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?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:
b. Why else?
c. OK, and?
d. OK, then what?
Why don’t you want to write right now?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.
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?
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
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.