How to keep in touch with your book when your writing routine is disrupted

I’d planned a post about self-editing. But then I thought – really, Roz? This close to the holidays, who cares?

Indeed, it’s more likely that the seasonal ding-dong is turning your routine downside up. If that’s merry and welcome, great.

But some of us (including me) get panicky about losing touch with our work.

This post is for you.

Don’t fight it

Resolve to do smaller sessions on your book. To stave off anxiety about your slower progress:

1 Figure out how much time you can regularly set aside, realistically.

2 Make a schedule.

If you do this, you’re in control. You’re making a plan you can stick to. Goodwill henceforth.

How to think small

Here are ways to think smaller while still making progress.

1 If you use wordcount targets, reduce them, obvs – then surprise yourself when your concentration lets you exceed it.

1.5 Or turn the limited time into a challenge. Use it as a chance to try a new approach – if you’re a slow and careful drafter, see what happens if you write fast, hell for leather, as a deliberate experiment. Sometimes, busting our habits can make us unexpectedly spontaneous and creative. Nobody need see the results if they’re bad. But you might just find you’re soaring.

2 Make a list of small but important tasks. We all have niggly stuff that we postpone. Consistency about character names, the plot timeline, pieces of research to check later. For me it’s place descriptions – I don’t have the mental space for them while I’m in the flow of characters and action. It’s great to have time to sort this out properly and not worry about anything else. Make a list of small tasks you can do in short bursts of time.

Embrace the break – and prepare for a smart restart

Or – accept that you’ll let your book doze for the period. And prepare for a calm and bright restart.

1 Make handover notes. The 2018 you to the 2019 you. What issues were you were working on? What was the next thing you were going to check, revise or fix? What new idea were you going to try?

1.5 Worried that you’ll forget why an idea seemed perfect? Here’s how to write down story ideas and remember why they were brilliant.

2 Annotate the manuscript with comments. I’m doing this with my own manuscript. Where I have an idea for a sequence of dialogue or a nuance, I write a comment at the appropriate point in the Word doc – eg ‘I want this to echo what xxx expressed earlier’, or ‘make sure I haven’t repeated this’.

3 Kick up your heels. Read greedily, anything that tickles your mistletoe. As I wrote in this post recently, my own reading tends to be constricted by my work, like a strict diet. But if I’m not worried about skewing my WIP’s tone and style, I read … anything I like the look of… like a normal booklover. It’s no bad thing to rejoin the normal world once in a while.

Speaking of which, here’s what I’m working on at the moment (my newsletter)

One last thing. The writer in the family often has a seasonal duty at this time of year. Yes, the Christmas letter. If you have to write one of these, here are some tips.

Do you have strategies for juggling holidays and writing? Let me know in the comments!

Wishing you a very merry and refreshing whatnot. See you in 2019 – or earlier if I get the sudden urge to tell you something.

R xxx

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  1. #1 by Michael W. Perry, medical writer on December 11, 2018 - 11:50 am

    One tip: When for some reason I can’t write, I often find I still have the energy and willingness to edit. Writing is more like creating, while editing resembles criticism. When I can’t do one, I find that I can often do the other.

    Another tip: If you’re simply not going to write, don’t feel guilty about it. Treat what you’re doing as a vacation and use that as a rationale to write harder later.

  2. #3 by DRMarvello on December 11, 2018 - 12:38 pm

    Thanks, Roz. These are good tips to incorporate into my normal routine as well as my holiday routine.

  3. #5 by acflory on December 11, 2018 - 1:02 pm

    I particularly like this one – ‘Make a list of small tasks you can do in short bursts of time.’

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Roz. 🙂

  4. #8 by Denise-Renee on December 11, 2018 - 2:35 pm

    Thanks for these tips, Roz! Never mind the holidays, having an interrupted schedule is my daily life! As a ghostwriter, I’m always juggling projects and marketing activities, meetings with prospects and oh yeah, my son’s homework activities so I always feel helter-skelter with my projects or like I’m not maximizing my time when I don’t hit all my goals. I’m going to put a few of your tips into practice, especially the ones of reducing word count expectations.

  5. #10 by Tracey Curzon-Manners on December 11, 2018 - 4:43 pm

    Thanks, Roz. My problem is that journaling has become one endless first draft to the point where I need to get organised before I reach dotage but where to start? The pen has literally taken over. I tried to write a blog post the other day but soon ran screaming back to the safety of the journal. What the…?
    Anyway, have a good one and here’s to a creative and productive 2019.

  6. #12 by The Story Reading Ape on December 11, 2018 - 7:32 pm

  7. #15 by authorleannedyck on December 11, 2018 - 9:59 pm

    I like your hand over notes, Roz. I’ll be using that. Happy Holidays!

  8. #17 by Lindsey Russell on December 11, 2018 - 11:35 pm

    My tip: Read what you have written so far, keep rereading the last scene and thinking of where you intended it to go next. Keep those images/thoughts on repeat in your head if there’s no opportunity to write them into the draft or make a few notes.Bring those thoughts to the front of your mind in bed when you’re ready to nod off – it’s amazing what the subconscious can come up with.

    • #18 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on December 12, 2018 - 7:14 am

      That’s a terrific tip! My brain is always looking for something to do while nodding off (because it doesn’t like nodding off). Thanks, Lindsey!

  9. #19 by sheila on December 12, 2018 - 11:06 am

    Very timely. I don’t know which way’s up at the moment so the tips are really helpful.

  10. #21 by marymichaelschmidt on December 12, 2018 - 1:02 pm

    Reblogged this on When Angels Fly.

  11. #23 by SleepyDragon1320 on December 12, 2018 - 2:37 pm

    Reblogged this on Sleepy Book Dragon and commented:
    As we head into the holidays, have a read of these great tips to help with your writing.

  12. #25 by dgkaye on December 14, 2018 - 12:24 am

    Thanks Roz. Happy holidays. 😉

  13. #28 by patriciaruthsusan on December 16, 2018 - 9:18 am

    Thanks, Roz for this interesting post. 🙂 — Suzanne

  14. #30 by Bryan Fagan on December 18, 2018 - 3:43 pm

    Your post came at a perfect time. I had knee replacement surgery two weeks ago and lets just say things have grinded to a halt. Last week I kicked the major drugs that were clouding my head but now I am faced with physical therapy and some short term limitations.

    Lets just say my writing routine sucks.

    Timing is everything and your post made my day. Huge thanks. I am now off the embrace the break.

  15. #32 by Steve Boseley on January 24, 2019 - 10:42 am

    Reblogged this on Author Steve Boseley – Half a Loaf of Fiction and commented:
    i find myself here all too often…

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