The Blueprint: Building Writing Routines & Setting Writing Goals
For many of us, writing is not our day job. That means, aside from holding down a job or two elsewhere, we might have other obligations as well – families, volunteer work, traveling, etc. It’s hard to find time to fit in writing anything, whether it be a novel or a simple 140-character tweet. So how do you fit in your love for writing among the many other chores of life? Just like an architect drawing up a blueprint for a new build, it all begins with planning.
For me, writing my first novel, Finding Paradise, took about six months from start to finish. I have a full-time job, a family, and other obligations outside of writing. If I had to estimate, I have about an hour or two per day to dedicate to writing. However, that’s if life doesn’t get in the way, which it always does inevitably. During a perfect week, I’d have anywhere from 10 to 12 hours per week to dedicate to writing. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? It’s really not once you sit down and start writing a novel. Time flies and before you know it, you’re up until 2:00 a.m. on a single chapter when you have to go to work in five hours. Whoops!
The best way to build a writing routine is to first look at a typical week in your life and decide how many hours per day you can dedicate to writing. Don’t worry about if you can actually fit that time in or not. You’ll get there eventually. First, map out how many hours or even minutes you can utilize for writing. For example, my husband works late during certain days of the week, so I know I won’t get much writing time in on those days because I’ll be taking care of the house alone. But since my daughter has all her dance and swimming activities on Saturdays, I know I can get at least three to four hours of writing time while I wait for her. Sundays during football season are always a guaranteed four to five hours while I can possibly swing a few lunch hours during the week if I remember to bring my personal laptop to work.
Now, take those hours and make an appointment with yourself. Put in on your calendar, make yourself reminders on your phone, or do whatever you need to do to remember. But make sure you set that time aside specifically for writing. If you know that Thursday night is reserved for writing, you might be less likely to accept an invitation for happy hour rather than trying to fit in some writing time whenever you can. Make yourself and your writing a priority.
But if you do need to cancel that time with your writing, don’t be too hard on yourself. Life happens. If everything went to plan, I’d have pumped our four books by now, but the luck of the draw is that life doesn’t adhere to a schedule or any plan. If you are forced to cancel your writing time, dust yourself off and try again the next time. If you can make up those hours during your next set writing time, that’s fantastic! If not, don’t feel pressured to squeeze those hours in another time. If you do, you could turn your passion for writing into a chore and you wouldn’t want that.
Last, but not least, set goals for each writing session that you have planned. Perhaps 500 words per hour? Maybe a new scene each night? Or possibly a chapter each day? Tailor your writing goals to whatever you want the end result of your writing sessions to be. If you are writing a novel, perhaps focus on chapter or scene counts. If you are writing blogs or articles, focus on word counts. Whatever it is, strive to meet those goals during each writing session. Again, if you don’t meet those goals, don’t stress too hard. As long as you were working towards those 500 words or to complete that scene, it’s okay if it isn’t completely finished by the time you have to return to the real world. You got more done that you might have otherwise and that is a huge accomplishment in itself!
I have many more tips and anecdotes about writing and self-publishing my first novel on my website, www.vportiz.com/confessions. Confessions of a New Author is a blog series of my adventures in writing that I hope can calm some fears and maybe even inspire some aspiring writers to take the next step and publish their novels. I will be posting more content soon once I set new writing goals, which will include finalizing my next novel, Damaged Property, to be released this spring.