You’re Going to Write What? – Part 4 – Making Time to Write

scribbling-152216_640This is an ongoing series about BigAl’s first experience writing a book. Join him as he flies by the seat of his pants and figures things out as he goes. For a more complete explanation about the book and this series of posts, you can read the series introduction here.

It’s the end of September and this will be running sometime the first part of October. In this post that ran September 9th, I established what I had done in 2014: both an outline and a start on writing several sections. I’ve since added about 10,000 words. I can spin that into a good story or a bad one.

The bad will be obvious if I confess that the post that was run on September 9 was written on June 1.  Even I have to admit that if I cut myself some slack for the fact that writing this book has to play second (or fifth) fiddle in demands on my time behind my day jobs, the websites I run, and family, an average of 2,500 words a month still sucks.

The positive is that knowing I had to write the next post in the series before the end of September was the pressure I needed to find the time to write. One of the personal reasons I had for doing this series was just that: knowing that if I didn’t continue to make progress the millions … okay hundreds, or at least high tens of you reading this would know and someone (yes, I’m looking at you Linda M) would give me grief. It worked. Despite making no progress for three months, September saw some movement. That’s when all of these words were written. I’m happy with that. I don’t want to get done too fast or I’ll have to find other subjects for my IU posts, so creeping along is okay with me, as long as I’m progressing..

A newbie writes a Book - Fake Cover thumbnail

What I Learned

One of the standard interview questions asked of authors at The IndieView is “Do you have a writing process?” along with a request to describe it. There are multiple ways to interpret the question, so the kinds of answers vary. I think how an author interprets it tells readers something about the author, maybe even more than the actual answer does. One frequent interpretation is to talk about how they find the time to write, often talking about the hours of the day when they write. Many get up early in the morning to get a few hours of writing in before family obligations and a day job. Those lucky enough to write full time seem to lean towards writing in the morning, then as their brains tire in the afternoon they turn to marketing, editing, and other less taxing items on their to-do list.

I’ve always been a night person. My work day is scheduled to start at 7AM and there is no way I’m rolling out of bed any earlier than 6:55. The crack of 7:30 at the latest.

You’re saying, “no problem, write at night,” aren’t you? That turns out to be the answer, but first I fought it. I’ve found that when I’m writing reviews I can seldom get my brain to cooperate more than an hour or two in the late afternoon and early evening with my most productive times being after I eventually roll out of bed late in the morning on weekends. I’d convinced myself this would be the same. But when writing posts for IU, later works out fine. Had I bothered to consider which of these was more like the book I was writing, it would have been obvious the IU posts were the better comparison. Once I realized this, finding time to write was suddenly much easier. If I’m sitting at the computer, caught up on the other tasks I needed to accomplish that day, it’s a simple matter of closing the browser tab with Facebook or at least covering it with the word processing window so I won’t get distracted, and knocking out a few hundred words (sometimes several thousand). There were a few nights when I only had half an hour at the end of the night, started typing, and suddenly realized it was way past bedtime. That’s how those “crack of 7:30” mornings happen.

Most of you figured out a long time ago when to write and what you had to do to get rid of distractions in order to move your work-in-progress along. But this series is especially aimed at the greenhorns like myself. I’m sure many of you went through this same struggle. Help out the other neophytes by telling us what works for you and how you came to figure it out in the comments.

Author: Big Al

Big Al (who insists he only has one name, like Cher, Sting, and Madonna) spends his days writing computer programs that are full of typos, homonym errors, and incorrect verb usage. During his evenings, he writes reviews of indie books for BigAl’s Books and Pals and has recently taken over The IndieView, a website founded by indie author Simon Royle as a resource for indie authors, indie reviewers, and those who read either.

13 thoughts on “You’re Going to Write What? – Part 4 – Making Time to Write”

  1. *cracks whip*

    I had to idea I had so much power! I may have to use this to my advantage… I can be a diabolical angel at times. Mwahahahaha!

  2. Hi, Big Al.

    When I worked at a regular job, I was more of a “write-whenever-you-can” kind of person, which meant mornings, evenings, or my lunch hour. Now, I do much better earlier in the day. I might take time off occasionally, but I write on a regular basis. I don’t push myself to produce a certain number of words. If I have a migraine, I write longhand.

    While I’m in the throes of creation, I’m driven to finish my novel. When the first draft is done, the real work starts. For me, revising is drudgery because I’m a perfectionist and nothing can be “perfect.” If I’m having trouble with a part in my book, I don’t sleep well. I’ve yet to learn the art of relaxing…

    Do I enjoy writing? Yes. But no one said it would be easy, right?

