[A few weeks ago when I discovered that I’d totally overbooked May and June, I put out a plea on the FaithWriters Facebook page for a few people to do guest lessons on writing topics in which they were expert. Our wonderful Vonnie Blake will be bringing us two lessons in the next few weeks, and I was delighted to hear from Katheryn Haddad, who I’d never ‘met’ before. She offered to do a lesson in time management for writers, and that lesson is below. While I don’t agree with every word—only because we all have to manage our time in ways that work best for us—I appreciate her unique perspective, and I think you will, too.]
So ten years ago you decided to write the next great novel. Five years ago, you actually got the first paragraph written. Now you say, “I just don’t have time. If I didn’t have all these other responsibilities, I could settle down and write it.”
Who are you fooling? Everyone has twenty-four hours in a day. Everyone chooses how they will spend their allotment. Where are your priorities? Either you intend to write that book or you don’t. Today is never some day. Today is never tomorrow. Today is never eventually.
The first thing you must do is eliminate everything except what you absolutely must do. Give proper attention to children, spouse, neighbors, and God. But what about all those clubs, societies and associations you belong to?
Aha! That is where you will eliminate things. Those clubs and societies and associations can and will survive without you. You may think they can and will not, but you are wrong.
Ask yourself this: If I moved away, would this club, society, or association survive without me? Of course it would. You may think you are indispensable. But you are not. Other members may think you are indispensable, but they are wrong. Maybe what they need is for you to step aside and give people a chance who have been letting you do all the work.
So resign. Leave them all. Yes, all of them.
Why? You, my dear friend, have something special that only you can do, and it must be done alone. No one else in the whole world can do it for you. No one else in the whole world can write your book for you. Every book has a message. What is the message you want to pass on to the rest of the world? The world is waiting for you. What are you waiting for?
You may say you still have more books to read on writing techniques. Stop reading them. You learn best by doing. Get going on that book. And turn off that television and radio. The quiet may scare you at first, but you will be surprised how fast the time flies and how efficiently your mind works with no noise distractions.
SET UP A SCHEDULE
1. Schedule time to do your research. You may think you do not need to research your book. But readers today are educated. For the most part, they enjoyed their education, so they enjoy being educated in the novels they read. If you both entertain and educate, your readers will respect you for it. So if your character is paranoid, for example, set aside time to research paranoia. Of course, you will not include everything you research about it, but you will know enough to give your character noticeable characteristics of paranoia. If your character has a taxidermy hobby, learn taxidermy. If your character is going to nearly drown, research what that is like.
2. Set aside time to make drawings of the buildings and towns your characters are in. Also, if you are stuck on your characters all looking alike, do internet searches for people images.
3. Set aside time to outline your book if you like to know ahead of time what your plot is going to be; at least write one sentence of the events and characters in each chapter.
4. Try to write one chapter a day. If it takes four hours average for you to write a chapter and you only have two hours a day available, schedule yourself to write half a chapter a day.
5. Set aside time to do your first proofreading, which will actually mean going back to make sure your people, places and events make sense, and making sure you set up each scene properly. You may have to do this more than once.
6. Set aside time to proofread for typos and sentence structures. Proofread your book three or four times, and maybe more. If you get sleepy proofreading, walk the floor as you read and keep yourself awake.
Now you are done. Now you have written that book. It did not take you ten years to write it, nor did it take you ten hours to write it. Be realistic. Schedule. And do not let anything interfere. Once you do, it will be difficult for you to get back on schedule.
I live alone, so am able to keep my schedule fairly reliably. I get up usually around 6:00 a.m. It takes me an average of four hours to write a chapter AFTER I have researched and planned it. On a day I also go to a Bible class, worship, grocery shopping, or displaying my books at a local farmers & craft market, I always make sure I write at least one chapter.
On days I do not need to go anywhere, I always write two chapters. Always, always, always. If things go lickity-split in my writing, I can sometimes write three chapters in a day. Basically, I have eight to ten hours set aside each day to write. I also teach English using the Bible as a textbook over the internet to Muslims every day, and set aside an average of four hours a day to do that. These are my priorities.
In the past two years I have written eight nonfiction books and four historical novels that run 450-550 pages each. I am seventy-six years old and do not use my age as an excuse. Excuses are no excuse.
You must be self-disciplined enough to write your book, just as you expect your readers to be self-disciplined enough to read your book.
Once done, that nonstop mind of yours will want to jump in and write another book. And another. Using these methods, you can do just that. Then, people will begin to say about you, “What a prolific writer!”
[Questions or comments for Katheryn? Post them here. For more about Katheryn, check out her website at http://www.inspirationsbykatheryn.com]