People ask me – you’ve got a child, a job, a commute, a house to run. How do you fit it all in?
Well, to start with, all that stuff about scheduling my day, setting aside proper writing time, settling myself into a solid routine? Forget it.
That’s all shiny and fine if you’ve the time and the space. If you’ve got the job, and the family and the multipack of other fun responsibilities, you know it doesn’t work like that. However good your intentions, it’ll get messed up within three days of that nice chart thing that you’ve pinned to your fridge. That’s just how life works.
Master the art of snap-writing.
Specifically – DON’T get into a routine. Don’t fall into a habit. Don’t fall victim to your own behaviour patterns – you can only write with a coffee, with a biscuit, at 4pm, at your desk, with your cat on your lap and your favourite music…
You’ve got twenty minutes. Half and hour between this job and that one. An hour on the train or at home in the quiet (if you’re lucky). It’s all time and it all matters. Use it.
Don’t get hung up on daily wordcount.
Sometimes, I’ve sat down to write my thousand words – and I’ve written a thousand words of filler, just to get the job done. Remember – it isn’t how many words you write, it’s how many words you keep. And, as Mark Charan Newton pointed out, it’s not a race – the numbers are there for your structure and discipline, no-one else’s.
Likewise, if you do get a full day to yourself to write (hallelujah!) use it. Don’t stop at the thousand or whatever it may be, keep going and gain yourself some ground.
Maintain your momentum.
If you stop for a couple of days, you lose your forward motion. In order to snap-write, you have to keep doing it. So, no matter how busy you are, do something every day, even if it’s only reading your current chapter. Keep the conversations alive, keep the characters responsive. That way, when you do get that half an hour, you can make it count.
Always leave yourself an ‘in’.
This one’s stolen straight from Cory Doctorow’s article in Locus – don’t stop at a natural break. That way, when you sit down, you can pick up the thread immediately, because you know exactly where it was going. Simple genius.
Have faith in yourself – your confidence matters.
Gareth Powell wrote a fantastic piece on how much first drafts suck. You’re not writing to win the Clarke (well, not most of us anyway); you’re writing for you, writing what you know, and it’s what you do and love best. Have faith and move forwards. However you feel about editing as you go, you can be decisive and believe in what you’ve written. This is your passion and you have the right to do it in your voice.
Get your backside off Twitter.
However useful it may be, Social Media the thief of time, big time. Research, pictures, publicity are all necessary – but they’re not writing. However you choose to discipline yourself – turn your server off, seal yourself in another room, promise yourself a cookie when your character makes that critical turning-point, it doesn’t matter. When you have that all-important slot, quit faffing and get on with it.
And that skirting board, there, yes that one, you really don’t need to dust it right now.
Okay. Stop reading this and go and write.