Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Tips for time management

By Sheila Bugler
For most writers, finding time to write is always a challenge. Unless you’re a trust fund baby or have a rich partner willing to support you, chances are you’ll have responsibilities which cut into precious writing time. There are occasions, too, when a lack of time is a great excuse not to write. Because, let’s face it, no matter how much we enjoy the process of writing, having to sit down day after interminable day to do it can be a whole different challenge.
The key message I want you to take away from this article is: don’t let a lack of time prevent you from writing. If you’re serious about becoming a published author, you can make that happen – no matter what time constraints you have.
I wrote my first novel while my children were both young, I was working and my husband had a job that took him away from home a lot. Finding time to write on top of that was exhausting. And yet, I was so sure this was what I wanted to do. So I started getting up early – about 4.30 or 5.00 – and writing before my kids got up and the day started. It wasn’t easy, especially during the dark winter months, but I was determined to get that first draft done. And I did. If I had an hour and a half to myself, that was a good morning. Often I had far less than that. But even if I only had fifteen minutes, I made sure I made the very best use of that time that I could. And so can you. Here are my top tips for making use of whatever time you’ve got.
Set yourself a daily word count. This is the single most important thing you can do. In his wonderful book, On Writing, Stephen King recommends 2,000 words a day. I found this too ambitious and aimed for 1,000. I suggest you try for between 500 and 1,000 words a day. Just think, if you write 1,000 words for 100 days you’ll have created a 100,000-word story (a decent size novel, in fact). Obviously, the word count will depend on the tools you use. If you are a fast touch typist and use a computer, then 1,000 words a day is reasonable. If your keyboards skills aren’t great or you prefer to use pen and paper then your daily word count goal should be lower.
Set aside a dedicated time each day for writing. Don’t make it too long. An hour or two hours maximum. More important than the length of time is the amount of words you write.
Get your first draft down as quickly as you can. Stephen King recommends a period of no more than three months for this. My first draft took about six months. It was rough as guts but that hardly mattered. I had something I could work with now. Sure, it took another nine months to rewrite that first draft and turn it into something readable but that sense of achievement as I typed THE END for the first time was a great incentive to continue. And that takes me onto the next tip.
Keep going forward. Don’t look back. Never, ever go back over what you’ve written. Keep writing until you get to the end.
Don’t sit staring at a blank page waiting for inspiration to come. It won’t. Force yourself to write something, even if you think it’s utter rubbish. Anything is better than nothing. If your story isn’t flowing, write an interview with your central character. Ask them questions – where did they grow up? What inspires them/drives them/makes them happy and sad?

Sheila's first novel will be published by Brandon Books in September 2013. You can find details of this, along with her free online writing workshops, at her website:


  1. Great tips, and very inspiring. To add one of my own, I keep a 15-Minute List. Anything that will take less than a quarter of an hour goes on the list, so when I have too little time to start something major, I can quickly research how to make a Molotov cocktail, or ensure all my chapter numbers are correct. Still writing, but not actually writing.

  2. Wow. That's seriously impressive. A great tip, Jill. Thanks