Writers’ Group Recap: Managing Time

WP_000584This week was Quills & Quibbles Writers Group at Harrison County Public Library. Each month, we read and critique our works-in-progress, and we typically have a “Style Segment” which focuses on some specific aspect of the writer’s craft.  This month, we were talking time management.

As with last month’s notes, this is more a distillation of the group discussion than anything else, with everyone contributing their thoughts on the subject.

And just like last month, I may have lost some details (not to mention brain cells) to the excellent craft beer at Point Blank Brewery during the post-meeting pub time.  I enjoyed a Harpoon Leviathan, because steampunk.  Mmm… beer.

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Okay, so where were we? Oh right, time management for writers. And my little digression above is a good example of one of the two or three major obstacles to managing your time: distractions.

Distractions for writers can come in many forms. It might be Facebook or those adorable cats all over the internet. While it can be really tempting to jump out of your writing tool–whether that’s Word, Notepad, Google Docs or whatever–to do a bit of necessary research, it can end up being a massive time suck. You look up and realize you’ve used up all your writing time drilling down through the links on Wikipedia.

Not that I’ve ever done that.

One quick tip to avoid letting research derail you with distractions is to not do research while drafting. If there’s a particular thing you need to research and fill in later, simply make yourself a note in the document, like {TOWNS IN MICHIGAN} and highlight it to find and replace later.  But keep on writing!

There are also apps you can use to help you avoid the temptation of getting distracted by the internet. The Freedom app will lock you out of the internet for a while, if you need it.  Written? Kitten! is an app which instead of denying you the joy of looking at cat pictures, embraces it by doling them out as a reward after you reach a word count goal. There’s also Write or Die, which will reward you for producing prose and apply consequences for getting distracted or procrastinating. One member of Q&Q writes via dictation, using Dragon speech recognition. Without hands on a keyboard, it can be less tempting to tab over to a browser window.

But distractions don’t just exist online. They follow us into the 3D realm, often in the form of family members. To avoid being inadvertently distracted by your kids, spouse or other housemates, having a private room for writing can help. Or if that’s not practical, you can have a visual cue–headphones up or ballcap on backwards, means “Don’t bug mom/dad right now, it’s writing time!”

Procrastination is the second big barrier to managing your time as a writer. Lots of things can seem like a good use of your time. But only putting butt in chair and words on page is writing. You can help get and stay motivated to write by finding out what your best writing conditions are.

What helps you get in the right mindset to write? A private, quiet room? A certain amount of background activity and white noise? Do you write best in the morning, lunch time, or evening? Setting yourself up for success may make it easier to avoid procrastinating.

Sometimes, you’re genuinely too busy to sit down and write for long periods of time. But you can still write notes, record dialogue and do pre-writing or brainstorming, even in small snatches of time. And doing that pre-writing can  help make sure when you do have time to draft prose, you make the most of that time. You can often write much faster if you already know what you’re going to be writing. Capturing ideas as they happen, and staying in practice with at least some daily writing will help you maximize your available writing time.

The biggest thing is to make a commitment to yourself and to your writing. Members express that commitment in different ways.  Some by setting word count goals, or deadlines. One member gets fully dressed to grant the same level of dignity to his writing work as his “afterwards job.” Another member creates accountability by sharing his writing goals with others.

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Well, that’s about all I can remember, folks. As with almost every month, I left the writers’ group with renewed motivation and energy for my writing. Of course, then I went and had a big glass of beer, which may have dropped my energy level somewhat, at least for the night.

Next month, we’re going to probably be talking about NAMES. How do you pick the perfect name for your characters? How do you pick a DBA name, if you plan to self-publish? What are some tips for titling your stories? And to pen name or not to pen name: why would you want to publish under a pseudonym, and if so, how do you pick a good one?

I’m already excited. 🙂

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