Today's post is from womagwriter Lisa Macgregor.
As I sit at the kitchen table with my laptop in front of me (plus tea and biscuits of course) about to start a day of writing, I suddenly find myself wondering about the routines of my fellow womag writers and how you all like to plan your day.
Like many people I enjoy the discipline that having a routine can bring. But when you are a writer at home by yourself, with no company timetable to adhere to or a boss keeping a beady eye on you and threatening to stop your wages, it's hard to remain focussed and know how best to juggle what needs to be done.
For example, I normally spend my days writing short stories for magazines. However this year I have decided I would like to tackle a novel, which feels like a mammoth task, especially as I want to continue with the short stories as well. So I'm wondering how best to divide my time so that I don't get distracted and start jumping between the two tasks and not accomplishing anything.
Are you juggling writing short stories with writing a novel? Or are you juggling a full time / part time job with catching a few hours writing late at night or early morning?
I'd love to hear about your writing routines. Maybe you have some good tips to share? And if anyone knows how best to avoid the biscuit tin and slip some much needed exercise into the day please let me know as I'm developing a bad case of writers bottom!
My unit of writing currency is the scene, for each of which I produce rough storyboards before writing the scene itself.
During NaNoWriMo last year, my approximate routine was to write each scene in twenty minute sprints. During less frantic writing periods, I go slower and write two or three scenes at at time. This applies to both short stories and novels.
It sounds like a lot of planning, but the method does allow for a surprising amount of "pantsing" too.
I use the kitchen timer to break up my day. I set it for one-hour and go write. Or 30 mins and use that timeslot for chores / emails / bitty things. And alternate. Re the biscuits, don't put hem in the trolley in the first place! Not in the house? Cannot end up in the tummy!
@ Captain Black - I like the idea of concentrating on a scene at a time. A short burst where something is completed is much better than four hours staring at the screen wondering what to do next.
@ Anne - The timer idea is interesting. I wonder if that might create a helpful sense of urgency? When we know we have plenty of time, it's very easy to fill it all.
@ Lisa, I write short stories and novels (and sometimes non fiction too). My method is to break each task into small chunks - as small as possible - and list them all. Each day I make sure I complete a few. Some are incredibly small - one thing to look up, do a search to make sure I'm spelling a character name consistently, others are more challenging. That means that even if I'm feeling lazy or short of time, I stand a good chance of doing something.
I hop between projects, working on whatever appeals most at the time. I might spend a week only working on a novel, or just short stories or a mix. My theory is that I'll probably do a better job of whatever I want to write, than if I try to force myself away from one story in order to write another.
Thank you Captain Black, Anne and Patsy for your feedback. It sounds like setting the kitchen timer and writing for shorter periods might be the way forward. At the moment I can spend ages staring out the window or at the blank screen waiting for inspiration and then suddenly realise I haven't moved from my chair in hours. Might use the kitchen timer for some short bursts of exercise too.
As for juggling the novel with short story writing I suppose it makes sense as Patsy says to go with whatever appeals at the time. No point trying to force a short story idea if my mind is buzzing with scenes to write for my novel.
Thanks again. Wishing you lots of success in 2018! x
Thank you Captain Black, Anne and Patsy for your comments. It's great to hear how you spend your writing time. Setting the kitchen timer and writing in shorter bursts sound like very good ideas.
Good advice, Patsy, about working on whatever appeals the most at the time. No point struggling to come up with a short story if my brain is buzzing with ideas for my novel.
Thanks again for responding to my post. I wish you lots of success in 2018. x
I write in bursts! Sometimes the words flow and, when they don't, I meet friends, sit in cafes listening to other people's conversation, and read read read (especially the Womag blog.)
Thanks for your comment Guernsey Girl. I agree it's so important when the words aren't flowing to walk away from the notepad/laptop and get out and about. I've never actually gone to a café by myself and listened in on other people's conversations, but maybe I should. I bet you pick up lots of great story ideas. All the best for 2018 x
I write in bursts too. My lists include some non writing tasks - looking for competitions and markets for example, so if I don't feel like writing, I still do something useful. Plus of course there's always editing.
I have just finished writing a novel and am going back to short stories which I must admit I am finding quite difficult BY that I mean restricting myself to a low word count. However to answer your question I write at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee but leave out the biscuit - I'm good and it's usually a piece of fruit. I also tend to write in short bursts but have difficulty going from one project to another. I'm just one of those people who like to stick to one project at a time although I must confess doing it this way makes my output quite low. Good luck with the novel Lisa.
Thanks for your reply Niddy. Well done for finishing your novel. What a great sense of achievement you must feel. I wish you lots of success and would love to hear how you get on next (if you are planning to try and publish your book?) For someone who is just starting out on the journey you have just finished any advice or handy tips would be greatly appreciated. Good luck x
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