The Secrets of Success: Eight Writing Contest Finalists Share How They Make Time To Write
by Martina Boone
One of the biggest problems that aspiring authors face is finding the time to write. When I was starting out, I kept scouring blogs and books and interviews with my favorite authors for the secret to the perfect writing routine. But as I’ve gained new insight working under deadline on my series these past years, I’ve come to realize that the truth in this, as in most things that relate to writing, is that there is no right answer to the perfect routine. There is, though, always inspiration in seeing how other people make it work.
The finalists in our recent Red Light, Green Light WIP contest at AdventuresInYAPublishing.com
show how diverse the processes are for people who are on the cusp of success. Sandra Held, Sarah Glenn Marsh, and I asked some of them to share their thoughts, so read on to see how they squeeze in time for creativity and butt-in-chair.
Interested in test-driving the opening and pitch for your own WIP? The next agent-judged Red Light, Green Light contest opens for entries on 4/7/16.
Eight Finalists Tell Us How They Do It
Joan Albright: I have writing days and off days, depending on my other commitments. On writing days, I start with 60 minutes of 'brainstorming', which is basically aerobics. I try to play music that fits the story, but having a good range of emotions represented in the mix always helps me move forward. On my off days, I'll slip in whatever writing I have the energy for, but I've learned not to push it. I do try to have a second, lighter project in the works for when I get burned out or stuck. That way I never feel like I've wasted a writing day.
Laurine Bruder: My writing routine is thus: write whenever possible. Monday evenings are set aside for write-ins with my friend Ashley Hearn, but there are times when I can't make it, so instead I'll write sporadically during the week. I'm old-school and I like writing my rough draft in a notebook first before I transcribe it into a Word document. For me, a notebook allows me to make mistakes. I can tell that little critic over my shoulder, “It's a notebook, it doesn't have to be perfect” and that silences it long enough to where I can get through the first draft/word vomit. Writing in a notebook is also more flexible. It increases my writing because I can take it anywhere. Nifty idea? Write it down. Perfect dialogue crops up? Get the notebook and get it on paper. Even if it's not for my current manuscript, I find that having a notebook with me at all times helps tremendously in getting down ideas and making progress.
Holly Campbell: My writing routine? Hmm...well, to be honest, I don't really have one. I work full time and have two kids. It's not easy fitting a writing routine into my schedule. But I carry a notebook with me wherever I go, and also write on my phone. This way, I manage to write at least a little bit almost everyday.
Dan Lollis: When I'm drafting something new, I set the timer on my phone and write for 30 minutes a day. I usually write around 500-600 words, but I don't worry if I write less. And I don't worry if I miss a day. Writing is like running to me. It's not important how far or how fast I run -- it's the daily routine that produces results.
Patti Nielson: Since I work four days a week, I don’t have a definitive writing routine. I do try to spend at least an hour a day on my projects whether it be writing, editing, researching, or plotting. I find that writing is a lot like exercising. The first ten minutes are difficult, but if I push through then I get into a rhythm and can go for hours.
Lana Pattinson: Routine? What’s that? ☺ Seriously, it changes day by day. I’m juggling my Marketing consulting & teaching work, volunteering, writing, and social media. Oh, and family life! Being a mommy is round-the-clock. I try to set aside blocks of time (2-3 hours), because it takes a while for my brain to get into writing mode. I lay out goals for the week: write X number of words, or revise X number of pages. Daily goals don’t always work for me, because life. I like to use the Pomodoro method – setting my iPhone for 25 minutes and trying to concentrate on just one thing for that block of time. Taking a 5 minute break, and then back into it. I’m a deadline-driven person, so I use NaNoWriMo (and NaNo camps) as a motivator to get words on a page, and contest deadlines to drive my revisions.
Ellie Sullivan: I usually write at night. After dinner, I'll shut myself in my room and open up my word document. Sometimes I'll write to songs, sometimes I'll set a timer, but I'll always limit myself to a sprint of 5-30 minutes, at the end of which I take a short break, and then start that process again. Sometimes, if I'm really struggling, I like to use the online version of Write or Die to make sure I'm getting words down. I find it easier to focus in bursts like that. Sometimes I try to write during downtime at work, but honestly, I find it hard to focus in public places.
Cassidy Taylor: I have a full-time job and two kids, so I write at night for at least an hour while everyone is sleeping. I power through the first draft in about a month with little to no editing, and then dedicate another couple of months to editing.