Writing a book, week 2 – finding time to write

When do you write? Do you write every day? Are you at your best first thing in the morning or late at night? Do you snatch 15 minutes to write in between a busy schedule or are you able to dedicate large chunks of undisturbed time to your writing?

I’m lucky in that I can usually find time to write most weeks. I don’t tend to write every day and I can’t spend hours and hours writing. I usually find my brain tires after a couple of hours of intense work. I work best in the morning and find it harder to get the words out by the evening.

Here are some tips I have found helpful to find the time, and the headspace, to write:

  1. Schedule writing time into your calendar and stick to it. You might want to do this at the start of the week or even at the start of every day. Treat it like an appointment with a friend and only cancel it if you really have no choice in the matter. Ask your family not to disturb your writing time.
  2. Cut back on television and checking your social media accounts. These activities can be used as treats when you have finished your writing for the day. But do your writing first!
  3. Be realistic – it’s better to write 200 words in a session than plan to write 1,000 and not find the time because you’ve set your goal too high.   
  4. If it’s really difficult to find time in the day to write, consider following the principles of the 5AM Club and get up an hour earlier than your household so you can work when everyone else is asleep. It’s tough but I found that I was really productive first thing in the morning. Less so by the afternoon!
  5. Use ‘dead time’ for thinking – when you’re waiting for someone, cooking tea or washing up. Keep a notebook handy for flashes of inspiration.
  6. Reward yourself – use a tick sheet or a reward chart to monitor your progress and give yourself a treat for completing your weekly and monthly goals.
  7. Switch your WiFi off when writing and leave your phone in another room. In Word, you can set the view to focus and your notifications to do not disturb. You may find you work more efficiently with fewer distractions.
  8. Try the Pomodoro Technique – set yourself a timer for say 20 minutes and in that time do nothing but write. You cannot look things up on the internet, check your phone, make a cup of tea or even go to the loo during this time. After 20 minutes you can have five minutes to rest and then set yourself another timer. You will race through your word count in no time.
  9. NaNoWriMo is a great way to motivate yourself to write. Although it happens every November, you can follow its principles at any time. Set yourself an ambitious goal for the month and do your very best to achieve it.
  10. Find a writing buddy or group to share progress with. Cheer each other on with positive comments.

Go easy on yourself – this is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re feeling tired, do something less taxing, like some internet research or some light editing. Or set yourself a tiny target – just 100 words a day maybe – it soon builds up.  

At the end of the second week, the word count for my new book stands at 9,020 words. I am currently aiming for 20,000 by the end of August so I am on schedule. This won’t last!

NaNoWriMo 2021: The final week

I finally finished my NaNoWriMo challenge on 4 December.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is an international challenge to write 50,000 words in November.

Knowing that I would find that difficult to achieve, I set myself a goal of adding 18,000 words to an existing manuscript that will hopefully turn into book four.

22 November – day 25

Goal: 539 words                               Achieved: 564 words                                      Total: 12,625

Intended to get up early to write before work but ignored the alarm and went back to sleep! Managed 564 words quite easily after dinner. A new plot line so very sketchy and will need fleshing out.

23 November – day 26

Goal: 475 words                               Achieved: 414 words                                      Total: 13,039

I went to a café on the way to work this morning and wrote 414 words by hand. I also made a lot of notes about one of my characters (a local MP) and her backstory. I really like this character and although she is no longer a POV character, I think I will want to use her again in another novel further down the line.

24 November – day 27

Goal: 961 words                               Achieved: 1,529 words                                  Total: 14,568

Another virtual write-in with my writing group this afternoon. We meet over Zoom, chat about writing for a bit and then do some focussed writing, checking in every 90 minutes or so to cheer each other on.

1.30pm – 2.30pm

Session one – merrily typing away when I came to a section that was basically a long rant and no longer relevant to the plot. Had to delete about 500 words which put me right back to the beginning again so only managed to add 119 words. ☹

4.15pm – 4.45pm

Session two – Added another 315 words. Definitely taking one step forward and two steps back at the moment and deleting a lot of words as I go along.

7.30pm – 8pm

Session three – lifted another chapter from the first draft, adding another 1,095 words. Needs some tidying up though.

