Time. There is always something to do and never enough moments during the day to actually get some writing done. I’ve been struggling with exactly that. There’s not going to be more time in a day and my schedule won’t change. However, there are different ways in which I can up my word count without needing more hours.
It’s been on my mind for a while now: how can I use my writing time efficiently? How do I make the most of my time? I’ve been asking for advice from fellow writers and have been thinking about it myself. It led me to a list of ways that help me write a lot in a short amount of time.
1. Writing Sprints
Make use of writing sprints. This tip was most definitely inspired by NaNoWriMo. In order to write 50,000 words a month, you have to find ways to get a good number of words on paper. One of these ways is making use of writing sprints. This literally means, giving yourself a limited amount of time – fifteen minutes for example – to write as much as you can.
If you do have a bit more time on your hands, you can use an hour glass. Why? Because you won’t notice you’re writing a lot longer than you set out to do. An alarm clock will start blaring once time’s up. An hour glass won’t. I added an additional twenty minutes once, because I didn’t notice my hour glass had finished (yay, another 500 words).
2. Don’t Look Back
Once you get to writing, do not look back at what you’ve written. Editing is an entirely separate process. I personally like to read a little bit of what I’ve written the day or week before, just to get back into my story. I read about two to three paragraphs, correct whatever I feel should be corrected and then get going. I write until I’ve reached my word count and only look back once I’ve finished writing those words.
It’s difficult, I know. I don’t always manage either. You want the darn thing to be perfect straight away, but the thing it, it just can’t be. Take a look at Patrick Rothfuss and George R.R. Martin, who take years and years to finish their projects. They don’t have a perfect first draft either. That’s why they need a good number of years. Aim for near-perfection for your finished product, but don’t aim for a near-perfect draft.
3. Designate a time and space for writing
I write in the train. Every morning when I go to work and every afternoon when I go home. Those are my fixed writing times. Just the fact that I designated a time and space for my writing has helped me out greatly. Do you only have half an hour a day? Well, that’s another 300 words written that you otherwise wouldn’t have. It doesn’t really matter what your schedule looks like. It is just about designating a time that is just for writing.
Along with assigning a time and space, it’s also important to have the right kind of vibe while you’re writing. I prefer silence and sometimes a bit of classical music. If there’s kids running around or loud music, you might not be able to concentrate. So make sure you communicate with your partner that this is your time to write and you should not be disturbed.
4. Write every day
Writing every day when there’s not a lot of time? Yeah, really. It works. Let me explain. About a year ago I had this huge project lying around: my fantasy novel the Fourth Ruling. I loved the idea and the characters, but it just never came to fruition, because uni life was demanding a lot of my attention. I wrote maybe once a month, which resulted into nothing more than me trying and desperately failing. It was as simple as that I didn’t know my characters and my plot anymore.
I beat myself up. I mean, if anyone should know my story, it should be me, right? It cost me a lot more time to get back into my story than it would’ve to write just a little bit every day.
Ever since, I’ve tried exactly that: write every day. If I don’t manage, I’ll write at least every week. Once you know your characters and know your plot, the writing is so much easier. Dialogue flows of the page, because you know where you’re heading (or you’re discovery writing and you will have a better sense of where things are going). At times I only wrote 100 words a day, but at least those 100 words kept me sucked into my story and enabled me to write faster in a shorter amount of time.
5. Turn Off Your Phone
Do it! You can answer that WhatsApp message later. Twitter can wait. Facebook will still be there an hour later. If you’re a total social media nut, like I am, this can be difficult. More so when there’s WiFi around.
There’s a few tricks though. A rigorous one is to cut yourself off from the internet by literally disconnecting the router. If you’ve got a gamer boyfriend, like I do, that’s not an option. You can also give your phone to your partner or a friend you’re living with and order them to give it back once you’ve written x amount of words.
6. Use Your Non-Writing Time
There are so many moments during the day when you can think of how to continue your story. I’ve developed so many characters and plot points while walking or doing the dishes. I take out my phone and write them down. Having these moments throughout the week will mean you’ve got something new to work with once you get to the actual writing.
Just allow your brain to wander in your world, think actively of new scenes and new ways to introduce themes and characters and you’ll see that the useless hour of biking back home was in fact wildly productive.
Are there any tips you have for fellow writers? Let me know in the comments! I’m always looking for ways to be as productive as I can be.