Finding the time to write is a touchy subject because everyone has a
different style that works best for them. I will include some tips and
ideas that you can try, to see what works for you. I’ll touch on
location and duration in this post. On Saturday I’ll be
talking about entering the mindset to write, which will go hand-in-
hand with this post.
For location, I can offer only the standard advice, plus a few of my
First, find a quiet place where you will not be interrupted.
Interruptions can come in many ways, but that depends on you. I would
consider kids to be a distraction, so if you want to be able to write,
try to keep the kids at bay for a while.
Another distraction is noise. When you are trying to pen the perfect
prose, you need to be able to concentrate. Music, television,
conversations (whether you are part of them or not), even heavy
traffic can hide the words you seek. Sometimes you will write poorly,
other times nothing will move your hand and the page will stay blank,
so cut the noises out.
Another distraction (which, admittedly can also be an inspiration) is
a great view. If your significant other is sitting across the room,
and you find your gaze drifting from the screen to him or her, that’s
a distraction. If you have a beautiful forest or lake view when you
look out of your window, you may find yourself watching, waiting,
hoping for a few inspiring words to get you started – only to find
that you’re simply enjoying the view too much and not writing. You may
find a need to relocate and get rid of the distraction of a great
Ideally, a bedroom or office where you can shut (better yet, lock) the
door would be best. An empty house is a pretty good idea too, but I’ve
found that you can be distracted by household chores, or other things
to do while at home. A library is a wise choice, or possibly even a coffee shop.
The main point is that you should have quiet and no distractions.
So how long should you write in a single session? Again, that depends on your style and your circumstances.
When I was starting my novel during National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo.org) in November, 2013, the challenge was to write 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30. I calculated and came up with needing to write 1,667 words per day. No problem!
Well, it didn’t start off so great. I was busy and hit a few hundred a day or two. I missed a couple of days. Before I knew it, a third of the month was gone and I was at about 3000 words. I needed to find a new approach. Depending on what other things I had going on for the day, I broke my writing durations into three categories.
The first I will talk about are large blocks of time. This is where you are so in the zone, and uninterrupted, that you write for 6-8 hours at a time. We all love when we get that time and are productive, but let’s face it – they are rare. There were a few days I had that netted me over 8000 words in a day! With these long sessions, make sure you do take a couple minutes to stand up, stretch, go to the bathroom, heat up some food, and come right back to writing. You’re on fire! Don’t let it go out.
Next are medium sized blocks of time. These are where you spend an hour or two writing. It seems they are the most difficult to manage, even though they are more common than the marathon sessions. Within this timeblock, you can safely write your 1,667 words for the day. These are the sessions that seem to drag on though, as you don’t feel the exhiliaration of the level of progress that a big session offers you, but you have more pressure than the final blocks of time.
The final blocks of time are 15-30 minute “sprints”. These are fantastic with a group (even if the group is just on Facebook). Someone will let the group know what time a 15 minute sprint will start. At that time, they will say “Go!” and then everyone writes until they say “Stop!” Usually everyone will post their word counts. I’ve been as low as 250 words in 15 minutes, but generally I am between 350-400. I’ve seen many who were in the 600-800 range in 15 minutes.
These are fun because you can take a scene that you want to write, and focus on just that. It doesn’t have to be in order. Perhaps you want to write something three chapters before the end of the book – go for it! These sprints are also great because it’s easy to find 15 minutes when you can get away, uninterrupted. A final thought, they can be done by yourself if you set a timer and sprint. If you do a few of those throughout the day, you’ve got your word count.
Doing the math, I’ve estimated approximately 350 words per page. I like my chapters to be around 8 pages, give or take. That means a chapter is in the ball park of 2500-3000 words. 8 sprints at 375 words each will give you 3000 words. 1-2 days per chapter is fairly doable, if you follow this method.