Write Your Book in 2018: 12 Tips for Writers Who Have No Time
The number one complaint of writers and would-be writers (including yours truly) is we don’t have enough time to write. That’s also our #1 justification for why we don’t finish writing projects. Alas, this is a load of hooey.
Some of the most famous and successful writers we know wrote with what we’d call “no” time—around children, in the kitchen, at the end of a day filled with exhausting and often menial jobs, and so on.
A small sample:
- JK Rowling
- Charles Dickens
- Octavia Butler
- Louisa May Alcott
- Stephen King
- Stephenie Meyer
- Douglas Adams
- Elizabeth Gilbert
- Franz Kafka
- Toni Morrison
So how can you turn your writing “no time” into “go time”? In keeping with the holiday season, here are 12 ideas for you to try in 2018.
Writing Strategies for People with No Time
1. Start small.
You don’t need to write your magnum opus in the first three days of the year. You don’t need to write 2,000 words a day. Start small—fragments, journal entries, 500 words, a story sketch, a commitment to write every week.Tip for writers who have no time: Start small—fragments, journal entries, 500 words, or a story sketch. Click To Tweet
2. Begin where the story most interests you.
Writers are time travelers. We can move backwards and forwards through the story at will. You don’t need to start at the beginning and write in sequential order through to the end.
3. Write before you sign into social media or even—gasp!—your email.
This includes your work email. Know you have many pressing messages? That’s great motivation. Also, turn off your phone. Put it in a drawer. I don’t want you looking at it or hearing it during your writing time.Tip for writers who have no time: write BEFORE you check your social media or email. Click To Tweet
4. Name it.
You can always change the title. That’s why writers often call their current project a work in progress (WIP). A name is a great place to start any book. What will you call yours?
5. Batch your tasks.
If your book requires research, interviewing other people, or other preparation that’s not strictly writing, schedule your time so you do the research, interviewing, or prep in one chunk of time, and your writing in a separate chunk of time. Don’t work at three tasks at once.
6. Create an starter outline.
Sketch your starting ideas by WRITING THEM DOWN, and posting them where you can easily see/find them from your writing desk. Work on one nugget at a time.Tip for writers who have no time: create a starter outline and work on one nugget at a time. Click To Tweet
7. Write the end first.
The end informs the beginning. Starting at the end means you have a goal to aim for. I have a writing colleague who prefers to operate this way. Suitable for pantsers and planners alike.
8. Use word count goals and writing sprints.
These are great ways to stay motivated and accountable to yourself. In a word count goal, you write until you hit your minimum number of words. In a sprint, you pre-determine the amount of time (15, 20, 30 minutes) and write as much as you can during this window. Great for travelers.
9. Ask yourself the Four Big Questions.
- What is my book about?
- Who am I talking to?
- Why do they want to read this book?
- Why am I writing this book?
If you’re feeling stuck, and/or you have limited time to produce new material, you can use interstitial time, say between meetings or appointments, to reflect on the four questions every manuscript must answer. Take notes on what you think is missing or you could build on.Write Your Book in 2018: 12 Tips for #Writers Who Have No Time Click To Tweet
10. Don’t write and edit at the same time.
This is a great way to disappear down the rabbit hole. Set aside editing and revision for a different batch of time (see # 5 above). For some of you, turning off the critical voice will be hard, and this exercise is ESPECIALLY important for you.
11. Schedule your writing time—and make it a priority.
Make an appointment with yourself, just as you would with the doctor or a business colleague. Keep it. Block out your writing schedule before you add your other commitments. Choose writing first, and keep that commitment.
12. Say no to social events.
This one can be hard, and you don’t have to say no to everything, but it’s necessary and a tool employed by many famous and successful artists. If you’ve made a writing commitment—it’s in your schedule, you have a word count goal or a sprint date—and going out for a drink with friends will interfere with that commitment, you need to say no to your friends. And you know when the socializing interferes with your writing—don’t lie to me and say you’ve never used this as an easy way to procrastinate and put the blame for not writing on someone else!
The bottom line
We all have more time to write than we think. Plenty of authors before us have done more with less. Waiting for (or attempting to arrange) the perfect writing scenario is an exercise in masterful procrastination. Use these twelve tips in 2018 and you, too, can finish that book you’ve been talking about for the last X years. No excuses.
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