15 Minutes to Meet Your Writing Goals

Clock

I am often asked how I find the time to write. The question is usually followed by a comment about how they would love to write but they don’t have the time.

For most of us there are a plethora of competing factors for our time: family, partners, day jobs, pets, hobbies, sports and study just to name a few.

Finding time to meet your writing goals can seem like an impossible task.

You have set the goal, you want to write. The only way to reach it is to make the time to take action on it. This was something I learnt the hard way. I was never going to reach my goal of becoming a writer if I did not take the time to sit down and write. For writers write, don’t they?

What if you started with a little writing time? Just 15 minutes a day?

But that isn’t long enough to do anything, I hear you whine.

Not true.

And you may find that once you have established your 15 minutes it can grow into more and more time.

 

Find 15 minutes in your day:

Firstly you need to determine how you spend your time and see if you can find just 15 minutes.

This could be as simple as getting up 15 minutes earlier, or staying up 15 minutes later. While you commute to work on the tram/train/bus, during lunch time, while you wait for the washing machine to finish, or the kids’ footy game to get underway.

Could you negotiate some time? Perhaps while the kids are doing their homework, or your partner takes them to the park. What about when the house is quiet, while your husband is at his yoga class or by simply turning off the TV?

Look at how you are spending your time now and find a 15 minute gap in your day.

 

Book that time for writing:

By making an appointment with yourself you are more likely to follow through. I suggest booking the same time every day for the coming week. Write it into your diary or on the fridge. Somewhere you will see it.

 

Plan:

You have planned the time, now plan what you will write in that time. Having a plan makes it easier to start and means that you will better utilise your writing time.

It does not have to be detailed, a line or sentence is a great place to start. It could be a note in your diary next to your writing time, or a couple of dot points on a scrap page or notebook.

 

Create a space to spend your booked writing time in:

Find somewhere comfortable and distraction free for your writing. Surround yourself with inspiration and all you need to write. If you write in a café or at the library then ensure you have all you need with you (book and pen and notes, or laptop or the like).

 

Do it.

On day one at your booked 15 minutes take your plan and sit down and write for the full 15 minutes. It does not have to be perfect. It does not even have to be good. When you reach the end or your writing time, take thirty seconds to make a note about what you would like to write in your 15 minutes tomorrow. Next day you are ready to go.

 

Go out there and try it.

Give it a go every day for a week.

Then review. Think about what you did and how it worked for you.

It wasn’t so hard, was it?

If it didn’t work so well, why not? Did you need a better plan, did you just stress that it wasn’t long enough? Do you need to find a different place to write?

Make your appointment times for the next week – would you make the same time, try another or do you think you could do a little longer.

Experiment to find what works best for you.

I am a strong believer in tracking the time spent writing, the time of day, where etc to help you work out the best writing for you (which I picked up from 2000-10000).

I started by writing when I could. Now I block out periods of my day for writing (around everything else). I have targets but I find I am meeting them quicker than I use to and so I upped the target. Push yourself a little because you might be surprised by just how much you can achieve.

Everyone is different. Progress is better than perfection.

Start with 15 minutes and find out just how much that progresses your writing goals.

Is fear stopping you from writing?

800px-Blank_page_intentionally_end_of_bookWe are setting goals we want to achieve, things we want to do, that lead to a place we want to be.

Aren’t we?

I struggled in the past to take action on my goals, I was ensuring my goals were reasonable and achievable and setting deadlines. But the deadlines came and went and I wasn’t any closer to achieving the goal.

The problem was that I wasn’t taking the appropriate action.

I knew what I had to do but I wasn’t doing it.

I started researching how to take action. Looking for tips on how to do the doing part of a goal. Everything pointed towards writing it down and away you go…but I wasn’t.

So what does stop us sitting down and typing out the 500 words a day, or the 20 minute run to build up to the marathon. There were times I struggled to sit at the desk let alone reach my daily word limit.

One reason we may not be taking action is fear. Whether that is a fear of not doing well, or not being able to do it at all, or what would change if we did do it. I watch authors being interviewed and I can think of nothing more frightening (just as one example).

Understanding why we are not taking action is the first step to taking it.

There are times that I still struggle (such as over the last week). The main reason my writing stalled was a fear of not knowing what part of my draft I should work on next, or what needed to come next. I know from experience that once I sit down and start typing out a sentence or two then a scene will develop on the page. It might not be any good, it might be axed in the next draft without a thought but it will progress my writing.

But I worked myself into a state about not knowing that I don’t even have a sentence to start with and so I’m not sitting down at all. This slows down everything including my other writing because if I’m not drafting then I shouldn’t be working on other things (crazy but the brain can be very disruptive at times). I also know that working on other projects can help give a jolt to a current draft.

The idea is to know why I want to do this and what it would mean if I don’t.

 

So to take action I have to:

Book a time and sit down. This is usually 5am (every morning) but as I struggle this hasn’t worked so well. On the weekend I spent some time with a writing buddy. Sitting together meant I had to at least sit at the laptop and try something.

Plan. But this is where I was stuck, I didn’t know where to go next. I usually have an idea or sentence at least. Forcing myself to the computer I thought I might have to force my protagonist into some form of action and see where it went. So I put her on a horse (and she was nervous) and sent her out into uncertainty and a whole new wonder opened up before us.

Have a back up. If I still can’t get beyond that one sentence, start on something else, plan or outline a blog post, edit that short story for writers group, go over the section on taking action for my action ebook…

 

Think about what will happen if I don’t at least try. – stuck in my day job until I am 80; my story will remain unfinished; I will be grumpy for the rest of my life because I get grumpy when I’m not writing and so my family will eventually run away…

There are lots of reasons that stop writers from writing but fear is a big one.

