As a busy mother, it is hard for me to find a large chunk of time to sit and dedicate myself to writing. I take advantage of the 20 minutes sitting in the car pool line, the half hour my three year old is watching Dora, etc. to write/revise whatever I can on my WIP.
I don't feel like these snippets of writing time are always productive. What do you do to get your writing quota filled in a hectic day and how do you make it as useful as possible?
I do both. There's a line of thought that says even if you don't appear overly productive in a given short session, just the act of touching base with your writing on a regular (at least daily) basis keeps your subconscious churning and will pay off at a later time.
I know I feel like I'm not getting anything done on a day-to-day level, but I keep plugging along. And then one fine day, whadayaknow, I've finished a large chunk of my story and can move on to the next. It takes longer when you can only write and create a little at a time, but you will get your work finished. And that's always a tremendous feeling and worth celebrating when it happens.
Our "office" is out in the open in our house and right next to the front room and the TV. My stay-at-home husband knows the rules: No TV until I leave for work about 2:15pm. By the time I get home, he's in bed. The joys of working 2nd shift.
Of course, there are minor interruptions during my writing sessions like hubby playing with the dog, or going to get the mail and then giving it to me, or telling me about something he feels I ought to know.
I give him the freedom the watch TV on the weekends and wear ear-muffs when I'm writing then. Sometimes I listen to music through my earbuds to block out the TV.
So, there are always distractions of some sort, and it amazes me when I actually finish something. But I just keep at it, and that's what it takes.
[This message has been edited by Crystal Stevens (edited January 28, 2010).]
I deal with the exact same issues: three kids, husband, dog and second shift work schedule. I bought a laptop for myself at Christmas, though, so now I can go find an unoccupied corner of the house to do my writing. (However, if the kids are at home and awake, they find me in about five minutes flat, so I end up doing most of my writing in short spurts, too.)
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Charity, busy mother is a bit redundant. For me, I often write in my head while waiting for other things. I made several important plot realizations while driving my daughter to play dates and sometimes while waiting in line, I'll come up with just the right wording and rush home to write it down. Sometimes I'll bring a notebook to the park and try to write there. I also have a tendency to write as soon as my daughter falls asleep and then look up and realize its 3am and little girl has school at 9am (which means 8am is the latest I can get up- thoough her letting me sleep until 8am is always a miraculous thing to be thankful for).
I have found, for me, that writing the whole thing in very badly written form and then going back and rewriting each scene works well. First draft, yeah I am leaving and ripping myself out of POV repeatedly, but I am just trying to get plot down, so it isn't that big a deal if it sucks. And then I am taking each tiny bit and revising that (with full knowledge of how the story will end), so only having a few minutes here and there is ok too.
I make use of both; notebooks and recorders. Even if you have brief clusters of time scattered throughout your day, make the best out of your notekeeping, ideas, etc...
Eventually, you are going to have to have some computer time to type up your MS, but I utilize notebook and especially recorder time to "write" random scenes. I have an especially long commute to work and I can tell you that I have 'spoken' dozens of scenes and intro's into my recorder to type later.
I have come to realize that notebook time is a great time and application in which you can do character building, world building and otherwise broaden the elements of your story. I have found this increases the depth of my stories because rather than just plowing down a draft, I spend more time developing areas of my story that I might not have otherwise. This also serves to aid you in recording important ideas as you have them. Once you are in the habit of 'notebooking' you become more adept and thorough with recording your ideas which otherwise might have been lost or forgotten
There is no absolute method so I would encourage you to be diligent with carrying a notebook/recorder and see what works for you. In the long run it will only help even if you aren't sure in exactly which ways. I think I remember Kathleen saying that she wrote an important scene , waiting in line at a movie theatre or box office once. So really the possibilities are vast.
Of late---that's like, say, the last fifteen or twenty years---I generally have written in five-hundred-word or thousand-word chunks. It started at four pages a day (a number brought up by Frederik Pohl), wored down to one page, then switched to word-counting when I switched to word processors and computers.
Part of it is to try to trick myself---if I'm feeling good at the end of five hundred words and want to go on, I'm that much more likely to return to it the next day. Part of it it an attempt to be systematically productive---five hundred words a day is one hundred eighty two thousand five hundred words a year, and the numbers mount up.
(Of course I don't write every day---a bad habit for a would-be writer like myself to get into.)
I generally take my lunch hour every day to write, though of course I miss days for various reasons. This tends to translate to 400 to 1000 word chunks - the latter only on a very good day, and usually it's because I don't realize I'm late getting back to work. I like that this keeps me engaged with my WIP just about every day. It also enforces the modular nature of the book - the chapters are highly re-arrangeable (up to cause-effect relationships), which I think helps each chapter have an arc of its own. I find myself revisiting old chapters a lot because of this, as I often don't have a specific part I desperately want to get to. While my hands are actually busy eating, I typically read a previously written part of the work. Then I spend the remaining time either editing that section or following up on it.
