From Simon: Sometimes I’ll have a guest on the show who seems to have 30 hours each day. I’m often amazed by how much they manage to publish despite having a dozen other commitments. This weeks guest post is from Stacy Claflin, who is one of those people. This post will absolutely inspire you to get so much more done. Over to Stacy…
UPDATE: February 2015 – Stacy has become a full time writer as of mid-February 2015. This post was written before she made the jump. Congratulations Stacy :).
You can listen to an audio reading of this podcast if you like! Just click play in the player below.
Is it possible to have a full time job and still publish frequently?
A lot of people think they can’t write or publish a book because they have a job.
Fortunately, that just isn’t true. How do I know? I run a business that takes about 55 hours of my week, I homeschool my kids and I still publish frequently. I have 17 titles on Amazon – in less than two years. Ten of those are novel length; the others are novellas, short stories and a box set.
I want to share what’s helped me, and no matter what level you’re at it can help you too. If you want to write or publish, but think you can’t, these tips can give you some tools and encouragement to get started. If you’re already publishing books, they can help you get more out there faster, and since you listen to the Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast, you know that getting the next book out there is the best marketing tool for the books you already have.
Where to Find the Time?
The first major obstacle is finding that precious time we all have so little of. That was something I struggled with when I began writing fiction in early 2012. I hadn’t written stories in about ten years, and squeezing in the time wasn’t easy.
At first, I did what many people do. I wrote when I had little pockets of time. It didn’t take me long to figure out that it wasn’t effective. Some days I could get a lot of time in while other times, I would go days on end without writing any fiction.
Then I came across a blog post by Jeff Goins challenging writers to get up earlier to write. I thought he was crazy, and I had a lot of seemingly valid excuses as to why. My youngest wasn’t sleeping through the night. I was already getting up close to six o’clock. I was tired from homeschooling and running a business from home. If anyone had reason not to get up earlier, it was me…or so I thought.
I walked away from that post sure that getting up early was impossible. But the post stuck with me (I can still remember it two years later!) and after becoming frustrated with how little I was writing, I decided to get up a little earlier to write. I can’t remember how much, but it was something I thought was manageable.
Do what you can, even if it’s not much. If you start off with a lofty goal, far out of your reach, you won’t make it. At least not for long.
If you’re like me, and you have no time to write during the day, you’re probably going to have to either get up earlier or stay up later. Writing time doesn’t magically appear when you decide to publish a book.
It’s up to you to make it, and with all things in life, we make time for our priorities.
Whether you decide to get up earlier like I did or you choose to stay up late, you will want to go in small increments. Let your body adjust to the lost sleep. For a long time I set my alarm back a minute or two every day until I just couldn’t go any further. I get up just after 4:00 in the morning six days a week to write.
I’m not saying you have to get up that early or write six days a week. I started out getting up around 5:30 and writing on the weekdays. Do what works for YOU. Whatever it takes for you to sit down and write…that’s what you need to do.
Just start writing.
Sometimes getting started is the biggest obstacle. Being prepared can help, so take that first step and make time to write. If you have a full time job, that’s going to be necessary. I can’t tell you when, only you can. If you’re really stuck, look at your schedule and see what you can cut.
Even though we’re so busy these days, we have a lot of time wasters. Cutting those can make a huge difference.
Online games and quizzes are a big waste of time. What are they going to get you, really? When I started writing, Farmville was big and I hate to think of how much time I spent on it and other similar games. When I committed to daily writing, I did my best to turn those off in my settings so that I at least stopped getting notifications.
A lot of other activities on social media. Do you ever find that you sit down to check your news feed, and suddenly an hour or more has passed, and you don’t know how? Either set a timer or get on social media for a specific purpose and stick to that.
What makes social media a challenge is that it can be really beneficial as a writer, but the distractions steal our precious time.
Television and movies. I used to watch a lot of TV, and I’ve since cut down to one show a night. I would actually be okay giving up TV altogether, but it’s something my husband wants to do together each night. I do like TV, but it has to be in moderation. If I watched it late into the night, I would never be able to get up in time to write.
A lot of things can be time wasters, and if we’re serious about making time to write we have to examine our schedules to figure out where we’re wasting time. And this isn’t a one-time deal, either. Once we eliminate major time wasters, others creep in.
I’m not talking about getting rid of activities that are genuinely good and useful. We need to spend time with our family and friends. We do need to relax a little (not a lot). Our homes need to be somewhat clean and livable. Figure out what your true time wasters are and either eliminate them or drastically reduce the time spent on them.
“Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t” ― Jerry Rice
Use your Time Effectively
Once you’ve gotten rid of some time wasters and found your ideal writing time, how do you get yourself to sit there and write? Some writers say they wish for “butt glue” to keep them in the chair.
Hopefully you’ve chosen a time with little or no distractions. That’s one reason I get up so close to four…the world is quiet. My family is sleeping (usually!) and everything is dark. It’s not often that I’m interrupted in those wee hours.