25 November – day 28

Goal: 532 words                               Achieved: 572 words                                      Total:  15,140 words

Day off. A productive day with a chat with my agent this morning and lots of stuff done on the new house but unfortunately not many words written. Eventually I forced myself to write in the evening and managed 572 words – a new chapter towards the end of the book.

26 November – day 29

Goal: 360 words                               Achieved: 819 words                                      Total: 15,959 words

Planned out the chapter by hand at lunchtime then wrote up my notes while cooking dinner. Had to delete some of the words I wrote yesterday but added another 379 words in about half an hour.

After tea I took some more words from my first draft and copied and pasted them into the manuscript, adding another easy 440 words. Happy days! Just over 2,000 words to do now before the end of November.

27 November – day 30

Goal: 541 words                                               Achieved: 0                                        Total: 15,959 words

Horrendous night and day thanks to Storm Arwen which cut off our power. No words written as I tried to sort out the house and heating, etc.

28 November – day 31

Goal: 0 words                                                    Achieved: 0                                        Total: 15,959 words

Family day, no words planned. At this rate, I am not going to hit my target. Another bad day weather-wise and ended up staying with relatives instead of going home so no words written again.

29 November – day 32

Goal: 541 words                                               Achieved: 896 words                      Total: 16,855 words

Moved across the final bit of text from the first draft and by doing so, built up the word count by 896 words. The last half of the book still needs a lot of editing.

30 November – last day of NaNoWriMo!

Goal: 1,145 words                                           Achieved: 0                                        Total: 16,855 words

I don’t think I am going to achieve this goal and hit 18,000 words but I’m going to try!

4 December

Goal: 1,145 words                                           Achieved: 1,151 words                  Total: 18,006 words

I finally hit my target on Saturday, 4 December, finishing the challenge with 1,151 words.

The manuscript now stands at 60,006 words. I don’t think I am going to have much chance to work on this again until April, as I will be working on book three.

It definitely worked for me to set a smaller target than the suggested 50,000 words and I enjoyed tracking my progress on the website.

Did you do NaNoWriMo this year? How did you get on?

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

NaNoWriMo 2021: week three

A fairly productive third week of NaNoWriMo and my enthusiasm for the book is still going strong.

I’m definitely finding it easier to write in the morning and I am also loving the virtual write-ins with my writing group.

4,358 words written this week bringing the total up to 12,061 words.

12 November – day 15

Perfect Crime Festival in Liverpool – no words

13 November – day 16

Perfect Crime Festival in Liverpool – no words

14 November – day 17

Goal: 400 words                               Achieved: 498                                                    Total: 7,703

Scheduled time: 8.45pm

Struggled to get back into the swing of things at first and spent a lot of time moving sections around, but eventually the words started flowing. There are some elements of the police procedure that I’m not confident about and will need to research further.

15 November – day 18

Goal: 500 words                               Achieved: 711                                                    Total: 8,414

Scheduled start time: 6.30am

Woke up early and got straight onto my laptop. Managed over 700 words in about 20 minutes. I find early mornings are great for writing. I wrote an emotional scene with plenty of dialogue. I may need to add a bit of description and conversation breaks later.

16 November – day 19

Goal: 600 words                               Achieved:  1,056                                               Total: 9,470

Scheduled start time: 5pm

A slow start as I was working on chapters that were more or less done, but then I incorporated another plot point from the first draft and the words started flowing. I have now passed the half-way point of NaNoWriMo!

17 November – day 20

Goal: 530 words                               Achieved: 446 words                                      Total: 9,916

Scheduled start time: 1.30pm

Another write-in on Zoom with my writing group today. I won’t be able to attend the full session as I have got lots of house stuff to do this afternoon but hoping to get an hour done and bring my total word count for this book up to 52,000.

Constant disruption during the hour I set aside for writing, which was very frustrating! Created a new scene in Blackpool and fiddled about with some of the later chapters but no significant progression today. Disappointing.

18 November – day 21

Goal: 800 words                               Achieved: 2,145 words                                  Total: 12,061

A day off today, so I plan to do four stints of writing throughout the day, aiming for 200 words per session.

Session 1, 9am

Started by adding another scene from the first draft so a very easy 1,610 words in about 25 minutes. According to my NaNo stats, this puts me back on target to complete 18,000 words by the end of the month. Hurrah! I could take the rest of the day off but I’m not going to!

