Which One Doesn’t Fit? Free-Time, Writing Time, Work, Life, Family.
by Marcus A. Nannini
Not much of a trick question, yet it underscores the commitments an author must successfully balance on the way to the publication of a good manuscript. Commitment is of critical importance, for without it a book – or even the concept for a book – will linger on the sidelines of your life for years and years, perhaps even forever.
Caveat: Please bear in mind I am not an expert in time management.
I am, however, all about getting things done within timeframes I establish. In my past professional life, I was continually faced with hard deadlines from agencies over which I had no control. Out of this background grew the habit of creating personal target dates for my writing projects. I made certain to create reasonable deadlines in order to give myself every opportunity to succeed.
I am assuming you, as a writer, have commenced a manuscript. Perhaps it is only an outline, maybe you are several chapters into your first draft, or possibly you’re nearing completion. In all events, when I sit down to write a book or a magazine story, I know two things: how it begins and how it ends. Filling in the balance of the manuscript is a matter of making the time, possibly the most important four letter word outside of love.
I consider the absence of “writer’s block”* in my life to be the result of knowing how the story both begins and ends prior to ever sitting down to type word number one. It’s the only explanation I can offer. The trick for me was to create enough time to actually draft the “in between,” and it wasn’t easy.
I experimented with many approaches to time management with hit-or-miss results. Eventually I concluded if I were willing to create a daily habit of predictable actions, I might achieve better outcomes. Actually, it wasn’t really a conclusion; it was more like stumbling onto a realization.
One day it occurred to me that my most productive writing came when I was in a regular daily rhythm, or routine. I had been trying to force myself to write at a set time each day and force the balance of the day to work around it. That approach was not working very well.
When a person is employed in a job with set hours, their routine is dictated by the time demands of the job. Perhaps I am fortunate because I have not had set hours dictated to me for a few years now. But I still have demands and intrusions on my time, same as anyone else. Learning to prevent outside demands and intrusions from disrupting my writing has not been a smooth adjustment, but I have done so. You likely can do it, too.
Let me explain a little about how I apportion my time. About six weeks ago, Casemate Publishers-UK requested I write a story about a particular aspect of Operation Market Garden for them to publish in their online magazine. The deadline provided to me was “sometime in early March.” I was swamped with work, but a request like this warranted my fitting it into my routine. I stuffed the project into the web-like recesses of my mind and moved on.
One morning I was reading a newspaper, when an idea for both the opening and conclusion of the story I had promised to write suddenly surfaced. I immediately cut a few hours from my other projects over a two-day period to draft it. I then set the story aside for a couple of days before revisiting it. Once I successfully read through the story without changing a word, I sent it off. My other projects kept moving forward because I didn’t completely eliminate them from my writing routine.
The time to write the article made itself available once my mind was ready to write. I did not attempt to set aside a specific time or day. I don’t believe in forcing myself to write at specific time slots and suggest you don’t either. Nobody I know likes to be forced into doing things, so I suggest you do not force yourself.
Write when your mind says “Write!” Forget the distractions and carve out the time. Time cannot be replaced, and wasting it delays the final manuscript. Without a final manuscript, an author has nothing, which brings me to the topic of editors.
An editor brings a great deal to the table, not the least of which is a fresh point of view. Editors specialize in different things, like spelling and grammar, layout, and content. While Spellcheck and Grammarly programs can flag a great number of issues, subtle typos and grammatical irregularities still occur. I require an objective pair of human eyes to assist me, in the form of an editor.
I prefer to feed my editor chapters of my book as I go along, rather than waiting to inundate her with the entire 70,000 to 100,000 words at one time. I find the piecemeal approach works well and helps keep me focused. If you don’t have an editor, get one. Simple as that.
Often, I write so fast the words fly onto the screen, and the order in which they fly may not make for the best, or most concise, sentences and paragraphs. That is where an editor also proves their worth. They are not as close to the story as I am, offer a vitally fresh read, and routinely raise questions I never considered.
Make certain to get yourself an editor and please consider “writing-time” to be an inherent “fit” within your “free-time.”
* “Writer’s block is a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work, or experiences a creative slowdown. The condition ranges from difficulty in coming up with original ideas to being unable to produce a work for years. Throughout history, writer’s block has been a documented problem.” – Wikipedia.
Marcus Nannini began his journalistic career when he published his own newspaper in the sixth grade, charging 25 cents for the privilege of reading the only printed copy of each edition. During his undergraduate years, Nannini was a paid reporter and worked three semesters as the research assistant for journalism professor and published author Richard Stocks Carlson, Ph.D. Nannini is a life-long history buff with a particular interest in World War II and the Pearl Harbor attack. His continuing curiosity over several Japanese aerial photographs and the turtling of the U.S.S. Oklahoma lead him to write Chameleons, first as a screenplay and now as a full-length novel. His latest work, Left for Dead at Nijmegen, has recently debuted to great regard, internationally.