How to get time back now you've sold

Before you were published, did you think it would become easier to write once you sold your first book?

Hollow laugh.

Not only do you still get rejections, but suddenly everyone wants a piece of your time -- the editor who wants your edited manuscript; the publicist who insists you spend hours filling out her marketing questionnaire; the agent who wants to discuss every clause in your 20 page contract. The kids and your spouse, who thought they'd get you back once you'd sold, now complain of being royally rooked. All this, and you still haven't seen dime one from your sale!

Somewhere in there, you're still supposed to produce beautiful novels.

Fear not. There is a way!

Don't Sweat it

Even if you're still working 9-5 at a non-writing job, it is possible to carve out time to devote to pure writing. The key is in acknowledging that none of the new demands on your time are going to go away if you continue to sell books.

You have to get bloody-minded.

Give yourself two hours a day for writing. Find the best two hours of your day, and earmark those two hours for nothing but writing. No editing of your last book, no galley-proofing, no cover-art questionnaires, no marketing and submissions.

The rest of whatever time you can carve out of your day is for all those other tasks you need to do now you are an author. Oh, and for living a real person's life, while you're at it.

Two hours a day may not seem like very much, but if you work two solid hours each and every day, weekends included, you will be amazed at how fast and steadily the next manuscript starts piling up.

Keep two lists of things to do -- one for the writing you do in your two hours, and the other, prioritized, for all the tasks you must complete in the rest of the time you can find for your writing career. Further on, there are dozens of suggestions and ideas for finding time. How you use that time is critical.

For those lulls in between book launches and editorial demands, you can increase your two hours to fill up the time that might have been used by all the "other" tasks. This is bonus time. When it's busy, drop back to two hours per day.

Finding time

  • Change your 9-5 job to part-time, or find a another part-time job, and learn to live with the lower income.
  • Stop working overtime. Use that time for writing, instead.
  • At your next salary review, instead of accepting a raise, ask for a day off per week or fortnight in lieu.
  • Finish your work day at 5.00pm as you're supposed to.
  • Write in your lunch hour.
  • Head to work half-an-hour or an hour earlier.
  • Do you sit on several committees, volunteer at community centres, work at your kids' schools, coach a little league team? Are these comitments more important to you than writing? To find time to write, you will have to give up something else.

Also consider giving up on:

  • watching television,
  • having a social life,
  • almost all reading (except for market research),
  • your favorite hobbies,
  • eight hours sleep a night.

More tips

  • As much as possible, try to consolidate your spare time into one single time period. Uninterrupted periods are often more productive.
  • Or you can spread the spare time across the day, in as large a segment each as you can manage.
  • Figure out if you're a night owl or a morning lark, and try to have a major writing session in that best creative time. If that means writing from midnight to 3.00am and getting up at 10.00am, and you have the lifestyle that will fit around it, do it!
  • Learn to compose straight onto the keyboard.
  • Learn to edit on the screen. (This saves more time than you'd believe.)
  • If you plan to cut back on sleep, do it in two weeks x 15 minute increments. You'll barely notice the changes. Most physically fit people can survive happily on five or six hours sleep.
  • Write at the same time every day.
  • Write every day. Make up for lost time if you have a sick day. Treat writing time as working time. Your family will soon pick up this attitude from you, and treat your writing time with the same respect.
  • Plot your novels before writing the first draft. Plotting may take an extra week or two, but it will save you months of back-tracking, re-writing and extensive cutting and pasting when you're editing.
  • Aim for a number of pages per day, rather than a period of time per day. That way, you are actually producing work, rather than staring at the screen hoping for inspiration.

These are all simple things, which you may have heard before, but they do work, if you apply them. Try it, and discover the mother-lode: time for writing.

Copyright Tracy Cooper-Posey ©; 1999

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