Session 2, 10.30am

Another 535 words added. Really excited about this book now! 54,061 words written

Session 3, 2pm

Ground to a halt! No more words done this afternoon. Sadly, real life took over.

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Nanowrimo 2021: Week two

Week two of NaNoWriMo and I have written another 3,835 words.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is an international challenge to write 50,000 words in a month. I am being a ‘NaNo rebel’ and aiming to add 18,000 words to an existing manuscript, which will hopefully be book four.

I gave myself two days off this week to attend the Perfect Crime Festival in Liverpool. I came back full of ideas and inspiration, and it was great to spend time with other writers and readers. I now have a huge ‘to be read’ list!

Another thing I did this week was a virtual write-in with a group of writers I met on the Jericho Writers’ self-edit course. We met over Zoom to write, and it proved very productive.

I’m a little behind on my goal, but confident I will catch up.

WEEK TWO

5 November 2021 – day 8

Goal: 530 words                               Achieved: 0                                                        Total: 3370 words

No words done today, really tired and very busy with the house move.

6 November 2021 – day 9

Goal: 530 words                               Achieved: 998 words                                      Total: 4,368 words

Scheduled start time: 8pm

Started writing at 7pm. Lifted a chapter from the first draft and copied and pasted it into the manuscript so an easy 998 words tonight, leaving me a bit of time to plan a new chapter to work on tomorrow.

7 November 2021 – day 10

Goal: 632 words                               Achieved: 637 words                                      Total: 5,005 words

Scheduled start time: 8pm

I was planning to write later on this evening but managed to get some writing done waiting for tea to cook. The words were flowing as I started writing a new chapter. Managed 637 words in about 45 minutes. Will continue this chapter tomorrow.

8 November 2021 – day 11

Goal: 500 words                               Achieved: 823 words                                      Total: 5,828 words

Scheduled start time: 6.30am

Woke up early to write before work and managed 823 words, continuing the new chapter I started yesterday. I’m really pleased with it although I need to do some research so had to add a few notes to myself in the text. I use square brackets and capitals e.g. [FIND OUT WHERE THIS IS] when I need to do some research but don’t want to stop writing. I find early mornings good for writing. After a cup of tea, my brain feels quite active.

9 November 2021 – day 12

Goal: 0 words                                    Achieved: 0                                                        Total: 5,828 words

Scheduled start time: 8.15am

Busy day today so decided not to set myself a goal. Any words written will be a bonus.

10 November – day 13

Goal: 972 words                               Achieved: 1,377 words                                  Total: 7,205

Scheduled start time: 1pm

Today I am doing something I have never done before, a virtual write-in with a group of writers I met on a self-editing course. We are going to be writing our novels over Zoom, keeping each other going when the words stop flowing. I have high expectations of achieving nearly 1,000 words with this type of focussed writing.

It was brilliant! Despite a few interruptions I managed to add 1,377 words to my manuscript which was way more than I was expecting. I enjoyed the companionship of writing alongside others and the chats in between focussed writing sessions. I would definitely do this again.

11 November – day 14

Goal: 0 words                                    Achieved : 0                                                       Total: 7,205

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

nanowrimo 2021: week one

For those of you not familiar with it, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and is a writing challenge every November to write 50,000 words in a month.

It’s a great opportunity to meet other writers, get motivated and push up your word count. You can adapt the challenge to your own circumstances.

Find out more at www.nanowrimo.org

The last time I did the challenge was in 2018 and I ended up abandoning the novel. This year, I am going to be a NaNo rebel and not stick to the rules. I am aiming to write an additional 18,000 words of an existing draft (book four) by the end of the month.

29 October 2021 – day 1

Goal: 900 words                                               Achieved: 907 words                      Total: 907 words

Scheduled start time: 9.30am

I am moving house on Monday – the first day of November – so decided to start the challenge two days early.

Started writing about 9am by reading through my first draft. Quite early, I spotted changes that could be made so worked on the first six chapters, adding 907 words to my word count and splitting a few chapters to make the story develop a bit more slowly. I really enjoyed being back with these characters.

Finished about lunchtime. The NaNoWriMo website is not allowing me to register my wordcount which is disappointing – will try again tomorrow. The plan is to do the same tomorrow, working through the chapters and adding story and character as I go.

