Someday I would love to be a full-time writer, but for right now, I have a 50-60 hour a week day job that requires my attention so that annoyances like bills, mortgage payments, and insurance can be provided for. I’ve written and published five novels a collection of short stories and a non-fiction book in the 3 years while satisfying the demands of my day job.
People (my employer included) always ask me how I do this, so here are some tips to help others that might be in this same predicament.
1) Think about your writing during every minute that you have available – You may not be able to write as much as you like, but you can certainly work out plot elements and character profiles in your mind during your work day. We all (hopefully) take showers every day. Some of my greatest ideas have come to me in the shower. The key is to remember your thoughts and write them down or record them as soon as possible. I carry a little notebook with me for this purpose.
2) Maximize your idle time – Again, it may not be safe to open your laptop or tablet in the car while you are commuting. You can, however, use your smart phone to record your work and then type it up later. If you car pool, this might be difficult. If you don’t, you might have people at traffic lights staring at you as you talk to an invisible passenger in your car. If you are truly a writer, however, you probably are a bit on the eccentric side anyway. This just goes with the image.
3) Travel and free time – My dream is to someday live in a house by the ocean with a writing room on the top floor where I can peacefully gaze out at the ocean while I write masterpieces. Until I have a best seller that makes this a reality, however, I write whenever and wherever I can. I have a small laptop and an even smaller Windows based tablet that I use to write. Now that airlines allow the use of these small devices before and during takeoff, I use this time to get a jump on my writing. I used to write in a notebook during this time and then type it up later. Now, I can type while I’m on the plane, at the gate in the airport, waiting for a doctors appointment, or any other place where I have idle time. The trick is to become adept at blocking out outside distraction and focusing on your work.
4) Use your daily experiences to help you – We all work with interesting characters. We all experience things that are unusual from time to time. I travel to various US cities very frequently and like to observe the people and culture while I’m there. I also like to look at local and national news stories. Very often a secondary news story can be the spark for a story. Use your experiences. Write what you know.
5) Claim your non-work time – We all want to do our jobs well. The trick with this tip is to work smarter, not longer hours. Find ways to get your day job work done so that you have more time to write. It can be done. If you travel, there are many hours that become available if you look for them. You don’t need to go out to dinner every night.
6) Sleep less – We all like to get our eight hours of sleep. I’ve found that, during the work week, I can get by on 6-7 hours sleep and use that extra time in the morning or the evening to write. It’s amazing how many pages you can get done in a dedicated hour or two.
7) Work on multiple writing projects simultaneously – I know this sounds crazy, but I’m sure you’ve heard of writer’s block. I’ve found that if I have a short story and a book going at the same time, I can switch between them if I get stuck in one or the other. If I have a plot element that is difficult to work out, switching to my other project usually results in resolving the issue with the first one through the clearing of my mind.
8) Outsource your marketing/advertising – I’ve found a great resource that can help me with gaining exposure for my work without me having to do the leg work. I occasionally have to respond to interview questionnaires or connect with podcasts, but for the most part, I don’t have to find the outlets for these things. It saves time and will boost your sales. The key, as a new author, is to increase your spend in this area gradually and in proportion with your sales. Anyone wanting to know more about this can contact me directly.
9) Have a blog and automate your postings – I have put a great deal of effort into setting up my blog on WordPress. This platforms allows me to schedule blog posts ahead of time and simultaneously post to other social media outlets. The key here is not to spam your followers. I try to minimize promotional posts while posting information containing tips, reviews, and other features. I have seen steady growth in the past four months with this strategy and I have seen sales of my work as a result.
10) Don’t give up – There were times when I had project deadlines at work where I would go for days without writing. On the whole, I have been able to balance this out. For every extra hour of work, I try to find an extra hour of writing time during the lulls that naturally occur. You have to work at this and make it happen.
I hope this list is helpful. There may be other tips that I haven’t listed and I believe that each of them could be expanded into there own top ten list. As always, I welcome your comments. Share your tips as well. We all win by sharing our knowledge of what works.