Squeezing Minutes

With a full time job, a six month old, two dogs, and one (very patient) wife, it takes effort to make time for writing. For instance, I wrote that intro line and then had to run off as the lil’one woke up from a nap. Now, I’m back. Ooops, dirty diaper. Be right with you. Ok. Here I am. Oh wait, the dogs need to get walked. Work calls. Dinner…You get the idea, and it’s not unique. How many of our lives are such that we have half-day chunks of time to write anymore? Three hours? An hour?!

I won’t lie that I was very nervous about being able write post-kids. But here’s the thing: in the last three months I finished a 60+ thousand word first draft...which was faster than other manuscripts I’ve written. Surprisingly, it wasn’t because they added more hours to the day (though whichever candidate wants to propose that amendment will get my vote).

Here's a handful of tricks I've used that seem to squeeze minutes from the day:

Set a reasonable, specific goal: This point has been made a million different ways. We are much more efficient and focused when we have something obtainable to achieve. The key is that this goal has to be specific (for example, write 1000 words) and within reach (most people can’t pound out 8k words in a weekend, Talia ;). Most authors use word or page counts, but it could be finishing a scene or threading in a new theme to your manuscript. 
Note: There were days that I didn’t make my goal of 1200 words per day. That’s okay. I forgave myself and moved on to the next day.
 Another note: Be careful with word counts. The end goal for any author is a good story. If you’re short 200 words, but wrote a killer scene, be happy. There’ve been times that my obsession with the little goal consumed what I was really after: good writing and enjoyment of that process.
Get up/stay up five minutes: I started setting my alarm five minutes earlier on a Monday. I mean, five minutes is nothing, right? Tuesday, I set it another five minutes earlier than Monday. Wednesday five more than Tuesday, etc. By the following Monday, I had squeezed another 35 minutes extra to write each day. Eventually, I created a routine where I get up at 4:50AM and write for a good 60 to 90 minutes before the household gets too busy. I imagine this works the same for those night owls by going to bed five minutes later than the night before.

Try it for five: Even with my extra time in the morning, there are nights where I need to write if I want to hit my goal. These moments are always hard. The TV is on the wall, the book is on the nightstand, the bed is warm, and the couch cozy. In those instances, I make a deal with myself: I’ll work for five minutes. After that time, if it isn’t flowing…couch, here I come. A majority of the time, breaking the seal is all it takes. An hour later, I've met or exceeded my goal. There are times where I stop at five without a shred of guilt (ok, not much), because at least I tried.

Plan it out: Before writing, I take the dogs on a quick walk. While I’m out, I plan. However, I’m NOT imagining the final showdown or future sequels, but rather, exactly what I’m going to do when I sit at my keyboard. What’s the next line? Action? Thought? I used to do this with the screen glaring at me, but now I just get the juices flowing while multitasking.

Writing time is writing time: By now, this has been beat into your head, but Facebook, email, Twitter, blogs (except the Muses J) will corrode this sacred writing time until there’s nothing left. Ignore them when it’s time to tell the story. There are enough distractions as it is. That political joke on your newsfeed will be there when you reconnect to the grid.

Write in the cracks: Donna mentioned this on Monday and I’m a big fan. If I have more than five minutes, I write a line. It’s not the easiest way to write, but sometimes it’s the only way.

Don’t finish that sentence: I don’t remember where I heard this advice or which famous author writes this way, but whoever it is: Thank you. The idea is that when it’s time to pack up the manuscript for the day, don’t finish your last sentence. For me, it makes it much simpler to jump into the deep end the next time.

AND the most important thing I’ve learned – the secret to this whole writing shebang is…

Uh oh. Time for a bottle. I’ll have to tell you that secret later. 


I remember that advice about not finishing the sentenced before stopping for the day. I can't remember who said it either.

Great post! I might try this late evening stuff - going to bed that little bit later.

Thanks for this. I needed some inspiration and a kick-in-the-butt all in one.

Squeezing minutes from the day is the key. Work breaks and lunch breaks usually don't involve simply sitting still. I'm stuffing a 10 minute walk in here, 10 minutes social media time there, 20 minutes of actual writing time crunched in after running errands so that when I get home, I can tend to my Chipmunk, help with her homework, fix something edible for dinner, and eventually get to writing and reading for a little bit until midnight.

Yeah, squeezing the minutes :-)

Great tips just in time for NaNo. Thanks! One thing I'm definitely going to try is to just plan the immediately upcoming scene/chapter during a walk right before opening the ol' doc.

Thanks for the comments, everyone. Keep squeezing!

Squeeze, squeeze - yep that's me. Lots of great ideas, Bret, and many I've tried in the past, especially about leaving off in the middle of a scene. Haven't tried the middle of a sentence though! Thank you so much.

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