Authors, Writers, Publishers, and Book Readers

You may call yourself a writer but when was the last time you sat down and wrote something, besides the grocery list or your name on a check? It's all too easy to come up with excuse after excuse. Are you telling yourself: I'll write when the kids are back in school. I'll write when my job doesn't take up so much time. I'll write when we get the new computer and I don't have to share. Or do you have another excuse?

Different writers have different writing schedules. Some will lock themselves in a room and not take a breath until their novel is finished. Others write for two hours every day from 10:00 AM to Noon, no matter what. And still others will work on a project for long stretches and then take a week or so off. Each of us follows the method that works best for us. Here are a few suggestions to get you going.

Pack up your excuses and decide that if you call yourself a writer then you'll get down to the business of writing. Laptops make it possible to write anywhere at anytime. However, it may be better to establish a regular schedule of where you will write and when. Choose a location that has good lighting, is quiet and doesn't have a lot of distractions.

Choose a time to write. It doesn't have to be every day, although that's probably best for establishing new habits. Set aside at least an hour. You might be thinking "How can I squeeze in an extra hour every day? My schedule is already overloaded." That's just your excuses talking. Don't listen to them. If something is important to you, you will find the time. Get up an hour earlier. Delegate some of your home chores to others. If you live alone, don't do some of those chores until after you've finished writing for the day. Skip watching an hour of TV at night. Take your laptop with you and use your lunch hour to write. Write on the commute to or from work, assuming of course, you're not doing the driving. One hour, 60 minutes, 360 seconds is not such a long time.

Focus on writing during that hour. No responding to emails, participating in chat rooms, bulletin boards or taking part in discussions online. The Internet is a wonderful resource and a terrific time waster. Use the restroom before you start. Take a cold drink with you to your writing desk. Put the phone on answer. Tell the kids and your significant other that you're not to be disturbed. Sit down in front of the computer and don't get up again until the hour has passed.

Start writing. If you have a writing project you're working on that's great, but feel free to pick something else if you're not in the mood to work on it. While you're establishing your new writing schedule what you write about is not as important as the fact that you're writing. Even the bestselling authors write one word at a time.

Consider re-creating a conversation from work, describe the scene outside your window, or how you felt during a special occasion. Write from the perspective of a young child, an old man, or even the family dog. Imagine yourself telling a good friend how to do something, or instructing a class in one of your hobbies.

Some new writers have the problem getting started writing because they expect the first draft to be as polished as the final draft. That's why a first draft is called a rough draft. If that sounds like you, give yourself permission to make mistakes. Don't go back and read what you've written until you completed an entire page, which is about 500 words.

Stick with your writing schedule for at least 3 weeks. It's been shown that it takes about 21 days to make a habit of something, or break an old habit for that matter. If you write for an hour a day for 21 days and you write about 1000 words each hour, you'll have written 21,000 words. Most books are between 50,000 and 100,000 words. In 21 days you'll have completed 20% of full length book manuscript. Now that wasn't so hard, was it? If you stick to a regular writing schedule, you'll be surprised how much progress you can make.

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Comment by scribbler on December 2, 2009 at 7:35pm
I can find a million things to do with my day before I make the time to write. We all can. It's a matter of thinking of writing as as much as a priority as you do breathing. Easy. :)
Comment by Kay Elizabeth on December 27, 2009 at 12:46am
"The Internet is a wonderful resource and a terrific time waster." Never a truer word was spoken! My biggest problem is I get distracted. That's why tools like the dark room that's posted in Writing Resources Group are invaluable. There's nothing to do but write.
Comment by David Lucero on January 6, 2010 at 1:54am
I was 14 years old when I learned I wanted to be a writer, and I've been writing ever since. My first book published came out February 2009, and boy was I excited. Over the years I've accumulated 8 books (7 in manuscript form, 1 published) and I'm bursting to get them published.
My biggest mistake was not coming up with a writing schedule dedicated to writing for a specified time, which is to say when I wrote I blocked everything else out. I learned a long time ago that was self-defeating because writing is a business no matter how you look at it. We all have passions. some have music, others theatre or art, some have sports. Writing is no more or less a passion and unfortunately I allowed my passion to overcome other responsibilities like taking advantage of quality family time. Now that my son is grown up and about to graduate from college I know I will never again have the opportunity to play ball with him in a way only a father can when his son is 8 years old.
Fortunately my son grew up to be a good man and has forgiven me for my not being there because I was too wrapped up in my obsession for writing. We have a great relationship! I do make a point of telling friends who are about to become parents that no matter how busy you are, when you child asks if you will play with them stop what you're doing and play with them or you will regret it for the rest of your life. For the past 10 years I have placed a broken up wooden boat under our Christmas tree as a reminder to me that I should've been there to help my son make that when he asked me to when he was 8 years old.
Now I'm at the stage where I have plenty of time to write, but I agree with this article on Taking Time to Write that we must make a plan to write and stick to it. When I get in front of my laptop I almost every time choose to check my emails first. You'd think I would already know that this takes up 1/2 an hour or more!
I am committing myself to a time to write each week moving forward and will keep you posted. Believe it or not, even though I have the privilege of saying one of my books is published I still lack discipline in writing. I choose to fold the clothes, cut the grass, wash the car, put the dishes away. When you come right down to it, making 1 hour or even 1/2 an hour out of that day could easily be done so long as you stick to a schedule. It's like following a to-do list you use at work.
This should be interesting for me and I'll be sure to keep you posted.
Thanks for this article!
Comment by David Lucero on February 4, 2010 at 2:31am
Here we are going on one month since my last comment on 'Take Time to Write' and I have to say it's actually working. One would have thought that since I am a published author I would already have the ability to schedule myself a day and time to write, but the truth is I allowed myself to slip into getting all the daily routines that need to be done (mowing the lawn, going to the grocery store, walking the dog, finishing to-do lists around the house) that I placed my love for writing on the back-burner all too often.

Since my last comment on this blog I have steadily written for 1 to 2 hours on a specified day, no checking emails or phone messages, and I reached page 170 for my next novel. Sometimes I'm even able to write twice a week as a bonus. The habits you mention have worked well for me, so keep throwing ideas our way. The key for me here was sticking to the day and time I chose to write. Once I got that discipline I was on a roll. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Keep on writing, as Matt would say.



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