I settle into my spot on the couch and turn on my laptop. Here’s one key: I stay away from the internet. I open Scrivener and just start writing. If you don’t write first thing and it’s already open, you must turn the internet off before writing. Otherwise, it’ll be tempting to check your email the first moment you get stuck.
Keep the browsers turned off and do nothing except write. Get stuck? Keep writing anyway. Make a note of what you need to come back and fix, but keep writing. Those fingers need to fly across the keyboard during your writing times. If you’re truly stuck on a scene, skip it and go to another one. Find a scene you’re excited to write. If you have Scrivener, it’s easy to rearrange scenes and chapters.
Writing is a muscle that needs to be developed. If you’re used to writing for fifteen minutes at a time, when you sit down for a half an hour, it’s going to be a challenge to write the entire time. You’ll start to fidget and lose focus. Why? Because you’re not used to writing that long. You need to practice writing for longer periods of time to get used to it and use the time for what it’s worth.
In the spring, my schedule changed allowing me an additional ninety minutes of writing time for a few months. I was so excited thinking that I would write twice as many words since I had twice the writing time. Nope. The first week I wrote as much as I had before because that was what I was used to writing.
What I had to do was to build my endurance and learn to use my additional writing time. I finally understood why so many people say they don’t write more after becoming a full time writer. That gives us part-time writers less room for excuses. If we want to write full time someday, we have to treat it like a business now.
If you add in a few minutes a day, soon you’ll find yourself writing for lengths of time you never dreamed of before.
Learn to Write More
Writing faster is a skill like any other. I’ve heard some people say things along the lines of, “I’m just a slow writer.” That doesn’t mean you have to remain a slow writer.
I have about a ninety minute window of writing time, and when I first started I didn’t get a lot of words written. I was averaging less than 800 words a session. (Don’t feel bad if you’re at that speed…you can change that.) When I’m at the top of my game, I can get close to 3,000 words in that same time period.
What’s the difference?
One major reason for writing so much more is that I stopped writing by the seat of my pants. I know all you pantsers cringe at that; I certainly did. But it was worth it.
A simple outline will make a world of difference. Being a natural-born pantser, I’m not one for writing out pages and pages of detailed outlines and world building. I start by writing the major points of the story that I know I’m going to hit. Knowing how it’s going to end is key. If you don’t even know where you’re going, how are you going to get there?
I like to write my outlines and story notes in a notebook before I start writing. There’s something about the process of handwriting that really gets the juices flowing. Once I’ve started the story, I keep all my notes in Scrivener.
Once you have a basic idea about where the story is going and how you’re going to get it there, simple daily outlining is needed. If you sit down not knowing what you’re going to write that session, it’s going to be challenging to write a lot. It might be difficult to write anything at all.
Even if you don’t have a lot of time for writing out an outline, at least think about it throughout the day. The more you think about the story, the easier it will be to write. Think about it while you drive, when you’re cooking, in the shower, walking the dog, or when lying in bed at night. Nix that. Think about your story especially before you go to sleep.
Why is that so important?
Our brains work hard when we sleep. They process everything from the day, our emotions, and even help us to figure out solutions to our problems. The last thing you think about before falling asleep will get attention from our intelligent subconscious minds. I have a BA in Psychology, so I can assure that it’s not just philosophy.
A job in and of itself can wear us down, so how can we avoid burnout when we add writing into the mix?
If we take care of ourselves, we’ll be better off all around. Make sure to get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, and everything else you know you need. Spend time with family and friends, and even take breaks from writing occasionally. I’ll sleep in after finishing a novel. That’s a treat when you get up as early as I do. I had “girl time” with a friend last weekend. I play with my kids. Throw a ball for the dog. Indulge in sweets every so often. All of that helps me to stay rejuvenated.
Stay excited about your stories. If you spend a lot of time thinking about them, it’ll be hard to burnout. You’ll look forward to your next writing session.
If you can’t get excited about the story, ask yourself why not. Are you stuck on a plot point? Is it not going where you thought it would? What exactly is the problem?
Maybe you have a shiny, new idea that you’re more excited about. Unless you have a deadline, why not go after the sparkly story that you can’t get off your mind? Who says you have to write only one story at a time?
As long as you finish the ones you start, don’t feel bad about being in the middle of a couple. Going back and forth can keep the creative juices flowing.
Follow what excites you, and if you bounce in between a couple stories, you’ve won. You may even be able to publish two books in one month, and impress all your friends. I did that in June and plan to do that again this month.
What if a story stresses you out? I’ve been there. I just published a book that really bothered me for a while (it’s about a child abduction). I took some time off last year and picked it back up this year. After taking the break, I was able to finish it. Not only did I finish it, but my beta readers raved that it was my best work.
If you need a break, take it!
Maybe you’re tired of writing in the same genre. If you listen to the advice of staying in one genre and you have “Writer’s ADHD” like I do, you may need to write something completely different. That’s what I did with my kidnapping novel. Just because I started out writing paranormal romance, that doesn’t mean I have to write it for the rest of my life.
Once you start publishing a lot, you can afford to genre-hop. It’s up to you whether or not to use pen names. I went back and forth for some time over that issue. Write what excites you and you’ll chase burnout far away.