30 October 2021 – day 2

Goal: 900 words                                               Achieved:  629 words                    Total: 1,536 words

Scheduled start time: 9.30am

Woke up early and wrote 629 words between 6.30am and 7.30am. These weren’t new words but a section from the first draft that I edited to fit into the story so really easy. Still can’t update the website which is disappointing.

I am reading ‘The Art of War for Writers’ by James Scott Bell for inspiration while I write. Hoping to do another session this morning and that’s my word count done for the next few days while we move house.

Update: no more new words, real life took over! Managed to update the website this morning.

31 October 2021 – day 3

Moving house – no words

1 November 2021 – day 4

Goal: 0 words                                    Achieved: 618                                                   Total: 2,154

Couldn’t sleep so got up at 4.30am and wrote 618 words. 😊

2 November 2021 – day 5

Goal: 300 words                               Achieved:  302 words                                    Total: 2,456

I didn’t think I would get much writing done today with the house move but forced myself to do 45 minutes in the evening. Not sure I was very inspired and kept moving sections around but managed 302 words.

3 November 2021 – day 6

Goal: 300 words                               Achieved: 351 words                                      Total: 2,807

Scheduled time to start writing: 8.30am

Working today but set off early and wrote in a café. Wrote 351 words by hand in a notebook. Not had chance to type them up yet. Deliberately created some conflict between my two main characters in the form of an argument. Also had a couple of ideas about plot lines and a new suspect, so it was a good session. I enjoyed writing in a café and wrote some pen portraits of the people there.

4 November 2021 – day 7

Goal: 500 words                               Achieved: 563                                                    Total: 3,370

Scheduled time to start writing: 8pm

Really tired from the house move but started writing at 7pm. First, I typed up the words I had written in my notebook yesterday, expanding some of it and adding a bit more to chapters 13 and 14. Achieved another 217 words easily and then started procrastinating and getting distracted.

Spent an hour doing other things (writing related) and then set a timer for 20 minutes and switched off the internet. Managed to write 346 words in about 15 minutes. I find this kind of focussed writing really helps.

TOTAL WORDS, WEEK ONE: 3,370 WORDS

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

The road to publication: hitting ‘the wall’

After a month away from book three to concentrate on editing book two, I returned to it at the start of November raring to go!

I considered using NaNoWriMo to catch up with the time I had missed but decided against it. In case you have never heard of it, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and is a writing challenge to write 50,000 words in November. The idea behind it is to write quickly, not worrying too much about the quality, and then you have something to edit by the end. 50,000 words is not really long enough to be a novel but it’s a very good start.  

Some of the benefits of NaNoWriMo are the companionship of others taking part in the challenge, word sprints where you aim to reach a certain number of words in a short space of time, and writing prompts on social media. I know a lot of people who use NaNoWriMo successfully, but I have only tried it once and it wasn’t for me.

I like to plod along, adding to my word count slowly and steadily. I decided instead to aim to write 1,000 words a day for three days then have the fourth day for planning and research so completing around 5,000 – 6,000 words a week. This was considerably more than I was writing in October.

At first it went well but then my lack of planning meant I ground to a halt. I literally did not know what happened next in the plot. My characters were in a dilemma but then they were kind of stuck there and nothing was happening. I knew the ending, but I didn’t know how I was going to get them there.

I took a few days off, brainstormed a few ideas, and then carried on writing. I asked myself what was the worst thing that could happen to my characters now, and what was the best thing? What were they hoping for? What did they fear? Nothing was off the table. I told myself it would be OK to include an alien invasion if that’s what needed to happen to move the plot along. I came up with a few scenes. I wrote some more words.

And then nothing. I have never really experienced writer’s block, and I’m not sure this even counts, but I just couldn’t find any enthusiasm to write. My story was stupid, no-one would want to read it, why was I bothering? I had hit ‘the wall’.

I took the weekend off. I gave myself permission to give up writing altogether or start something new if I wanted to. I felt miserable and tired. I rested. And then this morning, at 3am (thanks insomnia!) I woke up fuelled with ideas. The words started flowing again. I have a feeling it’s going to be a rocky road ahead but at least that word count is heading in the right direction.

What do you do to keep going if you hit a wall? Any tips?

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash