Tuesday, January 17, 2017

How Busy Full-Time Working Writers Can Find Time to Write

By Drae Box, @Draebox

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: I don't think I've ever met a writer who didn't want to find more time to write, so please help me welcome Drae Box to the lecture hall today to share some tips on how to do just that.

Drae Box is an author success mentor and fantasy author whose debut fantasy book reached 10,038 downloads and purchases in eight months and eleven days after its release. For a decade, she has picked apart, researched and experimented with different ways authors can build their success, and she would love to share her knowledge with you. Head here for the free worksheets to help you find more time to write, including a worksheet for The Reverse Why.

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Take it away Drae...

It doesn’t have to be impossible to get some words out.

One of my favorite memories of hanging out with my dad as a young kid was late at night - we usually only saw him before bed back then, and he had a habit of eating peanuts in his armchair before I went to bed. I remember sitting next to him on a small plastic red chair as he shared those peanuts with me. I love that he continues to make the effort to have time for family. I suspect this was the foundation of my knowing that having time to write was important.

As someone who works full-time doing something other than what you love - writing - it can be exhausting to get the words down on paper. You come in from work absolutely shattered, maybe even with a pounding headache from the stress of dealing with your boss or dealing with clients that aren’t working out well in your portfolio, or are plain awful to deal with. You just want food, comfort TV and to go to bed, but you can’t. Before you can eat, you need to hoover all the dirt you tracked inside on your shoes, or do that errand for a friend or family member.

It can feel impossible to get the words out, to write any day, yet alone every day. I’ve been there - at one point, I moved so many times for jobs that I fell out of the habit of writing and couldn’t get started again, at least, not without a good amount of effort.

You Can Get Some Words Down Today

When I was preparing to do my experiment, Does Waking Up Early to Write REALLY Work, I decided I wasn’t going to lose any sleep. The way I looked at it, I always take one or two hours to fall asleep once I’m snuggled under the covers. So I thought to myself, “I can move that time to the morning for this experiment.”

And that’s what I did. Can you guess what happened?

Yes, I hated waking at 5:30AM every morning, and on ten days I failed to get up at that time. What did happen though, was for an hour and a half every morning that I did get up early, I wrote between 1022 - 5859 words of fiction (except one day where I did just over 800).

The month before the experiment, I had an average of 1325.5 words each time I sat to write, but I would also miss days - I wrote 20 days in that month. The month before that? 10 days with an average of 1179.4 words each time.

In the 30 days of the experiment, I grew my average to 2334.33 words a day and missed 0 days. That’s a 77.69% increase of words written!

The bonuses? I started developing new habits that worked with waking early to write that made sure I was more productive and I fell asleep faster when I climbed into bed.

Now I’m not saying get up early to write - it’s not for everyone and if you don’t want to try it, I’m not in a position to make you.

What I can give you are some of the things I started doing during that time that helped me to grow my average word count - using them will let you find the time you need to write. Ready?

The Corrective Mouse Drag

During the experiment, I wrote almost completely digitally, either on my computer or on my phone. One of the things I started doing was correcting my use of the mouse.

Let me explain.

When I had my manuscript open and was supposed to be adding to it, sometimes a thought would slip through that wasn’t related to the story I was working on: a challenge idea for members of my Writers’ Club, an email I needed to send to ask a client when they wanted their next session or checking if my hosting clients are all on top of their invoices this month.

It used to be I’d head straight out of the manuscript and go and check. Now, thanks to that experiment, I instead correct the behavior - as soon as the mouse starts sliding towards the top or bottom of the screen, I remind myself that I’m supposed to be writing and whatever caught my attention will have to wait. Works like a dream.

The Reverse Why

This was a new technique I developed to keep myself on track during the experiment and it helped seven times. It encourages you to be more self-aware and to question the reason you’re not writing. If you catch yourself not writing when you could be, ask yourself why you aren’t. Follow your answer with either:
a. Why?
b. Why else?
c. OK, and?
d. OK, then what?
Keep replying to your answers with the above options until you get to the real root of the problem. Here is one conversation I had with myself after my experiment as I drew close to the end of one of my stories’ publication rewrites:
Why don’t you want to write right now?
I’m not sure. I got up at 5.30am just for this, and now I’m faffing about.

Why the faffing? Do you know what you need to write?
Yeah. I’m struggling a bit though.

Because I don’t know how to get them to actually SEE Lodema. Stonefist gave them the info to get closer, but I’m still hitting a wall. The old version was mostly luck - I don’t want that to be it, especially as I have been laying proper clues down this time.

Why else are you struggling?
I’m getting close to the end and they haven’t found any sign of Lodema themselves. They’re following the verbal clues from other characters. And the assassin hasn’t done enough in this version of the story. He was a hell of a lot more involved last time.

OK, then what can you do to fix these issues?
I need to end the scene I’m on and get them moving towards the inspectors’ university, where Lodema is rumored to be living in the attic and where they find their own first clues about Lodema. With the assassin, I need to get him meddling again, but he needs to catch up travel-time wise. He could come back in time for the fight between Aldora, Raneth and Lodema to take his master’s side.

So why aren’t you writing?
With that conversation with myself done, I set about closing the scene I was working on at the time (which though important for character relations was not the overall goal of the characters in the book). This freed me to write the next steps of their journey, reaching 1353 words in that morning’s hour and a half. I went on to write some more for that story in the evening, coming to a total of 3474 words at the end of the day.

