Ti-i-i-ime is (Not) on My Side

This post has been something I’ve been kicking around the noggin for a while. But then talking about how you don’t have time to write is super annoying and self indulgent. It’s like “Oh whoa is me. I’ve baked all of these cookies and I just don’t have time to eat them!” You can’t see me right now, but I’m flipping my hands around in an over-exaggerated pouting manner. I may be making a face too … But the truth of the matter is that for those of use who have a day job and other commitments, establishing a “writing time” is incredibly important. Maybe it’s the scheduler in me, but for me, I’m the most productive when I stick a writing schedule.

Barring the occasional disruptive event, here’s how it used to go:

Get up and eat breakfast. Go to the gym. Get to work and catch up on emails/start my day. Knock out my writing in the morning. Be a productive member of my job from then on.

Now I know not everyone has the luxury of being able to write while they’re at their day job. No time, too distracting, etc. We’ll get to that in a minute, but let me first explain why my method was beneficial to me …

I’ve become the most productive in the morning in general. That’s because I’ve thrown myself out of bed, chugged some coffee and hit the gym. All of those things help to energize and refresh my battery. After that, the world is mine so to speak. But what’s become the most helpful thing when it comes to writing is that during all of these morning rituals, that’s when I take care of the prewriting in my head. I know come 9:30ish it’s game time so what am I gonna bring to the table?

I’m an outliner who leans more towards plotting. Some scenes I have bullet points that I need to hit and others, I know dialogue beats and what the air is gonna smell like. It all depends what I’m writing. So for me, the prewriting portion is just as if not more important than the actual writing side. This is when I think about what I wrote yesterday, check the outline for my goals for what’s coming up, and start working on the next bit. I’ll jot some notes on my phone so I don’t forget but I’m definitely more productive when it comes to actually writing if I’ve done this process all morning. This is even how I treated all of my essays in college. I couldn’t write anything without first spending time thinking about where I wanted to go with it. Even parts of this post have existed floating around in the ether of my subconscious before I sat down at the keyboard.

When it comes to a new novel, I give myself a goal of 1,000 words a day. It’s just something that’ll get my butt in the chair and keep me honest. In the beginning, it’s a target number. If I hit 700 and I like it, eh, it’s a good day. But after a while, it becomes the rule. Only 950 today? Better write 1050 tomorrow! And once that gets in place, I up the count but by then I’m usually excited enough about the story that I’m off to the races.

All of this is to set the stage. That was my life.

Now? I’m working two jobs at the same time while trying to get my home (and mind) ready for the arrival of our twins in August. First time parent. Lots to do. So there’s basically nothing but distractions in my life right now! We can debate forever about the “time to write” and everyone is going to have the process that works best for them. My favorite analogy about writing is the Jane Goodall method. The more time you stay out of the trees, the more work you have to do to get back into the critters’ good graces. So what do you do when life gets in the way and your routine breaks?

Prewriting. Prewriting. Prewriting.

You’re still working on your story. You’re still planning beats, working on dialogue, snippets of description. You’re doing the hardest part now. All you have to do later is weave it all together so it sounds coherent. Who’s rough draft is perfect anyway? The best part is you’re doing this while you’re walking around, going grocery shopping, or stuck waiting for a coworker’s report. Hey, you’re multitasking. Who knew? Also driving (I get a lot of work done by myself in the car). Any time you’re stuck in the car either too or from work, turn off the radio and work on your story. I’ll talk out loud to work out issues. If anyone stops next to you it’ll look no less crazy than you singing to yourself. Hell, they’ll probably think you’re on the phone. And speaking of the phone, we live in the 21st century. Smart phones have voice to text capabilities so write yourself dozens of notes. Even if you don’t use any of it later, you’re basically getting all of the bad words out first and making way for the good ones.

I’m still working on my new schedule and I know come August, that’s going to change again, but never stop. Sharks need to keep swimming and you need to keep writing. At least that’s how I tend to look at it. I use the gym as another example. People like to say that writing is like working a muscle and they’re right, but I’m looking at the consistency here. When I first started going to the gym – or even after an extended absence – those first few days back suck. They suck a lot. The first week is hard and the second one is even harder. You’re sore. You’re tired. It’s exhausting. And then somewhere around week three something magical happens. Suddenly it’s not so bad. You kind of like going to the gym. You see improvements and you feel good about it. That’s how I look at writing.

When I sit down to write may vary these days, but the basics never change. I must work on it in my head before I do and I must write every day. If I (and you) can accomplish those two things, the rest of it’s going to fall into place.

Birthing Pains

Welcome to my first official blog post!

I’ve been toying with the idea of running my “official” writer’s site for a while now and letting a few ideas roll around before I actually landed on anything. With three novels under my belt – arguably, I think that only one of them is any good – and being a quarter of the way through number four, I decided it was finally time (maybe past time) to pull this proverbial trigger. And on my actual birthday no less!

Part of what had been tripping me up for so long is that I couldn’t land on a single idea for a blog. I don’t feel confident giving other people writing advice on a continual basis as I’m just as likely to abuse the comma (used to use it like a Band-Aid) than anyone else. I also over think my tweets and have never been good at Facebook posts, so the thought of a published journal of my day to day life didn’t sound compelling to me either. So that left some of my other interests: Comic books, book books and video games. I like all of them, but I’m rarely an authority anymore as most of my time has been spent getting our lives ready for the birth of our first children: Twins! Wait, that’s ANOTHER thing I could write about! See where I’m going with this?

So instead of focusing on just one thing, you’re going to get it all. One day it might be a plot issue I’m tackling, the next it’ll be about a half marathon I ran. Oh, and I’m putting new tile in my kitchen floor in a couple weeks. You’ll definitely be hearing about that one. Whether you’re here with me at the beginning – which might only be my mom and my wife. Hi guys! – or if you’re reading from the future, consider this a manifesto of sorts.

For years I’d always – still do, actually – wanted to be a comic book writer. I spent a long time wrangling other people into drawing my dreams. It finally hit me that I didn’t always need another person to translate the images in my head. I love telling stories and I love crafting them. Why can’t I do both? Thus, I wrote my first novel, A Binder’s Oath. Needless to say it’s sitting safely in a digital trunk right now. I’ll probably pick its corpse like a carrion bird for a few good ideas later, but I’m not thrilled with it enough to fix it into a real boy. Working full time at Indiana University only leaves me with so much extra time to write, so time management is incredibly important. And once those babies are born you better believe that it’s going to become even more so. Anyway, I say all of this to illustrate a point. I’m so happy I wrote that book because it taught me so much about the novel writing process, but more than anything it showed me that I’m a novelist at heart. Even if nothing I write ever gets published, I’m not going to stop. I’ll crank these suckers out. My pace is about one a year right now. I hear that’s not too shabby.

At this point, you might be thinking, “What does this have to do with a blog?” That’s a good question. I’m glad you asked.

Stories. I come from a family of born story tellers and I’ve been fascinated with the concept of stories for as long as I can remember. I’m becoming more confident thinking of myself as a writer, but I’m definitely new to the writing community. I’ve done a lot of lurking and not so much posting and I don’t meet with a writer’s group. Although, I would definitely like to. Anyone in Indiana? So I have some tips and advice, sure, but more than that, I have stories that I want to share. I think they’re interesting, hopefully you will too.