One danger of this style that I've had to accommodate is that it makes it very easy to get small but important details mixed up, as there will be long periods when I go without using one key fact, and then I'll reference it again but mess it up. Good software mitigates this threat, but I have to keep on the lookout for it by hand also. A silver lining to this cloud is that it gives me ample time to debate what those details should be - how old should the kids be if they are acting as they are, etc? How long does she spend in school? How long of a minor military career does she need to have before it's believable that she's been promoted to this high a position? How high is that position anyway? Thus far it's working out for me, so I can't complain.
I often write 100 words or so, play hearts, write another 100 words, play hearts, write another 100 words, etc...until I get to about 1000 words. Before I had kids, I would do those 1000 word sessions three times a day during the summer--1 before breakfast, 1 after breakfast, and 1 after lunch.
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I saw a published author speak at a local library writing program this week, and she mentioned that her writing habit is to set a timer for 45 mins and write just for that time. If she has the ability to, she'll turn on the timer a second time for 45 more minutes, but that's it. She's got at least four or five novels out, so this seems to be working for her. She spends other time during her day editing, but her original fiction time was shockingly short to me.
I think the notebook idea is a great one. I keep a notebook in my purse, where I jot character notes, make observations about people I see, or plot points or whatever is on my mind. I also have a notebook in the bathroom (so many good ideas come in the shower!) and a sticky note pad next to the bed. I have no excuse for not writing something down, basically.
I also think that sometimes there are additional hard to quantify benefits to writing in a notebook. It has a wholly different feel from typing for me. It's slower, so it makes me choose my words more carefully (whereas when typing, I can just type whatever I want because I type fast and my fingers can keep up.) I also like that I can be less linear in a notebook, drawing things in the margin, inserting things by pointing arrows up, etc. It's just a very different feel to me, and sometimes helps recharge my writing batteries. Not sure about you, but as a busy mom, I feel fried sometimes.
its almost as if I write exclusively in small chunks.
I catch a train to work each day, and write on the train. On a good day I can get 500 - 700 words in 35 minutes. A good day results in 1k words, back and forth from work. This depends entirely on if I can get a seat of course, and how much text I must revise before I start writing so it reads like a complete stream... output wise i can average 2-3k draft words per week, if I have plot to follow. Sometimes I even get a chance to review and edit them...
There was a time where i could sit down and do 3 - 4k in a stream but I just don't get the time to myself for that anymore. Maybe if the kids slept in past 5am.
So many great ideas here. Mostly it is comforting to know it isn't just me.
I do keep multiple notebooks around the house and in the van. I find that my best ideas come at night, after the lights are out. Luckily, my hubby is a night owl and it doesn't bother him when I get up and start writing. I love the feel of pen on paper and have noticed that some of my best stuff happens with the notebook.
I do both. I did NaNoWriMo for the first time last year and it taught me the value of using even the smallest snippets of time. I started getting up early and writing before work, like I'm doing now. I also have the luxury of being able to write at work, though I have to do it between customers. Bless the flash drive. Oh, and the voice recorder on my cell phone for when I get an idea in the car. I also just got a dry-erase board to hang outside of my shower. I get ideas at the oddest times.
But mostly I write in the evenings where I can get a chunk of time. I can get more emotionally involved in my scenes that way. There are times, especially when I'm in the middle of a story, that I tell my boyfriend that I want/need to write that evening. He understands.
On my days off I prefer morning writing before the day has had a chance to fetter my brain.
I found a fun little toy online called Write or Die by Dr. Wicked. You can choose a word count goal or a timed goal and you just start typing. I did the timed goal yesterday and if you stop the screen starts flashing red at you (on normal strict mode). It helped me keep typing no matter what. Half of it was trash, but some of it is workable.
It is at writeordie.drwicked.com. I managed 402 words in 15 minutes. You can then cut and paste into your word processing program to keep what you've written. It was easy to use and helped me to focus for those few short minutes.
[This message has been edited by CharityBradford (edited February 10, 2010).]
I can't hen-peck my writing. I try sometimes and it drives me nuts. I need 3 hours a day, even if those hours are late at night, early in the morning, or require unplugging the TV.
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An author (I think it was Robin McKinley, but I could be way off) once said that she spent so much time thinking about her novels that when she sat down to write the words just poured out of her so she didn't spend much time at the computer. I use this method a lot. It works very well for my writing, but not so well for my life--kids get permission to do stuff I would never actually agree to if I was paying attention and items on the stove tend to boil over and burn. I can do it while driving or folding laundry with no problems though--and I spend a lot of time doing both of those things. Melanie
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