Writing When Your Time Is Limited by Amy Pennza (Romance Author University)
Wherever they are in their writing career, just about every author wishes they could squeeze in another hour or two of writing time each day.
Unfortunately, busy schedules usually mean time is in short supply. If you balance a day job or parenting tasks (or both) with your writing career, you might go days without touching your work in progress.
So, how do you find time to write when life seems determined to keep you away from your computer? Here are 10 tips for making progress on your writing goals, even when your time is limited.
1. Take Advantage of Your Commute
Do you spend 45 minutes on the subway each day? Or maybe you take the bus to and from work during the winter. Does your office have carpool groups?
Any of these options could be your ticket to grabbing a larger chunk of writing time during the day.
Obviously, not everyone uses public transportation, so this tip won’t work for everybody. However, people who live in urban areas usually have a wide range of city transport options to choose from.
If you live in a suburb and usually drive to work, see if your city offers a park-and-ride service. Many metropolitan areas let commuters park and then take a bus downtown for work. If your commute is 30 minutes each way, that’s an extra hour of writing time.
2. Swap Long Stretches for Short Bursts
Sometimes, you have to grab writing time whenever you can get it. While you might struggle to find a solid hour of quiet time each day, you might be able to sneak in four, 15-minute sessions throughout the course of the day.
This writing productivity method tends to work well for stay-at-home parents. If you have young kids, you probably already break up the day in segments: play time, meal time, nap time, etc.
This can work for your writing, too. If your child takes a nap in the afternoon, bust out your laptop and use that time to write. If your days are filled with karate lessons and soccer games, find a quiet space on the sidelines and jot down some story ideas.
Pro tip: Keep a pair of headphones or earbuds handy if you write on the go. Listen to instrumental music or white noise to eliminate distractions while you write.
To make things easier, try to make your writing process portable. This might mean investing in a laptop, so you can quickly access your work in progress when you know you have at least 15 minutes to spare.
Alternatively, stash a few notebooks and pens in places you can quickly get to them. Throw a pad of paper and pen in your office drawer or your purse. Keep a spiral notebook and pencil in your gym bag or the car. Stuck in gridlock traffic? Instead of listening to the radio, work on a scene in your book. (Just make sure your car is totally stopped before you do this.)
If you’re disciplined and determined, you can turn shorter writing sessions into real progress. Something is always better than nothing.
3. Become an Early Riser
Many authors swear by an early morning writing routine. As with exercise, you’re more likely to accomplish a task if you do it first thing in the morning. If you put it off until later in the day, there’s a good chance you’ll find half a dozen excuses to not do it at all.
As a bonus, waking up before the rest of your household can give you the quiet time you need to really focus, without the distractions of kids, spouses, or pets.
Of course, not everyone enjoys rising with the sun. If you’re a night owl, you might prefer to write later in the evening. Whichever way you do it, snagging some extra time during the bookends of your day can help you increase your word count.
4. Eliminate Leisure Activities
In some cases, writing a book means making sacrifices. If you’re short on free time, you might have to forego some hobbies or habits — at least until you type “the end” in your manuscript.
Look for the “fluff” areas in your daily schedule. Do you enjoy relaxing in front of the television after dinner? You could spend this time writing. Does dinner prep or cleanup command an hour or two of your time each night? Maybe your significant other can take over these chores for a few weeks until you finish your book.
At the same time, it’s also important to make “down time” a priority. If you go straight from your day job to writing, with no breaks in between, you risk getting burned out. While it’s okay to trim the fat in your schedule, make sure you practice the self-care you need to recharge each day.
5. Try Dictation
Who says you have to “write” to tell a story? In the past few years, voice-to-text apps and dictation software have become increasingly popular among authors. Technological advances have made it easy to dictate your story into your smartphone or digital recorder, and dictation programs like Dragon will even create transcripts for you.
While dictation can take some getting used to, many authors say their productivity skyrocketed when they made the switch. Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn says dictation nets her around 5,000 words an hour, whereas she averages just 1,500 with regular typing.
6. Block Distractions
Most people write on a computer, which means the internet is just a couple clicks away. When you’ve stared at the same sentence for a half hour, it can be tempting to take a break and check your email or go on social media.
Before you know it, a “quick break” turns into an hour or three, and you’re out valuable writing time. This is where website blockers can be a big help.
For example, StayFocusd is a Chrome extension that lets you set time limits for browsing the web. Once you’ve used up your allotted time for the day, StayFocusd makes designated sites inaccessible.
