Making Time to Write

by Georgina Makalani

Clock

We want to write but we struggle with finding the time to sit down.

Or we don’t think there is enough time. Quite often I hear, “I can’t find the time.”

Maybe it is a case of making the time rather than trying to find it.

And it is possible to write quite a lot in a small amount of time. It is a matter of being focused and making the most of the time you do have.

 

How much time do you have?

We all have the same number of hours in a day but it is how you use it. Before we start, I am in no way suggesting that you work flat out for 16 hours because it just isn’t possible. In considering the time you have available you also need to consider your energy levels and cycles.

 

Finding free time

Closely look at what you do over a day and determine when you have time to write. It may be more than you realised.

  • What time do you do get up? Or are you a night owl?

I’m an early riser; I love the peace and quiet of the pre-dawn hours that I just can’t find at any other time of the day. And the kids are still in bed, so the only possible interruption is the cat and she is easily worked around.  You may be comfortable with those night time hours, when everyone else has gone to bed. It’s a different kind of quiet but it might be what you need.

  • If you work, what do you do between meetings or during lunch time?

I get an hour for lunch and I do use three a week for the gym, but two of them (and occasionally more) are available for writing.

  • Other times?

When could you squeeze 10 or 15 minutes worth of writing into your day?

Such as sitting in the carpark waiting for school to get out, or when your husband/wife/partner is out with mates; or while the washing is on…

I’m also able to use those free times that pop up, like arriving early for a meeting somewhere. To be able to do this you will need to carry appropriate things with you.

 

Booking time

I find that booking writing time works well for me. I have the first hour of my day booked for writing. And knowing that once I’m awake and made my cup of tea that I sit at my desk and write is somewhat comforting and the routine helps me find the flow quickly.

 

Creating time

Sometimes we can’t find the time and so need to create the time

  • Cutting out non-essential tasks – Are you able to create more writing time by reducing the amount of time spent on other non-essential tasks? Everyone will have a different idea of what non-essential is. For me it’s ironing and washing floors. I do them, but not all the time. Actually they can become a great unblocker if needed. Sometimes you need the space to allow your mind to think over stories, or a problem area and the ironing can be a great way to do that. Same with weeding or mowing the lawn (tasks that I have outsourced completely now)
  • Cut out distractions (tv) – I find at times that I’m sitting watching goodness knows what rubbish on the box when I could be doing other things, like writing, or planning. There are times that the two can be done together (depends how you go with noise); and there will be times that you need that down time, to re-energise. But don’t waste precious time watching rot.
  • Arranging time with partners/family – My daughter knows that if I’m at my desk on a Saturday morning to leave me alone. I will emerge in time to get her ready and take her to ballet class, but that time is mine. Discuss what you need and want for your writing with your family and their support will be invaluable in several ways, one of which may be that your partner will occupy the kids or at least leave you alone to write at agreed times.

 

Making the most of the time you do have

Now that you have all this time that you have discovered or created what are you going to do with it?

I suggest having a plan for your writing, knowing what stage you are at and what you want to achieve either in the coming period (week) or during that writing session. It is also worthwhile having your writing on hand so that any time that crops up you are ready for.

I carry my current chapter on a flash drive and print outs of what I’m editing so I can work on either at any time. I also carry a slim folder that has my to do lists, plans and notes.

How much free time can you find in your day for writing and how are you going to make the most of it? Share your plan in the comments box below.

 

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The Ripples Caused by Editing

By Georgina Makalani

Chapter 8 editing

As I have discussed multiple projects already, it will come as no surprise that I do have several things on the go at once. One of those projects is this website and blog and I’m learning a lot as I go. I am also starting to draft my next novel, very rough and all over the place.

But my first writing priority is my current fantasy novel which is in the editing stage, mostly. Some chapters need more work than I previously thought, and so it is not just editing, but rewriting and reworking some sections.

 

I’m editing for:

Story/Narrative

I am attempting to ensure the story is working (and from some readers some parts need tweaking) making sure that narrative moves the plot along at a reasonable pace and doesn’t get lost along the way. That it is believable and credible and pulls readers in. No strange jumps between events or sudden shifts in character behaviour.

Characters

Characters, as mentioned above, are an important part of the overall narrative. I believe that the best stories are character driven rather than plot driven, yet both aspects interlock and overlap. It is important that characters remain consistent and relatable yet grow emotionally and realistically over the course of the story.

Description

Description is an area I struggle with, always worried that I’m not using enough. There needs to be enough to fully immerse the reader in the setting and story, but not too much to distract from it.

