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Thursday, May 2

The Best Time to Write

By Shanna Swendson, @ShannaSwendson

Part of The Writer’s Life Series 


JH: Just finding time to write can be a hassle without trying to figure out the “best” time to do it. Luckily, Shanna Swendson takes the podium today to share tips on finding the best time to write that works for you. 

Shanna Swendson earned a journalism degree from the University of Texas but decided it was more fun to make up the people she wrote about and became a novelist. She’s written a number of fantasy novels for teens and adults, including the Enchanted, Inc. series and the Rebel Mechanics series. She devotes her spare time to reading, knitting, and music.

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Take it away Shanna…


Shanna Swendson
Shanna Swendson
In my previous post at Fiction University, I talked about how valuable scheduling is for improving productivity. Setting aside a specific time to write can help you get your writing done. But where should you put writing on your schedule?

One of the most often repeated – and most damaging – bits of writing advice is that a “real” writer writes every day. I find that giving myself weekends off is essential to my sanity. Someone with a full-time job may write only on weekends. Other writers may need to write at least a little every day to stay in the story. How often you write depends on what works best for you.

(Here's more on Why You Shouldn’t Write Every Day)

How much writing time to schedule is another thing that’s entirely individual. There are people who can write a book a sentence or two at a time whenever they have a spare minute, and there are those who need at least an hour before they can even begin to get their heads in the story. The amount of time you schedule for writing also depends on what your priorities are. A full-time writer with a contract is going to have different scheduling priorities than someone with a full-time job and a family who is writing mostly for personal fulfillment.

When to write is another one of those things that people tend to make pronouncements about, as though there’s a virtue associated with a particular time of day. There are those who talk as though the only way to do it is to get up at four in the morning and write before you start your day, and there are those who hail the glories of the all-nighter. I find that my best writing time varies with the time of year and even sometimes by book.

The only truly right answer is that how often, how long, and when you write is up to you. If your writing time is in line with your priorities, you’re good. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty.


When's the right time for you to write?

The real trick is figuring out what works best for you, and that may take some trial and error. Don’t assume that you’re a particular kind of writer. You might be surprised when you try something different and find better results. If you normally need a deep dive, try writing as much as you can when you have a spare moment. If you write at night, try writing in the morning. Try as many different options as you can fit into your schedule, and give it at least a few days before you decide it’s not for you. Keep track of how productive you are and how you feel. How you feel is important. Getting up an hour earlier may improve your productivity, but if it leaves you a zombie for the rest of the day and you suffer from sleep deprivation, it’s not something you can sustain.

Making a schedule that has a clearly defined writing time that fits the way you work makes it easier to stick to, especially if you make yourself take it seriously. I find that the most difficult thing for me to do is start a writing session. Once I write that first word, I’m usually good, but sitting down and starting can be a real struggle unless I’ve already decided I’m going to do it at that time.

(Here's more on Finding Time to Write)

Having said that there’s no one time to write that’s better than others, I must say that I’ve recently come around to the idea of writing first thing in the day. I resisted that for so long, no matter how many productivity books I read about doing the most important thing first, no matter how many writers I heard talk about doing their writing before they dealt with other things. I may get up reasonably early for someone who doesn’t have to be at work at a particular time, but I’m slow to get going in the morning. I feel like I need a lot of time to warm up. My routine was to ease into my day by reading e-mail, catching up on blogs and social media, writing my blog post, and doing other tasks. Then I’d feel awake enough to write. I figured most of those productivity books were about business stuff, and creativity couldn’t be forced.

But I thought I might as well give it a shot, and I tried writing before I did anything else, before I got online. And I must say, it was like magic. My productivity nearly doubled. Part of it was adding extra writing time to the day, but I think the early start made it easier for me to get to writing later in the day, too. As I said, starting is the hard part, and writing first meant I got the start out of the way. I don’t know how this would work if you’re fitting writing around a day job, whether you have to really do it first thing in the morning, before you head to work, or if it’s just that the first thing you do when it’s time to get to your writing work should be writing rather than dealing with anything else. I really didn’t want this to work, but I had to admit that it did, so it’s certainly worth trying.

Next time, I’ll look at some anti-procrastination tactics I’ve tried.

About Enchanted, Inc.

enchanted, inc
Katie Chandler had always heard that New York is a weird and wonderful place, but this small-town Texas gal had no idea how weird until she moved there. Everywhere she goes, she sees something worth gawking at and Katie is afraid she’s a little too normal to make a splash in the big city. Working for an ogre of a boss doesn’t help.

Then, seemingly out of the blue, Katie gets a job offer from Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc., a company that tricks of the trade to the magic community. For MSI, Katie’s ordinariness is an asset. Lacking any bit of magic, she can easily spot a fake spell, catch hidden clauses in competitor’s contracts, and detect magically disguised intruders. Suddenly, average Katie is very special indeed.

She quickly learns that office politics are even more complicated when your new boss is a real ogre, and you have a crush on the sexy, shy, ultra powerful head of the R&D department, who is so busy fighting an evil competitor threatening to sell black magic on the street that he seems barely to notice Katie. Now it’s up to Katie to pull off the impossible: save the world and–hopefully–live happily ever after.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks Shanna. Your article has ispired me to try writing at different times and slot in smaller chunks of time. My ideal time used to be midnight to 3am prior to having kids! Now it's when they're having 'down time' (snacks and TV)!

    I'm looking forward to your anti-procrastination tips too ;)

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