What Next?

Have a think and then share in the comments what your biggest struggle is in finding time to write. What would you achieve if time wasn’t an issue?

About The Royal Gift

If everyone you grew up with were relying on you to save them, would you be able to do it? Thrust into the deep end, teen Aldora Leoma has to do exactly that.

Her village under attack, she is asked by the king to locate the just stolen Dagger of Protection – one of six protection weapons made centuries earlier to protect others. With nobody else near enough to protect her home, Aldora can’t say no. Aided by a talking prince of the cats and a law enforcer hunting a murderer, failure is not an option.

The Royal Gift
is the first in a YA fantasy series, The Common Kingdoms (currently with twenty-seven stories). Following the lives of Aldora Leoma and Royal Official Raneth Bayre, it's great for readers who love fantasy with magic, action, adventure and a dash of romance and crime.


  1. Yup, up at 5:30 to write here too. And writing over lunch. And after supper. And whenever else I can squeeze in!

    1. It's a fantastic way to make sure nothing gets in the way, isn't it :) How long have you been waking at 5.30am to write?

  2. I have to wake up at 5:30 just to get to work because I have an hour drive each way. Try to fit in 20-30 minutes of exercise and some time with the little kids and then exhaustion hits and the brain quits. :( IT's a struggle.

    1. It sounds like one. What's your routine like after work? Perhaps there's a bit where you can squeeze in ten sentences or so.

  3. I'm in no way a morning person; I literally get up a half hour before I'm due at work because i can't make my body move.

    On the other hand, I've discovered those mornings I was forced to get up at that ungodly hour, my brain didn't have time to argue. I could throw words on the page without the Inner Editor butting in. I'm not saying I'll make a habit of this but the idea floats in the back of my mind when I'm stuck on a scene or what direction to take things next.

    1. Giving your brain no chance to argue is a great tactic, even if it's unintentional. Do you find your Inner Editor gets in the way later on in the day a lot? Why do you think this is?

  4. When I was working I would think about what to write on the 45 minute walk to work, then I would write at morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea. Then there might be a walk or bus ride home, or a wait for a ride, depending on the day. More time to think/write on my phone... Then I would even write while I stood at the stove cooking dinner.
    Now I have a child that talks (well, he's 6,now), and time to have daydreams and complete thoughts of my own is incredibly short. I have two kids now, the second doesn't talk, yet, but he's moving, which requires more supervision. I need more help to create time to think/write, but I can't afford to buy the time (& of I did, then there comes guilt with that). Luckily, when the summer holidays are over I will get one day a week when I will have one child at school and one child at my parents'... I'll have time to do things like wash my hair, get new glasses, & (yup!) write! Sometimes, it takes a village.

    1. There's nothing wrong with having great people around you to help you find the time to write. I love that you have supportive family :)

  5. I think I had an epiphany while reading this. Well, it may not be that dramatic, but while reading this, I got to the WHY section and wondered why I have been lax about the idea of getting up early to write, especially when I really do like to come home, do the evening Mom duties and spend time with my kiddo. In the asking, I realized all I had were poor excuses, no reasons.

    Time for a change. :-)

    Thank know you!

    1. No worries! I'm super-happy this helped you out. Let me know how you get on - you can email me at drae@draebox.com or tweet to me @draebox.

  6. My biggest struggle in finding time to write is that I actually didn't have time to write. I'm already up at 5 am and get an average of 6.5 hours of sleep. Every 15 minute block of time in my day is accounted for with non-optional tasks (Weekends are chaos, trying to deal with everything bumped during the week).

    But a writer's got to write and I had to do *something* to get writing again. Then I realized I had 2-3 hours a day just in my commute to work. In late November I did what, for years, I said would never work for me: I got a digital voice recorder and voice transcription software.

    There is a learning curve, but I have brainstormed and written more fiction in the past month than I have in years combined. It doesn't require "uninterrupted" writing time at a desk. I can simply think about my story on my commute (or while washing dishes, folding laundry, breaking up kid arguments, etc.) and dictate my questions, thoughts, brainstorming, and even dialogue into the recorder as necessary. Later, the software transcribes the audio recording into text. (It's a LOT easier for me to edit text in 5 or 10 minute bursts than it is to get the initial inspiration down.)

    A writer's got to write and if you can't find or carve out time then you have to make it out of thin air. :D

    1. I love that you've tried something different and it's working for you. Great way to get your writing done :)

  7. I often end up writing while at my job since I do long days babysitting. It is not always easy to keep a line of thought going though. My really good time to write is late night which I have had to mostly give up do to my job. Hopefully I will have more time over the summer. :)

    1. Let's hope so. One of the ways I started to find more time early on (back in my teens) was to write by hand whilst watching TV with family. Maybe that'll help you until the Summer :)

  8. Another blog convinced me to give the get-up-earlier thing a go. That was a couple months ago and I still haven't done it. Though it might be nice to beat my tenants' bathroom rush I'm seriously wondering if I'd sit there dressed for work in makeup and write. So maybe investing in putting myself in the coffee shop by work for awhile will make the morning routine order make sense till I can transfer it back home where the coffee's cheaper.
    Then there's the elephant in the ointment reason: will I really be able to go to bed at 9pm, DVR ALL my TV, and stop reading and be ASLEEP by ten?
    Maybe setting a target date will get me practicing early bedtime till the alarm really is set back...
    Little by little I'm warming up to it. Eager to read other success stories here.