Writing a novel is hard... this is the ever present reality of people who chose to be writers. I have found this out the hard way many times. Through my bumbling and fumbling, I have found a few things that work for me. That get me writing... and keep me writing.
Being organised is one of those words that make you either swoon or groan. I love organizing, the joy of having a place for everything. It makes life easier when everything is where it should be. No hunting for things. And certainly no finding your TV remote in the fridge.
But for someone who loves organizing, who drools over pretty storage boxes and has (more than once) been banned from buying any more desk organizing systems, it was strange that my novel was such a mess.
I don't know about everyone else but I find myself writing on a bunch of different devices. So with my notes and chapters strung across my laptop, my phone and my tablet, I was about to have a meltdown. (Sadly, even with my low level obsession with stationery writing in books never ‘did it’ for me.) I found myself writing things twice, ‘losing’ information and just generally being a grump.
Kicking myself I sat down to figure out a way to streamline my process. They key to my sanity was finding a cloud service that worked for me. Over the years I've tried Box, Dropbox and Evernote. Nothing really felt right. Then… Google Drive strolled into my life, unexpectedly, as a result of my online work.
I fell in love, hard.
Combined with Google Docs and Google Sheets... yass!! Transferring all my files took time. But, it allowed me to find double up, lost pieces and ideas I had forgotten about. Creating all the folders my heart could handle, I finally brought calm to the chaos. Everything was where it should be. I could find the chapters I was working on, all of my inspiration photos had a little nook, my pesky ideas for other novels had a home, and I had a spot to place the chapters that needed editing so I wouldn't make my eyeballs bleed (and waste time) re-reading them. I also could access everything on all of my devices. Even my novel outline on Google Sheets... bliss.
Google Drive may not be your thing, but do invest time and effort into finding something a system that organised your novel.
Find something that works for all of your writing habits, and all of your devices. If you like hand writing and digital, take photos of your writing or print the digital. Either way, find a way to keep it all together. Once it is all neat and adult looking, starting to write will be a dream. Everything you ever need it at your fingertips.
I can hear you shuddering through the screen.... boundaries?!? What are you trying to pull Melissa? I just read a whole thing about organisation... ugh!
Trust me... just keep reading, you might find this more helpful and less rather-stab-my-eye-out-with-a-fork than you think. For my writing process these things really helped.
I really needed this one. Waiting for inspiration to strike, or for some spare time NEVER worked out. Spare time slipped through my fingers, or was twiddled away watching TV, reading a book, or one of the thousand other ways I procrastinate. I am a master of procrastination - - and being able to justify my procrastination. It's an art-form really. Months passed and I had only a few thousand words to show for it. I felt disgruntled and like I wasn't cut out to be a writer... but I was wrong.
My writing wasn't the problem. My priories were.
What I was missing was the dedicated time for my writing. Athletes have intense schedules. They allot time in their week to work on their skill - - because it is important. They want to do the best they possibly can. Why wasn't I doing this with my writing? I wasn't going to write this novel with hopes and dreams. Best intentions weren't going to improve my writing. Only time at the keyboard would do that.
So I sat down and figured out what time I had remaining after all the necessities of life (looking at you work) and then before I could fill those blank spaces with 'reading', 'nap time' and 'working out' (hahaha, that's not on there). I made sure to put a sizable chunk of time aside just for writing. I aim to have at least three hours of writing time each day. For me that falls between 1pm and 4pm, the time that formerly was reserved for napping and playing video games. During this time all I do is write my novel.
I do understand that this isn't for everyone, I am incredibly blessed, I am in a situation where I have a lot of free time and no major obstacles or problems that would stop me from writing. Your schedule should reflect your life. Not mine. Choose an amount per week that is sustainable - - if you don't you'll wind up feeling guilty or resenting the schedule.
On Fridays and Mondays I have 1-2 hours set aside for blogging. When I wake up and before I go to bed I have a 30-60 minute window for social media. And I try VERY hard to stick to it.
Its not easy. My brain does not like this. It hates being told what to do. But it is important to me, so I make it work. When making a new schedule it is important to try and stick to it for three months. Anything done for three months becomes habit. You'll find yourself looking at the clock thinking about your novel, only to find that it is ten minutes until your writing time.
Oh, Twitter... how many more hours will you suck from my life?!? *dramatic hand against forehead*
But seriously; I have whittled away so much time on Twitter during my writing time. Whether it is Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram or one of the million other sites that I am not cool enough to even know about, you need to GET OFF IT! There are so many ways options that help:
Remove the unimportant
Who here has wasted countless hours finding the perfect picture for an aesthetic board, the best music to inspire or a photo that looks like your character?
*waves hand enthusiastically*
Yep. Well, that time suck needs to go. For me its drawing the characters, I love to imagine them and then try to capture the different moods and facial expressions. I have used up so many of my writing hours doing this. I needed to stop. A fellow twitter user BellaRosePope made it very clear in her YouTube video (warning: profanity) that this was just a huge waste of time. Why did I need pictures of characters and a world that didn't exist? Why create a cover for a novel that is no where near ready to sell? Why work on marketing... you have nothing to market?
Well, that was the huge slap in the face I needed.
So, stop doing stuff that you don't need yet! You will have time to commission artists, to create content and market your novel... when it is done!
Research time limit
Maybe you've mastered the schedule.
Perhaps Twitter and social accounts hold no sway over you.
Perchance you have the iron will to ignore the pretty pictures and lure of Pintrest
Lucky you. I am not jealous at all... (NB: Author is extremely jealous)
Maybe your time suck is the stuff you actually need - - like which poison will kill undetected or what it feels like to lick a cactus. Researching for a novel can steal you time quicker than I had ever thought possible. So, I set myself a boundary. If I wanted to research something during my writing time, I had ten minutes to do so. If I couldn't find the answer in ten minutes then the answer could wait to a time outside of my writing time or until I stumbled across the slew of hashes in the editing process.
Facts can, and will, wait. Keep writing, because that is the most productive thing you can do with your writing time.
Thanks for reading along. I hope you found some small part of this helpful. On Friday I'll be posting part two. This will cover planning, goals and writer's block.
Until then... get organised, get boundaries and get writing!