Finding Time to Write

The question I get asked most often is ‘how do you find time to write’?

In this day and age it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by everyday life without the added pressure of writing a book or short story. So just how do you apply the BOSFOK (bum on seat, fingers on keyboard) principle?

The answer is by scheduling the time you have.

Don’t try and fit your writing into your ‘spare time.’ There’s no such thing, especially if you work full time in order to support your family. Study your schedule and designate time when you can concentrate on your writing, but don’t be too ambitious. For example: If you are a morning person try getting up half an hour earlier and using that time to write. Some writers prefer to work of any evening while the rest of the family watch TV, others dedicate weekend afternoons as their time to write. Choose whatever works best for you, and stick to it.

  1. Use a timer when doing research–it’s very easy to become distracted, especially when searching the Internet. A timer will help make your time at the computer more productive.
  2. Limit the amount of time you spend answering and sending emails (unless they are to your editor), and reading on line newspapers and blogs.
  3. Think about what you’re going to write BEFORE you sit down in front of the computer, perhaps while ironing, or mowing the lawn. When you do sit down at your desk, you’ll have the next few pages worked out, plus you will have freed up time in which to write it.
  4. Make use of downtime–those tedious journeys on the bus to work or sitting around waiting for appointments. Carry a notebook and write while you travel or wait. If you spend a lot of time in the car driving from place to place, invest in a voice activated voice recorder.
  5. While you’re watching your children play in the park, work out the next scene or think through a problem. When you sit down to write, the words will generally flow.
  6. If your children have an essay to write use the time they are sat quietly to work on your novel.
  7. Don’t try and write while the TV or radio is playing in the background, it will only distract you.
  8. Instead of taking an hour to eat lunch, use part of the time to write.
  9. Invest in a netbook computer–most are no bigger than a sheet of A4 paper, are lightweight and relatively inexpensive.
  10. Use an answering machine to screen calls during your ‘writing time.’
  11. But most of all, set yourself a writing goal. It could be something as simple as entering one writing contest in the course of a year. And remember; if you write 250 words a day–the equivalent of one page of A4, in a year you will have written 365 pages or approximately 90,000 words–enough for a full length novel. Whatever your goal, stick to it, as it will take the pressure off.

Time management is all about common sense. It’s a matter of understanding your commitments and knowing how you work best, and using that information to achieve your goals.

You’ve come up with an amazing idea for a novel, but what’s next? Part 3.

You’ve written your outline and/or plotted your novel. You’ve named your characters and given them a background, and are itching to put pen to paper, but what about the setting for your novel?

Many seasoned novelists will tell new authors to write about what they know, and its good advice. But most people see reading as a form of escapism from the humdrum of everyday life.

Just as life experiences often given us ideas for novels, places we travel to can often be the source of inspiration when it comes to settings. For example, when I set out to write my first novel, Three Weeks Last Spring, I had recently returned from a holiday in Seattle, Washington. Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands are spectacular. I realised that it wouldn’t take much to upset the ecological balance of the area. An oil spill from a tanker and the wildlife, in particular, the seabirds and mammals, would be facing a catastrophe, equal only to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound in Alaska. That vacation, not only gave me the setting for my novel, but also the idea for the story.

I knew I wanted to set my second novel in Scotland, but I needed an idea for a story, and a setting. Having lived there for twenty years I had travelled the length and breadth of the country, but I also had first hand knowledge of the offshore oil industry. I recalled a visit to the west coast, and the drive along the single-track road to Loch Hourn, a fjord-like sea loch, and decided it would be a wonderful setting for a novel.

But what to write about?

A little further south lies Loch Kishorn, another sea loch, and the site of the now defunct Howard Doris Construction yard. I tried to imagine how the occupants of the three small settlements on the shore, known collectively as Kishorn, must have felt when the Highland Council granted permission for Howard Doris to use the loch as a construction facility for offshore oil platforms.

From that setting, and my knowledge of the offshore industry, the idea for The House on the Shore, evolved.

So you see setting can be used as a plot devise. An isolated Scottish Glen, a bankrupt factitious Laird, desperate to salvage his family fortunes, and an offshore construction company seeking to build a deepwater facility, became the ingredients for a romantic suspense novel. But it’s a novel based on fact.

As a writer you should always be aware of your surroundings – you never know your next vacation or trip to the countryside could be the setting for a novel.

The House on the Shore is due to be released under the Vanilla Heart label next month.