We all have periods when our creative time is nuked. Day jobs, family responsibilities or out-of the-blue crises can make our writing goals streak away into the impossible distance. Even if writing is our chief occupation, there are platforms to build, decisions to mull. And if we self-publish we can add more exacting tasks to the list.
This year I’ve become more aware than ever how scarce my writing time has become. As well as editing work, I’ve got invitations to speak and run courses. I’m thrilled, and happily surprised as I never expected it. I consider myself fantastically lucky to be able to build a career on this art I’ve practised quietly for decades. But if my own novels take a back seat, my soul will shrivel. So this is how I stay on track.
You don’t always need big chunks of writing time. Instead, schedule micro-sessions. Can you set the alarm 20 minutes earlier? Earmark that to spend time with your book’s textfile, planning the next scene, honing the one you’re currently writing, creating your beat sheet if you’re in the revision stage (more about that here). Begin your day with a short stretch of clear, quality book time – and it will travel with you all the rest of the day. I’ve written more about that here.
Develop smart triggers for quick access to your book’s world. If you’ve hung around here for any period of time you’ll know how keen I am on music for this . At the moment, I’m gathering an Undercover Soundtrack for Ever Rest, and it keeps my enthusiasm stoked, reminds me of the book’s world, the characters and their mysteries.
Draw inspiration from everyday life
The more I am immersed in the book, the more I find useful material comes to me – the view out of a window will help me build a scene in a new location, the outfit of a guy on the Tube is how one of my characters will dress.
Baby steps keep your mission clear
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the little glitches that spring up as we write and edit. We can be just as disrupted by new ideas that suggest fresh possibilities. Suddenly our clarity has gone, the book’s getting out of control. The mistake is to try to muddle on with all those new ideas boiling around you. Instead, isolate a question you want to consider, brainstorm it, consider the consequences for one path or another – and when you’re ready, return to the main book. When I bump up against a problem with plot or characters, I scribble it on a scrap of paper and carry it with me so I can work it out without getting confused or derailing the rest of the book.
Remember editing is part of the writing
Some authors regard redrafting as a chore of corrections, a dispiriting process of confronting what we did wrong. And indeed, some authors still don’t realise they can self-edit at all. (I get emails from writers who worry their first draft is turning bad, and want to send it to me for a developmental report.) But revision is 1 – necessary and 2 – an intensively creative opportunity. Most novels get better from multiple visits. The more you edit, the more you understand what your book needs and how to streamline it. More here on this – revision is re-vision.
Find a buddy
I have a writer friend who’s also fiercely defending his writing time, while over-run by a busy career. For a few years now, we’ve been direct messaging on Twitter first thing each morning, a little nudge to say ‘I’m on my book – are you on yours?’ Find a buddy who’s also in danger of drowning, and keep each other accountable.
There’s a lot more on getting your novel finished in Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence.
Anyway, here’s the video from IndieReCon 15, which this year was organised by the Alliance of Independent Authors. The other faces are authors Christine Nolfi and David Penny .
And tell me – how do you stay in touch with your writing when time is scarce?
#1 by tracikenworth on April 19, 2015 - 9:30 pm
#2 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 20, 2015 - 7:19 pm
Thanks, Traci! And thanks for all your energetic tweeting!
#3 by tomburkhalter on April 20, 2015 - 2:10 am
I’m a decadent creature and I love my physical comforts, like hot and cold running water and electricity and all that…but sometimes the “romantic” vision of an unheated garret somewhere in London or Paris holds a certain attraction!
Not that I really want to do that, of course, but it would cut the distractions to a minimum.
#4 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 20, 2015 - 7:21 pm
Ah Tom, I know what you mean. The simplicity of a place with no clutter, no diversions, nothing to drag you away from your focus ….. except your own grasshopper brain of course! Maybe you don’t suffer from this, but I think I’m just as distractable in a calm, ordered space!
#5 by pauladkin on April 20, 2015 - 9:45 am
Reblogged this on pauladkin and commented:
Planning your creativity…
#6 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 20, 2015 - 7:21 pm
#7 by DRMarvello on April 20, 2015 - 4:24 pm
I’m trying Camp NaNoWriMo this month. It has been an excellent way to stay motivated to write. I’ve had fun checking in with my “cabin mates” and trying to stay above the word count goal line. (I joined a cabin with friends from a forum I visit frequently.) The best part about camp is that you can set your own writing goal. You don’t have to try for 50K as you do for the November Nano.
I wish they ran the camp every month, since I have word count goals for every month, but maybe making it perpetual would take some of the fun out of it.
#8 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 20, 2015 - 7:22 pm
Daniel, good to see you as always! And I didn’t know how Camp Nano worked so it’s good that you explained it here.
#9 by Daniel R. Vertrees on April 21, 2015 - 3:15 pm
Reblogged this on Nietzsche's Abyss: The Writing Blog of Daniel R. Vertrees and commented:
I am an admitted fan of Roz Morris. I seem to find some kind of useful information in every post. This entry hit me in that I have days when I feel they are wasted because of things in life. Her suggestions triggered several ideas for mini-sessions on those days I cannot do 4-6 hours for 5000 word goal. Even doing a few minutes of research on a single point or event is progress, and I will not have to do that again when I do have an extended period.
Thanks once again Roz.
If you have not read any of Roz’s Nail Your Novel series, I suggest you choose one and give her a try. Choose the one that hits on your current struggle, dialog, characters, organization. You can find her books on Kindle or print at Amazon.
#10 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on April 21, 2015 - 3:50 pm
Thank you, Daniel xxx