I write best in big chunks of time. I need four or five hours together to become fully immersed in the world where my characters live. I don’t know why I work this way, but I do. It’s the kind of fiction writer I am.
It’s unfortunate, then, that my life right now won’t permit me to write this way. I have a couple of part-time jobs. I have a couple of kids, ages twelve and nine (otherwise known as the “drive me” years). One parent recently passed away and left me with probably a year’s worth of responsibilities, and my other parent requires time and attention. I also have pets, doctors’ appointments, things that break and need fixing, meals that need to be cooked, shopping that needs to get done, a house that needs to be cleaned (okay, so I don’t do a lot of that)–you know, the stuff we all have.
All of this means that my schedule is packed from the moment I awake until the moment I go to sleep. And it frequently changes with little notice. In other words, the four-to-five-hour block of writing time just does not happen.
After struggling for a long while–and failing–to find big blocks of writing time, I finally admitted that something had to change. When I
whined about discussed this dilemma with writer friends and mentors, I received some excellent advice to help me restructure my writing:
Make appointments with my characters. Writer Catherine Elcik suggested blocking out appointments with my characters on my calendar just as I would with real people. I use iCal on my laptop and iPhone, and now anyone who looks can see I’ve frequently got time marked off for “meetings” with people who just happen to share my primary characters’ names. I also print the calendar out each week and tape it to my desk. I can’t say I always make every appointment, but having my characters visibly waiting for me, tapping their toes right where I can see them, has kept me more on target than in the past. When life events forced me to stop writing for a while (see below), I found I really missed this structure and it was the first thing I brought back when I returned to the keyboard.
Treat each scene like a short story. It’s funny: I don’t need huge blocks of time to work on essays or stories. But the novel is a different creature. “OH MY GOD THIS BOOK IS KILLING ME,” seems to be the novelist’s mantra. Why do we writers psych ourselves out so much? Our own blog mama, Therese Walsh, suggested that if I found myself freaking out over the amount of work I had to do, I should try taking it one scene at a time and telling myself that scene is a story. [Read more…]