How to be an Author 24-7

 

Hacks for HacksYour day begins when your alarm clock rousts you at 5 a.m. Instead of a clock radio blaring the wacky morning zoo crew, your iPod plays the audiobook you queued up the night before. You take a quick shower, then bang out a couple thousand words before work. Feels good, doesn’t it? You take a moment to savor how productive you feel after getting your writing out of the way first-thing.

What’s that? You think you’re done for the day? Oh, you silly person, we’re just getting started! Here’s the thing about goals: If you achieve them, it’s probably because you set the bar too low, so don’t spend too much time celebrating successes. The great ones are never satisfied, and this state of constant dissatisfaction is the gasoline that will keep the engine of your writing career purring through drafts, revisions, rejections, the occasional publication, and eventually the eternal parking lot of the grave. Writing requires you devote every spare moment to it. I’ll show you how. Come on, we’ve got a busy day ahead of us.

Work

An author jauntily smoking his pipe in his office
photo by jo-h

At the office, log in to your computer and pull up your word processor, email program, and calendar. This is so you can switch to them quickly if your boss walks by while you’re blogging and writing Goodreads reviews. If this keeps you from completing those TPS reports your boss wants, catch up on them on weekends. If you don’t have a job that gives you access to a computer during the day, carefully note your boss’ eccentricities in your notebook so you can later write him into your book as a thinly veiled antagonist.

Lunch time! You pass up a relaxing bull session with your pals at the burrito shack so you can wolf down a PB&J and get back into author mode. This is a good time to edit the stuff you wrote before work. Ugh, isn’t it awful under the light of day? How could you think people would want to read it? You reflect that some days it feels like there’s so much to fix that you’ll never get published, like you’ve traded the good things in life for tireless toil with nothing tangible to show for it. This sensation is normal, and makes your afternoon really fly by!

Family Time

Three cats reading Alice in Wonderland
photo by sammydavisdog

You’re home from work (you listened to an audiobook during your commute, didn’t you? DIDN’T YOU?!). Dinner with the fam is the ideal time to focus-group plot points and character sketches. Also make sure to ask your family how their day was. These conversations pay big dividends in writing material, like the literary equivalent of hilltop-removal mining. Your spouse and children will come to know the phrase, “That’s so great, I’m totally putting it into my book!” as the response that is most akin to the emotion they call “love.”

Now to shuffle the kids off to bed. Practice your narration skills when reading bedtime stories. Develop the essential voices you’ll need–heroic canine, valiant knight, daring girl detective, fairy princess, jaded tough-guy cop, strung-out addict desperately seeking his next score, teddy bear. Look for opportunities to use each of these in every story. If your kids ask why Santa Claus talks like Bane, remind them you’re an author and you know how these things work, so please go to bed so you can get some important things done.

Evening

photo by Alexandre Normand
photo by Alexandre Normand

I see you’ve decided to unwind after a long day. Hey, you’ve earned it! Just remember to retrofit time spent goofing off into your writing career. Did you enjoy your brief power nap? Convert your lucid dream about breaking free from a dungeon made out of paper into a new short story. Did you steal a few minutes to watch a…certain kind of film? Evenings are for researching your book, so that skin flick is your new source material. You better hope you can find a tasteful way to shoehorn it into your manuscript, pervert.

Now, to bed. Your hard day is complete. Right after you read several chapters of this novel at your bedside. Faster readers claim to read an entire book in a day. That’s overly ambitious after the day you’ve put in, so tackling only a couple hundred pages is fine. When your eyes start to droop, brew another cup of coffee, or listen to some loud music on your headphones. Slapping yourself in the face really gets the adrenaline going, too. Isn’t curling up with a good book a splendid way to end the day?

Good night, writer. Get some rest. Tomorrow’s another big day!

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About Bill Ferris

After college, Bill Ferris left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife, Jen, and his sons, Elliott and Wyatt, and he looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.

Comments

  1. says

    My latest trick to move the novel ahead is when I wake up during the night, I take myself to the last scene I’ve written and see if my semi-consciousness can move the plot ahead. And it’s working, not only do I remember the new plot advance but I also go back to sleep! Us writers just have to pack it in to get it done.

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  2. says

    Thanks for the morning laughs!

    Although I never tried reading bedtime stories in a “strung-out addict desperately seeking his next score” voice, I did spend plenty of time doing on-demand Beetlejuice imitations, which can be tough on the vocal cords.

    Oh, and I actually did the boss-as-thinly-veiled-antagonist thing. The biggest jerk in my first novel is named after a particularly appalling boss I had. It was great fuel when writing.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to slap myself in the face and brew some more coffee.

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  3. Carmel says

    I’d end up in the hospital if I did all that, especially the caffeine. ;o) But I do enjoy listening to audiobooks as I walk. I think it helps absorb a book even better than reading (unless the narrator speaks too fast!). Also try to keep my writer-ly brain ‘on’ so that when I hear or see something, I think, “Oh, I could us that there in my WIP.” And I always fall asleep reading. Fun post.

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    • says

      Carmel, you should probably plan on at least one writing-related hospitalization per year. I recommend exhaustion–it’s less painful and expensive than sleep-deprivation automobile accident, and more enjoyable than the starving-artist route. Good luck!

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  4. says

    I’m almost right there with your post (minus the skin flicks, they produce the wrong type of TENSION). You had me chuckling Bill, especially the boss part. That is so me.

    Yes I did listen to my audiobook while going to work, at work, and on my way home. I just finished my fourth run of the NIGHT ANGEL TRILOGY.

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  5. says

    I’m doing a laugh-groan, Bill, because some of these points are uncomfortably close to the truth of how I functioned a few years ago. Medicine requires endless overwork. When I first started writing and applied that model and intensity to writing? Oy. Thank goodness I grabbed a brain.

    Now I’m off to write. Today’s 50,000 words ain’t gonna write themselves.

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  6. says

    Bill, I wish I could be that productive. If I squeeze out 1,000 words a day I’m ready to throw a party for myself. Thanks for raising the bar. Well done.

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    • says

      Sorry, but as you can see from my daily schedule above, I don’t have time to stalk people.

      Of course, that’s exactly the sort of thing a stalker would say.

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  7. Helen Concha says

    Absolutely hilarious! Just the advice I needed to kick my butt into gear – I’d stupidly been putting writing almost last on my priority list. Also, your post reminds me of this gem by Stephen King: “Reading at meals is considered rude in polite society, but if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns.” Cheers.

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  8. says

    Loved it. Don’t have kids.

    But you left out the whole self-marketing thing. That cuts into writing time. That takes a little in the morning, and a bit more before I got to bed.

    I don’t audio-book on the commute, as I have a train ride. So I read. I try to balance between one classic (Moby Dick at the moment) and one current indie author in my reading.

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