Fear can be debilitating. It can stop your writing dead, sometimes before you even start.

Work out what you fear. Even writing out what does scare you might help to move beyond it.

If fear is what is slowing you down (or stopping you altogether) face the fear and get on with the writing. It is ok to be crap. It is ok to produce a poor first draft. You can face it later for editing. Have a back-up plan to keep the writing muscles working because not writing makes it harder to get writing again.

Find what you fear first and then find a way to beat it. For what could be worse than not writing?

Over the coming weeks I will be talking about other reasons we don’t take action and this will be expanded in my upcoming ebook.

What fear prevents you taking action and what have you tried to beat it?

 

Image by Brian0918 via Wikimedia Commons

Making time to read

494px-Lavery_Maiss_Auras

This year I want to read more. Reading is important for any writer and I love to read and I have a huge stack (ok several stacks) of books about my room. Just when I think I am making a dent in these piles I see something or interest, or buy another book or some kind soul lends me a book or two (or six in the case of one good friend recently).

I use to read every day but this habit slipped over the last little while now that I’m living with the parents.

And then there is the non-fiction reading – articles and blogs and books. I have a kindle app full of them, partly read. I get a swathe of articles every day in my inbox. And it can start to impact on my routine. I can happily read away but I still have other things to do, writing amongst them.

So I set time.

Putting reading on my to do list ensures it happens.

I take at least 15 minutes every night to read fiction before I sleep. More time when I have it.

Sunday mornings for all the blog articles I’m really interested in. Some I skim through and move on, others I mark and then I can take my time and fully enjoy them. I will sometimes use my lunch time for reading, but also use that time for the gym and writing, so it is usually booked up with other things, but occasionally reading is a nice break.

I discussed setting research time last week because I can easily get lost in a book. Reading beyond what you expect or planned is useful (as M commented last week). Reading an article about a female footballer (American college football) last week (and yes that was way off any track) led to an idea about my protagonist that could have been a problem that I hadn’t considered.

If you are writing around a day job (as so many of us are) the time to write, read and research is limited and I think it is essential to book time for these different parts of the writing process.

It is important to set time to (a) make sure it gets done and (b) make sure it doesn’t overtake other things on the list.

 

Image: Miss Auras by John Lavery via Wikimedia Commons.

5 Tips to Make Research Easy

1392922318379I have been researching and drafting my ebook on Taking Action (due out around Easter) over the last week. This is more of a reworking really as I have most of it drafted. Research is a very important part of that of that reworking process.

I seem to have been drafting fiction for so long that it seems like ages since I have seriously researched for any writing project. Knowing where to start with research can be a little overwhelming but research is important for all forms of writing.

 

1 – Start with a plan

It is easy for research to get away from you.

Starting with a research plan will focus the research process and ensure nothing is missed. This plan can change as the drafting occurs or even once you start researching.

Having a plan will ensure the right areas are researched, those areas you need to research, and will prevent you getting lost in the topic.

For example – for my current medieval style fantasy trilogy (a mouthful) I knew I would need to look at the way of life, castle and town layouts, types of services/trades that would have been in the grounds and many more. I also knew that I would need to look more closely at swordplay and warfare/battle strategy. I only did a little research in these areas before I started writing.

I note the areas I need to focus on while I draft to ensure I research appropriately or I could still be sitting in the library reading various books about the many aspects of medieval living, many of which I wouldn’t need.

 

2 – Set research time

Once you have a plan do the research.

Setting limits ensures no time wasted and as you have a plan you know exactly what you are looking for. This will also ensure that you make the time for the research you need to do. Different projects are going to need different amounts of research time.

As I said above, some may be done before you start to write, others as you write, or, as I prefer, between drafts. Do what works best for your writing process.

 

3 – Take notes/references

Make a note of where the information comes from.

This is important for non-fiction as you will need to reference it, or you may want to point your readers to the document.

It is also important for fiction writing as you may want to go back to some part of your research to read more on a topic or see where it came from in the first place. Without detailed notes of where you read something you won’t be able to do that.

Keep your research for one project together in a file or notebook. I tended to scribble bits all over the place and then have to keep track of the pieces. But if you have a notebook for each project (as I do now) then that can act as a writing journal as well as a place to keep track of your research.

 

4 – Reference your research appropriately

Do not copy from another author.

Ensure that direct quotes are accurate and appropriately attributed, as well as concepts and ideas from your reading.

This is important with non-fiction works, such as articles, books and even blogging. If you use someone else’s words you must attribute them to that author.

 

5 – Enjoy the process

If you are not enjoying the reading then your readers won’t either. And if you are not fully focused on what you are reading there is a risk you may misinterpret or misread something.

 

These tips are aimed at both fiction and non-fiction writers. You can’t know about everything you write about and some level of research will be needed. Even if it is for a name and its meaning to ensure you are not misrepresenting a character or the like. I had the recent issue when I read a little of book one to my writing group and the name I had made up for my twin gods turned out to be a Maori word for something else. Even if you think you have made it up it might not be…

Point #2 is the most important one for me, as it is the one I find most difficult. Once I start reading about something I’m enjoying it is very difficult to put the book down and get back to the writing. If I read on I may find other interesting facts that may influence my writing/story but then I might not. Only research what you need to. It will take time but it will be worthwhile.

 

Think about what you need to research for your current work and set a date for the library.