Want to write a novel, but juggling a day job, commute and other such commitments? I’ve written novels and screenplays while shuttling back and forth to London, and here are five tips that helped me make the most of my limited time…
Yes, that’s the BBC microphone muffler I found in the gutter in Oxford Circus last week…
I mention this as it’s one of the many highlights from last week’s Bestseller experiment live show that are now available to plug directly into your earholes via the medium of podcast. Click here for audio fun time.
Thanks to snowmaggeddon I had to record this one at home, but the usually flaky BT broadband actually held up and a splendid time was had by all. We discussed…
- The dark secrets of metadata and how you can make it work for your books
- How you can make a blog work harder
- Tips for when you’re stuck on your outline
- Why you should celebrate weaknesses
- The pros and cons of present tense versus past tense
- We discover what “brain tabs” are, and we discuss top tips for avoiding distractions while writing
The question from Edward Kane on tenses was a fun one to answer, though I’ve since realised that my erudite rambling could be cut down to two simple principles:
The present tense works better for unreliable narrators
The past tense works better for reliable narrators
And the less we will say about the future tense the better*
And here’s a link to the Action Force Palitoy book we mentioned in our conversation about crowdfunding. It really is ace, if that’s your thing.
And speaking of crowdfunding… did you know that Betseller Experiment listeners get 10% off when they pledge for my new book The End of Magic? Go here, click pledge and type bestsellerxp when prompted.
Oh, and Dominic did me a new sting…!
Thank you and till next time, happy writing!
Until next time, happy writing!
*I made a bad grammar joke! Am I not funny?
PS. That novel I wrote with Mark Desvaux is still getting lovely reviews. Grab your copy here and tell us what you think.
PS. Oh, and if you want to support our work on the podcast, we now have a Patreon. Do please support us and we can keep this crazy train rolling.
Writing while holding down a full-time job can be a bit of a ‘mare at the best of times. Some authors write late into the evening, some get up at the crack of dawn. I’m lucky enough to be able to weave into my working week, and I thought you might want to see what my typical writing week looks like, followed by five tips that you might find useful. Firstly, here’s what this past week looked like…
I live out in the sticks now, so on a weekday the whole family is up at 6, out the door by 7, and on our various busses and trains by 7:30. My commute into London takes about an hour and forty minutes. Plenty of time for writing! I’m fed and caffiened by this point, and raring to go. I generally get my best stuff done on the morning commute.
This particular morning, I was working on my first Woodville book. I’m currently about halfway through and it’s like wading through treacle, but progress is progress.
Mondays are podcast launch days, so I spend my lunch break on the social media for the new episode.
My wife Claire is a gardening blogger and author, and I worked on uploading her new gardening eBook to KDP.
I’m working on a couple of projects with Jon Wright at the moment and he had been tweaking a pilot script we’re working on, which I reviewed on the train home and made a few light edits.
More Woodvile work. Averaging about 500-800 words each morning.
More Bestseller Experiment social media and I also send a newsletter out on my mailing list with details of the show.
Worked on formatting Claire’s new eBook on Parsnips… very different to my usual stuff, but it’s nearly sowing season and she needs to get these online pronto!
Woodville – good progress. About 1000 words.
I added hyperlinks to Claire’s eBook. She links to seed companies and her videos on Youtube, so there are loads of them! Far more than any novel. I also worked on tweaking the keywords and metadata for Back to Reality and that afternoon I got a telling off from Amazon for adding a subtitle that has text that isn’t on the cover art. We were threatened with having the book removed if we didn’t amend it. Grr.
Script rewrites on the train home for the thing Jon and I are working on. Really good fun as these are light changes, as opposed to the first draft slog of the Woodville stuff. It’s tempting to stick with this tomorrow morning, but I must be disciplined!
Mr. D and I had planned to record the podcast tonight (we usually record on a Monday), but due to all sorts of extenuating circumstances (and Canadian weather!) we’ve have to postpone it. Will we get an episode out in time for next week…?
Woodville. Hitting my stride with this noise. Daily word count is improving.
I listen to the interview I recorded with next week’s guest, making notes in anticipation of recording the pre- and post interview stuff with Mr. D. Also make further tweaks to Back to Reality’s metadata. Claire and I also got our PLR statements. In the UK, every time a book is taken out of the library the author (and illustrator if applicable) gets 8 pence! My statement could pay for a takeaway pizza. Claire’s could pay for a nice weekend away!
A day off from the day job at Orion. I spent the morning at home and Jon popped round to make the final changes to our pilot script before sending it off to our agent. We read it aloud, acting out the parts and pising ourselves laughing. Very good times.
In the afternoon, the Canadian weather eases and Mr. D’s power is back on, so we record Monday’s episode, plus the Deep Dive episode for Patreon listeners. Poor Dave our editor only has a few days to cobble our witterings together!
Dave sends us the rough edit of the podcast and I listen back, making notes and suggestions for edits, as well as writing the description you read on the website/iTunes etc and the keywords we use for the blog.
No other writing done today (apart from the first rough draft of this blog!)
In the afternoon, I read an excerpt from a friend’s book and send him some notes.
Today is our wedding anniversary, so me and the family went to see a movie and had a cheeky Nando’s for lunch, and now I’m writing this blog, but I’m already thinking about what I’ll be writing tomorrow…
Five tips for writing around a day job:
- Spot and schedule: Spot those spare moments in your week and schedule those as writing times. They don’t have to be long. We’ve had guests on the podcast who can work in fifteen minute bursts. Little and often works best. Set reminders in your calendar and stick to them. There’s a temptation to be flexible with these times as it’s not a “proper job”. I’m very protective of these slots and treat them with the same weight as meetings scheduled for my day job.
- Shut out distractions: You might be working on the train, or the office, or a busy home. There will always be noise and distractions and, if you’ve only got half an hour in which to write today, then those distraction will eat that up in no time. Find a quiet spot and shut the door. Make it clear to your colleagues and loved ones that you’re not to be disturbed. If you do work in an office, get away from your desk if possible. Otherwise, you’ll have colleagues interrupting you with work queries in your break. At work I’ve been known to stick a Post It note on my headphones with “Sorry, can’t talk: Writing” written on them… It works! Your colleagues might think you’re mental, but it works. I love a pair of comfy noise-cancelling headphones for my train journey, and I currently use an app called Scape which plays woodland noises etc, which I find really conducive to productivity (I still have music playlists, but are finding them a little too distracting at my age!).
- Finish mid-sentence: If you’ve only got a short time in which to write, there’s nothing more likely to eat into that time than you sitting there, staring into space, wondering what to write next. I try to finish any session mid-sentence, so when I return to writing I simply finish that sentence/thought/scene/paragraph and I’m already up and running.
- A.B.T: Always Be Thinking. You might not be able to write all the time, but you should engage your brain for some good, solid thinking as often as possible. Five minutes on your hands? Skip back to what you were last writing: what were the problems? How can they be solved? What happens next? And whatever you think of, for the love of criminy take notes! If you’re anything like me, you’ll have forgotten everything by the time you get back to writing.
- Write early, edit late: This is a personal one, and perhaps more to do with being middle-aged and sluggish, but I work on new stuff in the morning when I’m bright and breezy, and edit that same work in the evening when I’m lacking buzz and energy. I also have a method that I call Be Kind Rewind: whenever I get stuck, I’ll go back and edit/rewrite the previous 500 or so words. By the time I’m done working on them, I usually have enough momentum going that I crash through any block that I might’ve had when I started.
If you found those helpful, please share with your fellow writers. How do you work around the day job? Please leave your comments below…