It is approximately the most annoying thing in the world to me when people intimate that they’d write a book if only they had the time. Ha, why yes, good sir! I obviously glaringly have the time, what with my 2.5-hour round-trip commute and multiple jobs! And my stay-at-home-mom friends? Totally have the time, because obviously kids always STFU and let you write when you want them to. Oh, I’m sorry, you have a job and a child? Well, that changes everything, because I don’t know any writers who juggle both of those things and put out books, except the ones who do, and by the way, there are a lot.
There’s only one requirement for calling yourself a writer: you have to write. And making the time to do that in a day full of a billion other teen or adult obligations is actually a pretty huge skill in itself, and a massively underrated one. It’s one I’m still constantly working on, to be sure, but here’s what I’ve found works well for me (bearing in mind I’m not what’s known as a “fast drafter”; that’s an entirely different skill set I don’t possess but would love to hear more about in the comments if you are one!), and I’d love to hear what works well for others!
- Always be in a position to be able to write. If you’re not actively engaging in something, that’s probably time you can spend writing. So whether you’re waiting on line at a register or commuting by train or chilling in a waiting room, you should be prepared to jot down whatever line, scene, or idea comes to mind. Two ways to help this along that have made a massive difference for me:
- Carry a notebook and pen(cil). At a panel at Teen Author Festival earlier this year, I think it was Kristen-Paige Medonia who said she has a different notebook for each WIP. Well, given that I’m a fiend for notebooks, I immediately convinced myself this was a fabulous idea, and the truth is, it is. Whether you spy a tiny detail while out walking that inspires something, or think of a song that’s perfect for your ms, or actually get the time to write out an entire scene, having a portable, self-contained set of notes with you at all times is an excellent way to maximize writing and ideas on the go and keep yourself in the headspace of that particular WIP.
- Evernote. I know, I’m a freaking broken record when it comes to my endorsement of this app, but if you saw what mine looks like – random lines and quotes and notes and even “queries” for manuscripts I haven’t written yet – you’d understand. Evernote is great for me for two reasons, one being that my phone is smaller than my notebook, and when I’m particularly skilled, only requires one hand, which is great for crowded subways anywhere else it’s particularly difficult to just start writing by hand, and the other being that if you download Evernote on both your phone and your computer, they automatically sync. That means if I type up an entire scene on your phone on my way home, it’ll be on my computer by the time you sit at your desk. Copy + paste + format = a whole lot easier than retyping the scenes I write by hand.
- Use your head. Since writing in my head is a thing I’ve always done, I don’t really know if it’s the kind of thing you can force if it’s not natural. But man, does it help me. If you have the quiet time to think but not the ability to physically write (e.g. me in cars or buses because I will die of nausea after three seconds), writing in your head is an excellent way to get your thoughts organized so you have more direction when you can physically write.
- Find a mantra that makes you write forward, and stick to it. “Always write forward” was my personal rule when I did NaNoWriMo for the first time in 2011, and it worked like a charm. Not allowing myself to revise as I wrote was huge for actually getting words down on the page. Nowadays, “You can’t edit what you don’t put down” has joined it as my other mantra, but the point is the same – agonizing along the way will only take up the precious writing time you’ve got. Unless you’re going to be stuck with a huge plot hole later, leave yourself a note and keep going.
- Find at least one song that reminds you of your WIP. Since joining YAMisfits, which has a Band Geek Thursday feature that posts our WIP playlists, I’ve started making a playlist for every one of my manuscripts, past and present. And what I’ve found is that deeply associating a song with a manuscript automatically puts me in that WIP’s zone. Right now, I absolutely cannot hear “Sober” by Pink or “Here’s to Us” by Halestorm without desperately wanting to work on my current WIP, LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT, and I can’t get over the difference it makes to have an external factor make me want to jump into writing when I might not have been in the mood five seconds earlier. Even the most prolific of writers isn’t in Writer Mode 24/7, but whatever can jolt you into it is a very good thing.
- Goals and rewards, baby. Goals and rewards. Yes, I’m one of those people who lets myself shower only after I’ve hit 1K for the day, and such things like that. It works for me, and I make no apologies. At least not to anyone who doesn’t have to live with me 😉
- Word Wars, sprints, and NaNoWriMo. At any given moment on the Internet, there is a group of people or at least one fellow writer willing to buddy up with other fellow writers in the name of encouragement and accountability. I’ve spent hours languishing over the same 20 words, only to tweet asking if someone will war with me, and then busting out almost my entire daily goal in the course of an hour. And while NaNoWriMo is certainly not for everyone, it certainly was for me in 2011 – the 50K I wrote that November make up most of that book I’ll be releasing next year. So find what sort of “push” works for you, because I suspect at least one of these things will work for almost anybody. (Not sure where to start? Try 5 am Writers Club if you’re an early bird, the self-explanatory Friday Night Writes, and group blogs The Writer Diaries and YA Buccaneers, which run sprints on a fairly frequent basis.)
So, that’s what gets me going and helps me write multiple manuscripts a year amid the madness of life – what about you?