by Laura Oles
If you’re trying to write a book while working full time, raising a family, or otherwise managing your own traveling circus, take heart. Most successful authors are juggling multiple demands on their time and attention.
Here are a few tips to help you find the time to write and finish a book project in the shadow of larger demands:
Practice the Pomodoro Method
Francesco Cirillo created the Pomodoro Technique in the 1980s and it has since become one of the most popular time management strategies used today. Here’s how it works: you write in a 25-minute block of time, called a pomodoro, and then you take a five minute break before starting the next pomodoro. After four completed sessions, take a break for 15–20 minutes. To track your progress, mark each pomodoro on your calendar with an X. As you see these marks add up, they 1) help build momentum for your project and 2) show how much work you can accomplish in short blocks of time. If you can do only two, that’s great. Each pomodoro brings you closer to a completed manuscript.
For those times when you can’t sit and write (or edit), consider using the time to brainstorm plot twists and other book issues. Keep a notebook with you at all times (or use the notepad on your phone) to keep a running list of ideas as they come up. What secret does your protagonist harbor from her family? Why did that character lie about where he was going? You’d be amazed at what you can work through while waiting in line at the DMV or the grocery store.
As Agatha Christie once wrote, “The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”
Study your schedule
Pay attention to small pockets of time in your day. You can make thirty minutes go a long way if you’re prepared. We often think a half hour isn’t enough to accomplish much, but you can make solid progress if you sit down and get to it. How many thirty-minute blocks of time do you have in a day? Lunch hour? Commute? Before the kids wake up? All this time adds up like change in your pocket—and pages in your manuscript.
When asked about how long he works on writing comedy, Jerry Seinfeld replied, “It’s not how long that matters, it’s how often.”
Leave a trail
The time to write the seed of the next scene is when you finish the current one. When you end a scene or chapter, leave a note regarding what happens next. If you’re a plotter and have an outline, keep adding and revising it as your project progresses. Outlining ideas for future scenes will help you make the most of your next time block.
Comparisons can kill (your motivation)
This one is the kiss of death, people. It’s so easy to compare your efforts to other writers and feel that you’re coming up short. Comparisons can cripple confidence, which, in turn, can keep you from writing.
Rather than focusing on the fact that another author can produce two (or more) books per year, determine how much time each week you can spend working on your novel. Focus your intention—and attention—inward.
How do you find the time to write? Tell us your secrets on the Career Authors Facebook Page.
Laura Oles is a photo industry journalist who spent twenty years covering tech and trends before turning to crime fiction. Her short stories have appeared in several anthologies, including Murder on Wheels, which won the Silver Falchion Award in 2016. Her debut mystery, Daughters of Bad Men, is a Claymore Award Finalist and an Agatha nominee for Best First Novel. She is also a Writers’ League of Texas Award Finalist. Laura is a member of Austin Mystery Writers, Sisters in Crime and Writers’ League of Texas.
Laura lives on the edge of the Texas Hill Country with her husband, daughter and twin sons.