7. Get in the Zone
The productivity zone, that is. Many people sit down to write and then…nothing. They either end up staring at a blinking cursor or pecking out a few halting sentences over the course of an hour.
If you struggle to get your creative engine started and the wheels turning, figure out a way to jump start your writing process.
For some people, it’s outlining a scene so they have a clear roadmap of what they’re going to write during any particular session.
For others, setting the right atmosphere is key. We’ve all heard of people who can hammer out a novel in bed at night. Stephenie Meyer wrote Twilight poolside while her children attended swimming lessons.
If this set up works for you, go for it. However, recognize that you might need a different sort of environment to make progress. If you focus best in a quiet room, pack up your laptop and head to the local library. If coffee and background noises satisfy your muse, spend an hour each morning at Starbucks or Panera.
8. Set Small, Achievable Goals
As the only saying goes, writing a novel is a marathon — not a sprint. Instead of thinking of your manuscript as a 60,000-word behemoth, take it 500 words at a time.
To put it another way, you don’t need to write all 60,000 words at once. You just need to write 500 words each day.
And if you can stick with that — just 500 words every day — you’ll finish your book in 120 days. That’s just four months. Kick it up to 1,000 words a day, and you’ll finish in two months.
That’s pretty doable, isn’t it?
9. Create a Designated Writing Space
Many authors do their writing at home. While most of us feel most comfortable in our own private space, the downside is we’re surrounded by distractions like laundry, unmade beds, and dirty bathrooms.
If you write in bed, on the sofa, or at the kitchen table, it can be difficult to ignore the dozens of chores that demand your attention. When you’re stuck in a difficult scene or struggling with dialogue, these chores can also offer a convenient (and time-consuming) excuse to stop writing.
To avoid distractions, create a space where you go to work on your book. Find a quiet corner in your bedroom or the basement and set it up like a home office. If you’re on a tight budget, repurpose an old desk or scour garage sales for furniture you can use as a writing surface. You can also find affordable desks in big box stores like Target and Walmart.
Having a designated writing space helps you treat your writing like a job. When you sit down in your space, your brain knows it’s time to work. The laundry can wait.
10. Try Writing on Your Phone
According to Pew Research, 81 percent of Americans own a smartphone — a number that continues to grow every year.
If you’re like most people, you don’t leave the house without your phone. If so, you’ve got writing opportunities in the palm of your hand.
On-the-go writing apps like Ulysses and Scrivener for iOS let you work on your story from a smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device. Instead of browsing your email in the grocery store checkout line, whip out your writing app and use those extra minutes to work on your book.
Ready to Write?
For most people, time is a precious and limited commodity. While you can’t add more hours to the day, there are plenty of things you can do to make each day more productive.
Also keep in mind that what works for one person might be a disaster for another. Find out what you need to ramp up your word count — then get out there and finish your next book.
What a Wolf Dares - Lux Catena Book 2
An alpha's daughter in need of a safe haven
As a werewolf Alpha’s daughter, Sophie Gregory was raised to understand she has two important purposes in life—to be wed and bred. When she fails at the first, she wants nothing to do with the second, even if it means spending the rest of her life alone. After fleeing a disastrous arranged marriage, she seeks shelter with a neighboring pack. There's just one problem. Her new pack is home to the handsome, roguish Remy Arsenault: serial dater and notorious womanizer. Remy makes her laugh…and her heart pound. She’s not looking for commitment, but she might just be up for a fling. That's all Remy is offering, anyway, right?
A werewolf telepath ready to find his mate
Remy has a reputation for being a player, but in truth, he's ready to settle down. Too bad that's the very last thing Sophie is interested in. He will do anything to win the heart of the woman who makes his head spin with lust—including seducing her with the most delicious sex imaginable. Sophie wants a fling. But what if he's ready for so much more? She needs to feel safe, loved, and protected. That's a job description he's more than willing to fill. But when a threat from Sophie's past threatens to keep them apart, he might have to fight for their lives before he can fight for their love.
What a Wolf Dares is book 2 in the Lux Catena werewolf romance series. It can be read as a standalone, happily ever after guaranteed.
More In the Series
Amy Pennza has been a lawyer, a soldier, and a copywriter. She's worn combat boots and high heels in the same 24-hour period--and she definitely prefers flip flops. Actually, she prefers going barefoot while writing steamy romances about strong women and alpha men with hearts of gold. After years in Tornado Alley, she now makes her home in the Great Lakes region with her husband and kids.