For most writers, writing is something that has to be done alongside work and family commitments, and finding time can be challenging. It’s too easy for the evening to draw in towards bedtime without having written anything creative that day.
I’m lucky because my time is more flexible than many people’s, but my writing is still juggled with a PhD and accompanying career-development activities, running and gym visits, plus regular trips to Germany to see my husband who’s working there (my work patterns fit around Ryanair schedules better than his do). There’s a huge temptation to put things off until a never-arriving tomorrow.
I’ve managed to pass the 80,000 word hurdle on my novel, so it seemed appropriate to reflect on how I’ve done it. It’s taken a year and a half in total, including an initial rough draft, honing, editing and rewriting. While it is possible to write a lot of basic draft material very quickly, the same can’t be said for well-crafted, quality writing that I’d be happy to put in front of other people. It’s been a case of doing a little most days – I’d love to say every day, but I can’t! Some days writing isn’t a viable activity, while other days I seem to have a block. When that happens, I’ve found the best plan is to change tack and read the novel, from the beginning, using a print-out or an iPod. Every reading reveals more opportunities for improvement, and the time isn’t wasted. Instead, I start spotting the inconsistencies that could only be achieved if my protagonist had four arms, a doppelganger and an Imelda Marcos shoe collection in her pocket.
When it comes to getting the novel written – and all the other daily tasks too – I confess I’m an app fiend. Here are my favourites:
- Day Planner: divide your day into blocks, with alarms if you like, and allocate tasks accordingly. Colour-code! Add pictures! This might sound a bit of a time-waster, but an initial investment reaps rewards. I always know what I shouldbe doing…
- Firetask:project management using in-trays, today lists and all kinds of other fun gadgetry. I have tasks on daily and weekly repeat, and currently there are 17 projects on there, ranging from PhD experiments to improving general quality of life, and including novelling. If you ever forget vital tasks as your mind is on something else, this app is perfect.
- My Writing Spot: a useful app to make sure you never lose a writing project, and handy for reading your work on an iPod. It’s not so great as an editing tool for anything more than small tweaks and correcting typos, but once you’ve synced the app with your latest updates, you don’t need internet access to read your novel – very handy for airport queues!
Allocating time to writing has been central to getting this far. Sometimes I feel guilty dropping another project in favour of novelling, but a ‘write some novel’ alarm seems to counteract that. If the writing alarm goes off, I feel guilty if I don’t get stuck in. But a novel is not just about getting the words down on the page; it’s also about feeling their effect, understanding them, playing with them and bending them to my will. When, reading through my novel, I find that time slips by and I become engrossed, I know it’s coming together.