting a deadline is important as it does help me to stay on track, or as close to as possible.

OK, I’ve Got 5 Minutes, Now What?

Like many, I do find myself with five minutes of downtime. I’ll be totally honest and admit, that when it does happen, I’m quick to find something that eats up five minutes (hello The Simpsons Tapped Out game on my phone, I’m looking at you). When I find myself thinking in the back of my mind that I should instead work on something for my book, I have an internal argument about how my time should be used. It usually goes like this:

“Go sketch out character timelines!” Positive me said.

“Yeah, I could, but I’ve gotta run in five minutes, I’ll just get started and have to stop in the middle of an idea,” Negative me said.

“Sure, that’s true, but at least then you did five minutes of work,” Positive me said.

“Eh, I’ll just do it later today,” Negative me responds. “I really want to dedicate a larger amount of time to planning, not just five minutes.” Negative me wins. Nothing ends up getting done that day.

Moving Forward and Actually Making Time To Write

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I have made an effort to try and increase my productivity by using more to-do list apps (Trello, Asana), using a Pomodoro timer (Flat Tomato). Trello is how I’ve organized my book. One board is my book. One list is each chapter. Each scene is a card. I’ve color coded cards by existing, new scene to write and more. Asana is my top-level project management app. It’s the actual to-do list.

A Pomodoro timer is my focus buddy. Using it to break up 25 minute segments of manageable time to focus on a task is important. I’ll admit that I can be easily distracted. Working remotely lends itself to constant distraction. Whether it’s a work message on Slack, IM, Email, or Yammer (we communicate in a lot of ways), or remembering to put laundry in, mowing the lawn at lunch, or whatever it is, distraction is always there.

Lastly, I recently joined a Camp NaNoWriMo challenge, focused on writing a personally set goal of words. In my case, it’s going to be focused on the actual draft two rewrite.

Will all of these tools help me stayed focused and crank out my second draft? I sure as hell hope so.

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