As it is I have a day job and try to find time for my writing work in the evenings and weekends.
Most days I don’t have a chance to write uninterrupted for longer periods of time, and I have noticed that if I wait until I have a whole hour to spend, I won’t get much writing done. (But when I do find a longer period of time to use, I so enjoy those delicious hours when I can simply concentrate on writing)
I wrote my first book (Nephilim Quest 1: Shadowhunter) mostly in fifteen minute spurts. Where ever I could steal fifteen minutes or more. Some say that at least half an hour is necessary to write, but it seems my mind is such that I can write a short while, maybe even a few sentences, and then do something completely different, and return to the story even hours later and write a little more – without losing track where I was in the story. Maybe that is something women have learned to do in their ordinary life. Multitasking, if you will.
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While writing the book I was at the same time writing my final essay for the Egyptology studies at the University of Manchester. That was something I really had to concentrate on and sometimes I felt that my brains were in a knot with all the information in front of me I would need to condence into a logical presentation.
That is the moment when I changed to writing the novel. My poor brains, trying to make a sense of a dozen books and tons of notes about Middle Kingdom fortresses in Nubia, sighed with relief. Really. It was like going to a mini holiday – spending a few minutes writing out of my imagination. After a short free writing spurt like this I found it much easier to return to the academic writing.
Maybe this the reason I wrote the book so fast… It took me two months to write the first draft. Then I spent two months fattenig the story up, if you will, as the first draft is always rather.. erm… skeleton-like. During this second round of writing I had more time in my hands, having finished the essay so I could enjoy longer periods of writing time. (The editing time after this took over a year – I had not set any deadline to it and enjoyed seeing the story come to life as a result of careful editing.)
Writing like this taught me the value of even fifteen minutes of free time. On a coffee break. Before making dinner. While waiting for something (be it a doctor’s appointment or waiting for friends to arrive to dinner – I love to have friends over to eat). Using a notebook, tablet or phone. Just a few sentences. They do add up.
Also I use a dictation app on my computer. It takes a short while to get used to dictating your story – you have to “see” the story in your mind while you speak it, but it certainly makes writing the first draft a lot faster. And I feel it also makes your story flow better right from the start – at least if you have the tendency to return to what you have just written and tweak tweak tweak… (I’m one of those people) You may tweak your story to death if you don’t give it first free rein to run from start to finish first – you may simply get bored with your story when it doesn’t seem to proceed. A little editing is ok, but don’t try to make your text perfect right from the start.
If my memory serves me right I remember reading that we speak five times faster than we write. So if you don’t have much time in your hands, you might try dictating your story. It seems many established authors are beginning to dictate their stories because of the speed.
For full time authors writing time is easier to arrange, but for those of us who have a day job, using every opportunity to write even a little is important. If you are on a deadline, it is important to plan as much as you can on your calendar – how many words do you need to write per day, when should editing start, when the whole story should be ready. Well planned is half done, as the saying goes.
Is it stressful, using your short free moments to write? Well, I don’t find it to be so. After all if writing is a passion, it does not feel like a chore. (And if it does begin to feel like that – take a break. Really. Let your mind have a rest, it does need it once in while.)
So if you have a laptop or tablet, take it with you and write during your child’s hobby lessons. Or carry a notebook with you and scribble a few words down while sitting in a bus. Use a dictation app on your phone and talk while you walk (no one sees that as odd anymore – they just think you are speaking on the phone). Cut down the TV-time if you are serious about your writing. (I think TV is one the biggest time robbers there is).
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If you cannot write but have free time, then go through the plot of your book in your mind. Imagine you are explaining it to a stranger. What your characters are doing and why. What motivates them? Who is the antagonist? What motivates him/her? I just did that this morning while preparing to go to work, and telling the plot of a story in real sentences to myself suddenly solved the end result of the story I am currently writing. (No, not the Nephilim Quest sequel – I still have some planning to do on that one. This is a story I made a very crude plan of at first and am just writing a thousand words a day – keeping my writing skills alive while I prepare for the next part of Nephilim Quest.)
So, be it fifteen minutes, half an hour or a while lucxurious hour – the important thing is to keep on writing.