    1. Thanks for the comment, Linda. I suspect most people who write, regardless of their situation, have times when what is next up on their list excites them more than other things. Those times would be easier than the others. Who knows, there may actually be people who look forward to marketing. 🙂

      As for your last statement, I think there is a cliche about the things that are worth doing are not easy. If there isn’t, there should be.

  3. This is an appeal to those who would have given Big Al grief if he had not submitted his post on time, to give him grief about making time for The Book. It is clear from his article that grief of this sort is a good motivator for him. We, the IU reading public, all know that The Book could be an important part of literary history, and we’re keen not to miss out. So please, Grief Ggivers, give him grief, motivate him! 🙂
    And tell him thanks for this interesting post. 🙂

  4. Nice post, Al. I’ll pass on some advice I read in a book on how to write books, oh, more than ten years ago. It might not work for you, but it did for me.

    Get a diary, even create a new Word file and call it “Diary”. Set a daily word count to progress your WIP. Let’s go easy here, say 250 new words of your book per day (about a page, so after a year you’ll have a nice fat book 365 pages long).

    Now you have a choice: every single day you must write 250 words of your WIP. If you don’t, if you get to the end of the day and you haven’t written a word in your WIP, then you open your Diary and you write down everything you did that day which stopped you writing your WIP. You can see where this leads: either you’re going to write the WIP, or you’re going to get so fed up filling the Diary with all the excuses why you didn’t write, that you’ll realise whether or not you’re really serious about writing.

    I used this exercise ten or eleven years ago when I wrote my first 90k-word novel, because I can still remember feeling so daunted at the prospect of doing, creating, something I’d never done before. Since then, writing every day has become a simple habit, like shaving or spending 20 minutes in the evening helping my kids with their schoolwork. It was tough then, because I was heading into the unknown with all the fears and doubts you have when you’re trying to do something you’ve never done before. With the second and subsequent books, I didn’t need this exercise because I’d written a book it before, so I knew I could do it again. But as newbie, with a bit of self-discipline this exercise let me get that first novel written.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks for the comment. I love this idea, Chris. I can see two ways a “missed” day could work out. First, you have a day where other parts of life with a higher priority interfere. You cut yourself some slack and it’s cool. I can’t imagine anyone has too many of these, but they do happen. Second, your accomplishments are nil. The time was frittered away on facebook, etc. Maybe you try justifying it to the diary, but you’re fooling no one. Too many of those days and I’m likely to react the same as an employee, friend, co-worker, kid or anyone else who keeps making sorry a** excuses for not following through. My diary starts tonight. 🙂

  5. This makes writing a chore, Chris James. If the urege within yu isn’t strong enough to get you to your desk and typing out (or scribbling down) the words, are you really sure about this writing business? It shouldn’t be a grind something you have to make yourself do. If you follow that route all you’re going to turn out is laboured, turgid prose, lacking in the zest and enthusiasm of a book that flows naturally.
    If you need that much driving, perhaps you’d do better to take time off writing and do something else for a while, something that grabs you by the enthusiasm, that inspires ideas and involvement, that generates ideas and story lines. Then, if you’re determined to write a book, try again and see if it flows better. If it doesn’t, ask yourself if you really, really want to write this story, or is it just a pipe dream and better left as such. Life’s too short to spend your time grinding at something that isn’t working.

    1. I can see your point, Ian, and I’m sure for some people it works out as you describe. I think it depends on why a person isn’t writing and probably an individual’s personality as well. What works for one won’t always work for another.

      If someone isn’t writing because they really don’t want to, nothing is going to make them do so long term. If they do want to, but don’t guard against distractions (Facebook, responding to blog posts, etc) then nothing is going to work. Once the habit is formed of making the writing a priority over the fun, but largely time wasting activities, perhaps the diary won’t be needed any more.

      At least last night it worked for me, I enjoyed the writing once I actually started doing it, and didn’t feel like I missed out on anything important. We’ll see if it continues that way. 🙂

  6. So what you’re saying, Big Al, is that it all boils down to self discipline and the ability to ignore distractions? I’ll agree with that. The ease with which this is established is a factor resulting of how strong the urge to write is, and how attractive the distractions are. Sounds line a priorities review process is needed to determine the balance point.

    I’m pleased the diary idea worked for you.

    1. That’s it exactly, Ian, plus the actual desire to do the writing. If that isn’t there, i don’t think it will happen. But as a tool to help me with self disipline, the diary idea is helping me a lot. I’ve written at least the minimum words (often more) every day since Chris suggested it and (more important) it is helping me adjust what *feels* like a normal day to me, developing the habit.

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