Tips for Making a Writing Schedule WorkTime is a precious commodity, a truth writers know well. We also know that time is something that often needs to be planned in order to be used effectively. Today, we're happy to have Harlequin Superromance author Beth Andrews visiting the Posse. And she's brought along her fabulous collection of tips to help make the most of your writing time and stick to a writing schedule.
Those who know me know I’m what you might call easy-going. Which really comes in handy during summertime when I’m surrounded by my wonderful husband (he works from home as well) and my three kids (two are teenagers). But being easy-going and taking a laid-back approach didn’t work so well for my writing career. How do I know? Because that’s the approach I took for five years. And during those five years I wrote four books.
That’s right. Four.
Okay, to be honest, I revised three of those books extensively but after writing the third book, I spent close to two years writing partials of stories and submitting revised versions of three of my books -- but I didn’t write an entire story. For two years.
Then, on August 21, 2007, I got The Call! I sold my Golden Heart winning manuscript to Harlequin Superromance (For those who are interested, Not Without Her Family is out now. What? You didn’t think I’d write a blog and not mention my debut release, did you? *g*) After three GH finals and five years of writing and re-writing, I was thrilled to finally sell.
And then came the doubts. The first of which being: Can I sell again?
The second one: If I do sell again, can I write a story, start to finish, in a reasonable amount of time after having not written a complete story in over two years?
I was freaked. This was my dream job, the career that I’ve worked so hard for, so there was no way I was going to allow a few measly (although very real) doubts stop me. In March, I answered the first question when I sold two more books to Superromance. When I sat down to figure out my deadlines, I was terrified. Yes, I had a partial of the first story done but that was only 20% of the finished product. How long would it take me to write the next 200 pages? Did I even have it in me to write another full book? If so, how long would it take me to complete it? My other books, all the same length, took at least six months, but I want to grow my career in category and my goal was to have a book out at least every four to five months.
So, for about the hundredth time since I started writing, I made a Work Schedule. But this time, for the very first time, I actually stuck to it. Maybe it was the signed contract and a firm deadline that pushed me, but whatever it was, I finished that first book in two months. A personal record for me. *g* Best of all, both of my critique partners claim it’s some of my best writing.
It wasn’t always easy. I had a lot of bad habits and personal misconceptions about what I was and wasn’t capable of, but with dedication and determination I was able to make my schedule work. Here are some of the tips I’ve learned:
Be Realistic - This is one of my favorite goal-setting tips, but it works for making your schedule as well. Don’t schedule your writing time for 4 a.m. if there’s no way you can roll out of bed before 7. If you work full or part time, this is especially important. During the school year, my two older kids get home shortly after 3 p.m., so I work to have the bulk of my writing done before that time. Once my kids are home, I’m usually busy with them (even as teens, they want attention - go figure *g*) or taking them to one of their many sports practices, friends’ homes, after-school activities etc.
B.I.C.H.O.K really works! - B.I.C.H.O.K., or Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard, is the best advice I’ve ever heard. I might not always reach my page goal for the day, but if I stay at the computer long enough (and stay off of the Internet and e-mail) chances are I’ll get at least a few good pages.
Know Your Process - Everyone’s writing process is unique to them and as long as your process works for you, I say embrace it! I’m at my computer by 7 every morning, but most mornings I’m not able to jump into writing so I ease into it by checking e-mails and blogs first. When I write, I like to spit out a scene then go back and revise as I go so I have a fairly polished story when I reach The End.
Just Say No - Your work time is precious which means you need to protect it. Saying no isn’t easy but it can be done - and yes, I’ve done it *g*
Delegate - I’m a big believer in delegating although my kids aren’t very big fans of the concept - probably because I delegate so many responsibilities to them. They’re in charge of housework and now that my oldest has his driver’s license, he runs errands for me as well.
Multi-tasking - To be honest, I’ve given up multi-tasking. I was always trying to do four things at once and still not getting anything done. So when I read an article that said multi-tasking doesn’t work, I decided to give it up *g* Now, I do what I call Chunk-tasking. I ‘chunk’ tasks together and work on them one at a time. For instance, Saturday morning is my time to work on Promotion. I make a list during the week of what I need to get done. Then on Saturday morning, I do each item (one at a time) until I’m done. I’ve found this works really well for things such as sending out prizes, writing thank-you notes, updating my Web site and writing blogs ahead of time.
Make The Time - Yep, this is the most important thing I’ve learned. I used to say that I couldn’t ‘find’ the time to write, then I realized that no one ‘finds’ time to write. They make the time. And making the time isn’t easy. It usually means giving up something such as time, money, your favorite TV program, weekly lunch with your girlfriends, etc. For me, I had to give up my easy-going existence. Gone are the days where I wandered into my office when the mood struck me. I no longer get up from my chair to just “See what’s on TV” during the day. No more sitting down during my scheduled writing time to read a magazine or a book. Nowadays I stick to my schedule - and I’m loving every minute of it!
What about you? Do you have a strict writing schedule? Do you believe in multi-tasking? If you had an extra hour in your day, how would you spend it?
Don't forget to pick up Beth's debut release, Not Without Her Family, out this month from Harlequin Superromance. And swing by her Web site at http://bethandrews.net/ to learn more about Beth and her books.