|Do you find it hard to find the time to write? Do you sometimes wish all your other responsibilities would disappear? Only then could you knuckle down and get that novel finished, the one that’s been sitting in your drawer feeling neglected.
Earlier this year I got my wish when I was made redundant. Now I have all the time in the world to write, apart from when I’m job hunting, obviously.
Things didn’t go well at first. I dicked about, read a lot of books, told myself I was researching. I wasn’t. I was overwhelmed by the time I suddenly had available. I realised how much easier it was to find the time to write when I didn’t have much time. What’s that all about?
Everyone says regular writing practise is good for you. It hones your writing muscles, boosts your confidence and increases productivity. It’s good practise to get in the habit of writing every day – it teaches consistency. You can’t sit about waiting for inspiration or the right mood. Writers write.
So I decided to draw up a schedule.
The first thing you need is a clear goal. What do you want to achieve? In my case, I had finished the first draft of my novel and now needed to rewrite it. Sounds simple, but the first draft was written in the third person, jumping between perspectives when the mood took me. It was a bit of a mess, so I decided to rectify that by converting it into the first person. A huge undertaking, as large chunks of the story now vanished and had to be completely rethought and re-dramatised.
Next you need to set a deadline. This is important. If you leave it open ended you’ll drift and never reach the end of your book. But you must be realistic about what you can achieve. Look at the time you have available and work out how much you can do each day. In my case, I was able to schedule a large chunk of writing every day. While I had been working full time I had only managed between 1000 and 2000 words per day at the weekends. During the week my word count dropped to 500, if I was lucky. With more time available, I decided to set my daily target at 2000 words.
Now divide your total word count by your daily quota to arrive at your deadline. If you’re writing a novel of 80,000 words at the rate of 2000 per day, you’ll finish it in 40 days. Not bad. If you’re aiming for 100,000 words, you’ll finish it in 50 days.
If you stick to your schedule.
If you don’t want to fanny about with counting words, then just imagine someone is waiting for your manuscript, like a publisher or agent, to give you the motivation you need. Or find some novel competitions (check out my list in Writer’s Resources) to enter and work towards their deadlines. Even if you don’t submit, at least you’ll get it done.
To help me stick to my targets I created a spreadsheet. Now this is a little anal, but it really helps. It breaks down the days and gives a running total for my word count. I add my total for the day’s work and it tells me how many words I have left to do, giving me a new daily target to hit. If I’m working well the daily target gradually goes down, as I creep towards my total faster than planned. If I miss a day, or two, or more, the daily quota goes up, meaning I have to work harder the next day to stay on target. It’s a great way of motivating myself to keep at it and I just love watching the numbers stack up.
I’m ahead of schedule right now, despite losing a week at the start of August, so I’m feeling confident I will complete my novel in the next week. My eyes are sore from staring at the screen and my bum is sore from sitting on the seat, but my heart rejoices. I am doing the thing I love. Making up stories about people who don’t exist. It doesn’t get much better than that.