We’re halfway through the school holidays, and I’m sure I’m not alone in struggling to find time to write with so many other wonderful things to do. Spending time with my six-year-old is at the top of my list; the sun has been shining and calling me outdoors; there are family games to play, craft projects to make, places to visit and people to see. But there is also a book that needs completing, and like most writers I find my work is better when I create something every day.
It is possible to write and enjoy the summer holidays. (It is!) Whether you are at home with the kids or working full-time and trying to make the most of the good weather, these tips will help you stay on top of your W.I.P. If I can do it, you definitely can! Read on for my top summer writing tips …
Enjoying Barmouth this summer – or should that be enduring Barmouth?
Tip #1: Don’t make a plan. What? No plan? Joanne ‘the planner’ Phillips advocating going without a plan? You bet – and that’s because I know for a fact that if you make a plan for your writing over the summer holidays you will not be able to stick to it and then you’ll feel like a failure and will be less likely to do any writing at all! Better by far to have a ‘pick-and-mix’ approach so you can be both flexible and productive. (See tip #3 for more on this.)
Tip #2: Recognise the value of 100 words. This is about understanding that small increments add up to a greater whole, and that it is really is worthwhile writing in tiny chunks. The one and only time I lost weight successfully (waaaay back in 2004) I remember that it took me ages to reach my goal, but that I reached it by losing one or two pounds a week. I didn’t mind – I had the right mindset and was enjoying the process and those pounds did add up eventually to a whole one and a half stone! If you allow yourself to write in tiny chunks – if you feel there is value in sitting down and achieving 100 words in that sitting – you will be amazed how quickly those chunks add up. Leave your laptop out on the dining room or kitchen table, or leave your computer switched on and ready to go. Whenever you get chance, even if it’s just for 5 minutes, plonk yourself down and write. If you’re lucky, those 5 minutes might stretch into 15, or even 30. This sometimes happens when the kids get into a game and leave you alone for a bit. But even if you are interrupted just after you sat down, you’ll still have written something. And something is better than nothing.
Tip #3: Have flexible projects on the go. Making progress on your W.I.P. is what these tips are all about, but that doesn’t have to mean writing the book. There are many more aspects to your book than just the text contained within the final proofed and published product. You can make a list of all the associating writing tasks you’ll be required to do at some point between now and the book hitting the shelves – or you can use my list below – and then try to be flexible. When you get a stretch of writing time have various tasks to choose from. That way, if you’re not in the mood to ‘write’ you can still use the time to do something valuable that is moving you forward. My list of book-related tasks for my current work-in-progress (the next in my Flora Lively series) is as follows:
- Write the blurb
- Work on the synopsis
- Make a list of bloggers who might want to review it
- Prepare the email to bloggers who might want to review it
- Write some blog posts for my own blog or as a guest blogger to promote the book
- Think of ideas for press articles to promote the book
- Read the first in the series and refresh my memory for continuity purposes
- Write a one-line pitch or blurb
and on and on. I have the cover for A Date With Death already, but if I didn’t I could add sourcing cover images and producing a cover brief to this list, along with related jobs like finding a good proofreader and editor, approaching beta readers, making a list of local bookshops. If you are planning to submit your novel to agents you could add writing a draft covering letter and sourcing names to this list instead. You get the idea – there are many, many tasks you’ll have to tackle once you finish writing your book, and every one of them you work on now will save you time later.
A visit to a ruined castle or a research trip? I know what the taxman would say!
Tip #4: Take research trips. This is great fun, and a way to involve the whole family. If you are writing a book set in an area reasonably local to you, why not plan days out that can double up as research? I have a scene set on Stiperstones in Shropshire in my W.I.P., so guess where we’ll be going next week? If your location is further afield you might want to make that your holiday destination, but don’t forget Google Earth and the local library. Give your children a project and together you can visit exotic places from the comfort of your sofa, then collect pictures and brochures to stick in a scrap book. Research like this isn’t confined to places, of course – you can get the family involved in looking up facts on historical characters and events, cultures and customs, architecture, food and drink … the possibilities are there if you look for them.
Tip #5: Talk about your book all the time! Even when you’re not writing it, you are still allowed to be thinking and talking about it. Yes, your family will get bored of you, and yes, if you have a very young child it might lead to difficult questions like ‘What does murder mean, Mummy?’ (Had that the other day.) But the way to keep your passion alive while you are out of your usual writing groove is to keep the text and the characters alive in your own mind. My characters have conversations in my head all the time; I think out loud to my husband when we’re out and about, mulling over various plot-points. I don’t worry too much about making notes on everything (although note-taking is a great idea, of course, but you’re a writer – you shouldn’t need me to tell you that). I trust that by keeping the book right in the front of my consciousness my enthusiasm will drive the project forward, however little time I have to actually sit down and write.
If you’ve enjoyed reading these tips and you think they might be useful, please share this post – there are buttons below to make it easier. You might want to sign up to my mailing list to get news direct to your inbox about new releases, special offers and competitions. You can also follow this blog in WordPress :) And please feel free to add your own tips in the comments box – how are you managing your writing time this summer?