 

Over the last couple of weeks I have:

  • Reworked and rewritten parts of chapters 7 and 8, bringing some events forward in the narrative
  • Introduced earlier foreshadowing of the main event/climax
  • Incorporated better description of the setting and characters to enrich the story
  • Further developed a set of characters to become more engaged in the narrative
  • Read several non-fiction books (or parts of) on description and deep point of view.

 

My aim is to provide a fully engaging reading experience. I love to get lost in books, disappearing into a new world, finding myself somewhere else, with different people, living different lives.

Pure escapism.

I want to provide that experience to my readers. In an attempt to do this I am researching the various techniques for producing engaging writing so that I can develop my own writing.

Funnily enough I do get lost in my own writing. When trying to edit I find myself five pages on and just reading. This may be because I have a connection to the characters and the story; I have lived with them for some time, after all. Whether the words make it to the page or not I can see the story unfolding in my mind. The aim of this edit is to ensure those images running through my head reach the page so that you, the reader, see and feel it too.

The changes I’m making to improve the story are having a ripple effect on the rest of the story. The reworking could kill the current ending, or bring it on too fast. I am hoping that the changes smooth out a wrinkle in the current draft causing a smoother, tighter narrative in the end. Either way, there is still a lot of work to do to bring the story to the level it needs to be. And I’m enjoying the process far more than I thought I would.

What part of the writing process is your favourite?

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Multiple Projects

projects

by Georgina Makalani

There are differing schools of thought as to whether it is a good idea to work on different writing projects at the same time, or focus all of your energy on one project at a time.

For some of us there will be little choice, or we have very different things on the go at once. Such as, a blog/website and our writing. But what about trying to write several books at once?

 

Here are some options for working on multiple projects:

Different types of writing

Blogging verses fiction

We all have different projects on the go, you can’t simply focus on blogging and ignore that novel or vice versa. Most of us have day jobs that involve some forms of writing. Most of my reporting at work is financial, but I am still able to sit down at lunch time and work on my fiction.

 

Writing projects at different stages

Drafting verses Editing/Proofing

I like the idea of trying to get as much out as possible. If I don’t start the next novel until the last one is going out the door it will be years between novels, many years.

 

Serious verses Play

We all have work we want to be taken seriously, or are polishing to a standard for publication. Try something experimental such as a silly short story in a different genre for your writers group or create a poem or song that might fit into your current work. Creating something fun and different takes the pressure off, and may free the mind to refocus on the serious writing.

 

I think working on multiple projects helps in preventing or combating writers block. If you get stuck with one work, you can move to the other to free the mind and keep the writing flow going. This may not work for everyone and I strongly recommend against drafting several stories or novels at the same time. I would also stress not trying to work on too many projects at one time. We don’t want to cause greater pressure on ourselves, it would not help any of the writing you do.

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Plotting verses Pantsing

To outline or not to outline?

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I’m a pantser. I don’t mind that you know it, I’ve tried not to be, fought the urges, scribbled on index cards and drawn mind maps. But it doesn’t work for me. I need to just write, start with an idea and let it flow, let the story and the characters find their own way.

I do realise that lots of people out there think that this is not the best way to write, that a story needs structure and backbone before the words hit the page. But it is an individual thing and all of us write differently.

It is not that I think outlining will kill my creativity. I don’t, really. But once I have an idea for a story I would rather start the words flowing and see where it leads. For some smaller/shorter stories I have outlined first but there was a different method here. I was struggling to find something to write about and so started playing with ideas, mapping out where they could lead to and how the story could end and then started the writing.

I let the words flow and then pull the threads together at a later point, either towards the end of the first draft, or once I have finished the first draft. Producing an outline at this later stage of the writing process means that I already know where the story is headed. Others like to know where they are going before they start.

There are different levels of outlining. Some writers produce an in depth outline, others a rough, dot point style list, and others somewhere in between.

 

Advantages of Outlining

  • Clearly defined path before you start
  • Plot twists and foreshadowing required mapped out
  • Reduced need to rewrite
  • Can take any form you like

Disadvantages of Outlining

  • takes up writing time to map before you start
  • pre-determined path may not be as good as you thought once writing

 

Advantages of Pantsing

  • Narrative forces driving the story forward
  • Discovery as the story unfolds directly from the unconscious
  • Liberating, free form of writing
  • Freedom to follow new ideas as they occur

Disadvantages of Pantsing

      • Rearranging, reworking and rewriting will be required.
      • May write yourself into a corner that you unable to find a way out of

 

I am not stating that one way is right or wrong (or left as the BFG would have it) and there will be times when I try the other side. At the moment pantsing is right for me.

What kind of writer are you, a plotter or a pantser?

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Are you heading in the right direction?

The first month of the year has slipped by already.

‘We tend to wish our lives away, wishing for something better,’ someone said at the water cooler this morning. ‘Nearly another weekend.’

