But I also have a day job (I run a consultancy), have kids to run after and a range of pets and what-nots, and don’t really have a lot of time to fit writing in. Which means, when I do write, I have to make the most of my time.
Now, I’ve been self-employed for years and one thing you have to be able to do to succeed when self-employed is to sit down and work, in my case amid the distractions of a busy house. I apply much the same approach to my writing.
Here, then, is how I churn out whatever I do churn out:
- I work at one project at a time. I might have more than one in the throes of completion (I normally have three, one a baby growing in my mind, one being writen and one being honed) but for the time it takes to get to the next stage, only one will be open on the computer at once (barring deadlines interrupting that flow). For a new book that process will take months (the last one took me about 7 months from first line to reasonably polished second draft), or weeks (an edit normally takes me about 6-8 weeks), or days (a copy-edit review will take me about 3 days).
I find working on that single project allows me to focus, but that moving from it allows me space before I review and find all the areas that are horrific, and the ones that need more.
- I am disciplined. I have a time when I write (mostly between my kids getting home around 4 and tea going on the table around 6). I will, occasionally, miss this, of course – if I’m late home from work, if I manage a free day and cover my writing earlier, if the sun shining tempts me into the garden.
- I use the evenings. I don’t write, but I do promotion and will also sit with a notebook in front of the telly and plot. I don’t work all night, by any means, but most evenings I will do something.
- During writing times I mostly stay on-task. I now know my best writing time and I know I don’t work well in the morning. That’s when I write blogs, do work-that-actually-pays-me, and generally the stuff that doesn’t require as much creative input.
- I don’t have a daily target, per se, but normally try to get to a natural break. For me, most chapters in a first draft are 800-1200 words and grow by about 50% over the next reviews. Trying to get a chapter a day down, or edited, a day works pretty well for me and allows me to feel I’m progressing.
- I don’t angst over what’s on the page. Unless I absolutely can’t move forwards (read for that, I’ve made a terrible plot mistake) I generally do. I don’t go back to the start and fix my commas. I know that’s what the edit is for. Instead, I keep going to the end.
- I write through the this-is-shite hump. For me, it hits at around 20,000 words. I hate the book. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I would rather go and write a humourous short about orc-sex. About anything. I grit my teeth, I put my head down, and keep going until the clouds clear (usually around 30,000 words) and all is well with the world.
- While I write a new thing, I move forwards with the old. Maybe I have a book coming out and I’m promoting it. Maybe I’m seeking a home for something. Maybe I’m researching agents. Perhaps I’m running a promotion. If so, I work at that outside my writing-writing time when I have the odd minute.
- When I do get time, I get my head down and get words on paper. My work is seasonal. Over the summer it’s mostly me and the kids pottering around. I’ll be lazier, for sure, and take more time out. But, come 11am when I’m normally working, I’ll be writing something. It might be future blogs to get me ahead (although I usually publish and be damned and worry about coming up with something else later). It might be the next book, or some shorts to mosey around the market with. It might just be something for fun. But I’ll do something.
- I never, ever, write an idea I don’t love the thought of writing. I’ll be looking at it for years. I’ll be editing the damn thing multiple times. If I didn’t love it and believe in it, all that would be a special kind of hell.
So, there you go. Not an automaton or some kind of crazy workaholic but planning, the same as is applied in any other job. That works for me – but it might not for others. (In fact, I know some of my writing friends are backing slowly away and saying, no thanks. :D And that’s just fine…)