On Finding Time

Hey Everybody! Welcome to my blog!

Here goes nothing:

My first and biggest mistake as an author (so far) was in not shouting it from the rooftops from the VERY beginning.  I guess I'm a little guarded, but I'm working on that.  When I announced that Dragon Festival, Harvest Fire was completed, nobody knew about it (save for my wife and a select few others).  I mean quite literally, friends, relatives, colleagues...no one knew that I was writing. After everyone said their congratulations, they all asked how I found the time.  Since I can't go back and blog about the importance of pre-lauch marketing, my first blog topic is a no-brainer: finding the time.

First off, we're all busy.  I work a full time job with a part time teaching gig.  When I walk in, my wife walks out on her way to work, and hands over the kids.  We save a ton on daycare, but there are other costs...that's another blog for another day.  Two kids (and one on the way) are a lot of work.  When am I supposed to write?  Well, in about eighteen months, I found enough time to put down more than a quarter of a million words.  Those are crafted words, not including outlines, character sketches, back story, and all sorts of world building notes that happened along the way.  Dragon Festival, Harvest Fire took the majority of them, but there are four of five novels outlined with started chapters, two completed short stories, and another one or two outlined.  The following are a handful of lessons in time that I've learned along the way.

1) Find your pockets:  I blame this endeavor on public transportation.  Although, I guess, technically, it's the highway department's fault?  My commute to work should be about fifteen minutes.  Due to bridge painting and lane restrictions, it's been an hour. On a city bus. Awesome.  But that gave me a dedicated hour to read, and eventually, to write, twice a day.  Soon enough, I began to look forward to that commute.

I am lucky to work in an office that firmly believes in a one hour lunch break.  I can eat in about fifteen minutes.  For some reason, I don't like to write at lunch.  I still haven't figured out why.  But I do like to read my writing at lunch.  It's a great chance to do some 'quick hits' editing of the freshest material, and maybe set up a prompt for later.

These days, I don't go anywhere without the means to capture an idea.  If you're anything like me, you're always watching people.  How someone blinks or takes a breath, how they hold themselves, or react to something unexpected...you never know when or where you'll meet your characters.  Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's garbage.  But for me, any bit of time I spend with them, in their world, makes me a better writer.

Write in bed, write while you drive, in the shower... Always be scheming. If you have to, put it in writing later.  The point is, there are always little pockets of down time, and you'd be surprised how you can fill them.

2) Have a plan:  I am not a professional writer.  That much should be clear by now.  But that doesn't mean that I'm not a serious writer, or a dedicated writer.  I'm also not nearly as organized as the average bear, but I learned very early that I needed a system for keeping things in line.  Everything I write is done on my phone.  Yup.  Every. Single. Word. On my phone (see points 3 and 5). 

For me, it was an easy choice.  I text faster than I write.  The program I use lets me set up folders for everything.  That's the real secret, I guess.  There's a folder for each book.  Inside of those I set files for overview notes, inspiration, character sketches, chapter-by-chapter outlines, and then chapter text.  I also keep continuity files with entries like "Yamada's favorite fish is grilled eel," or "so and so came in second place in the joust." In terms of keeping and saving time, that's how I kept everyone's age straight without having to re-read whole chapters.

You have to have a plan; some type of scaffold.  Inspiration can hit anywhere and at any time.  And you never know when you might find a pocket of time.  Be ready for it.

3) Consider Mobile:  If you haven't already, try writing on a smart phone or tablet.  I will be the first to say that it's not for everyone, but it may work well for some that are hesitant.  This isn't some awesome new revelation; people have been talking about it for years.  The tech is getting better and better, though, and there are more options now in terms of both hardware and software than ever before.  There should be the right combination for nearly everybody.

I use an iPhone. There. I said it.  I don't get into that debate... it fits my hand the way I like.  It's as simple as that.  Other devices are great, if not better.  The app I use is called NoteMaster.  It costs a few bucks, but I really like the interface and the Google Docs and Dropbox syncing.  There are some really slick writing apps out there for all different types of writers and they have revolutionized how we use our time.

4) No Really, Consider Mobile:  It doesn't have to be a phone or a tablet. Smart pens record and time stamp audio as you hand write.  Desktop software archives your work and saves actual notebook pages as PDFs. The newer ones even have the capability of taking your handwritten work and turning it into typed text (Livescribe MyScript).  A lot of writers use speech-to-text software to capture their dictation (Dragon Naturally Speaking).  There are certainly plenty of ways to take your writing on the road.

5) One More Push For Mobile:  A lot of my 'post production' is done on a tablet.  I use an iPad, when I can get it from my three year old...  After saving out a manuscript as a PDF, I annotate by hand with a stylus.  It's much better than printing and reprinting pages.  For the final edit(s), I use voice over and edit one page at a time.  When I put eyes on the page, I see it as I intended to say it.  Having it read to me, I hear my mistakes loud and clear.  You wouldn't believe how many ways I spelled my main characters' names wrong.  There just never seemed to be the time to sit at a computer to get it all done.

Last but not least...

6) Put Your Writing in its Place:  The lesson that I'm still learning is that there's a time and a place.  Family duties need to come before writing...at least for me...perhaps that'll be another blog...