‘I’m not wishing mine away,’ I thought. ‘I’m working toward something better.’

Are you wishing your life away or do you know what you want? Where you want to be?

This year marks some big decisions for me. This has meant some big changes and maybe some hard times (including squashy times as I’m living in my parents’ spare room) but I think the sacrifice is worth it to move closer to what I want.

The first step (actually made late last year) was to think about whether I was on the right track. Was I going where I wanted to go?

The answer: Not quite.

I was losing belief in ever reaching my goal, meandering toward it on a path that was becoming overgrown and hard to navigate.

Thinking about where you want to be involves asking yourself a lot of important questions. Thinking deeply and meaningfully about what is important to you and the way you spend your time, and how that impacts on those around you. (There are times I consider spending my life living in a shack on a beach somewhere scribbling away in the sun, living off the change I earn collecting flotsam – but probably not ideal for my daughter.)

It is important to note here that there is a difference between dreaming and goal setting. But I think dreaming is a great place to start, or maybe that is because I’m a day dreamer. And don’t worry about whether you have the skills for this ideal life, we will discuss that in a later post.

At a talk presented by fantasy writer Lian Tanner, last year, something she said stuck with me: She had met writers she felt were better writers than she. Yet she was published and they were not.

The reason: Lian was determined. Pure tenacity. She wanted to write and so spent the time and energy writing as best she could.

Anything you want to do will require you to work at it. Finding something meaningful will mean life will be far more enjoyable and dedication will be easier.

 

Action: Where do you want to be? What is your ideal life in five or ten years?

Spend some time thinking about…

  • Your values
  • What you enjoy
  • Where you are happy
  • What is important to you
  • Why it is important

Make a list or mind map or diagram and define your destination.

Mine?

I want to write engaging stories that pull readers into another world. And I want to do that full time, spending my days lost in the worlds I’m creating.

When you know the destination, you can map the path to get there…and that is a story for another time.

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5 Ways to Manage Your Energy

Energy management is just as important as time management. There are always 24 hours in the day, but if you don’t have the energy to use them, life can quickly become frustrating.

I recently returned to my full time day job after some time off over the Christmas period and I’m feeling it. I’m simply exhausted. And when I get home I’m too tired to think about my writing, let alone sit down and do it. I find that extremely frustrating because I know where I would rather be spending my energy.

We all have periods when our energy levels are not where we want them to be. We want to write, or blog, or paint but don’t have the energy.

 

Here are 5 tips for easy energy management:

1.     Find your rhythm

Energy ebbs and flows, depending on time of day and the activities you are involved in. It is easier to do things when you have the energy for them. By knowing your energy rhythms you are better able to plan your time.

Take the time to measure or pay attention to your energy levels during the week, or over a month, to look at what affects those levels.

 

2.     Plan time around high energy levels

Once you determine when your high energy levels are, plan to use them for the important tasks. Those things you really want to do. Or need to do to progress your writing or business.

I work best of a morning so I try to focus that morning time on writing and editing.

 

3.     Use low energy times for the simple tasks

When you still have things to do but no real energy for thinking or creating, use the time to do the low energy tasks.

  • Put the washing on,
  • get the ironing done while you catch up on movies or tv,
  • water the garden,
  • scrub the bathroom; or
  • read a book.

These things still can inspire you, particularly other art forms, even watering the garden can inspire at times. But you don’t need energy to do it.

This also ensures that these tasks can’t act as distractions or procrastination tools when energy levels are high. Then all you have to do is write.

 

4.      Increase energy levels

When energy levels are low there are ways to increase those levels. Make sure you take the time when you need it.

Rest is very important.

Are you sitting up watching the shopping channel through bleary eyes? The easiest way to replenish energy levels is ensuring you get the right amount of rest. It is not possible to go full steam 24 hours a day. There are times when you need to slow down and even stop.

Regular exercise and eating properly also helps to keep energy levels up and ensures the fitness to continue doing what you want.

Looking after yourself ensures your energy levels are where they need to be.

 

5.       Don’t beat yourself up

Life is busy enough, don’t add guilt to the mix.

Sometimes there is very little you can do other than ride out the low energy levels. Life can get hectic and different things occurring in your life can affect you differently. We all have family and work and friends and pets and well the list goes on.

Don’t add guilt to this pile of things. Adding extra pressure to yourself may lead to writer’s block or anxiety and stress.

 

When it comes to energy management…

Adding pressure to your self does not increase your ability to get things done. Breath, think about what you do have to do, need to do, want to do. Make a plan and do what you can.

Following through with the simple steps above will help you understand your energy levels and better manage your time in conjunction with energy.

 

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