Marian P. Merritt - Lagniappe

Where the Bayous Meet the Mountains

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Writer’s Write. Right? – Time Management Tips for Writers. Part 2 of 2

Part 2 – Daily Schedule

In January I added over 25,000 new words to my current work in progress. For some writer’s that may be a drop in the bucket or a common occurrence, but it was a huge increase for me. Below is a list of things I did. Maintaining a consistent daily writing schedule proved to be the biggest benefit to getting words on the page.

Look at your daily schedule as objectively as possible and assess where you can make some beneficial changes. Take what works and modify to make your schedule more effective.  You’ll be more successful if you’re doing what works for you.

Rest assured, not every one of my days looked like the schedule below. This is what I strive for and on the days I can achieve this, I’m a productive writer. That is, words get typed onto the page and the story advances. And on the days I miss the mark, I allow myself the grace to enjoy what I’ve exchanged for my writing. And I simply say as Miss Scarlet did, “Tomorrow is another day.” I pray you’ll give yourself the same grace.

Daily Writing Schedule

1.              Schedule writing time

     The night before when I’m planning my day, I write down how many words I’ll write the next day. By writing it down the night before, my brain has time to accept that task for the next day. It’s also a way to convince myself that writing is just as important as anything else on my schedule. Also, letting family members know you’re writing schedule helps keep your writing commitment. They’re more likely to respect your time if you’re specific. For me, writing after Bible study is crucial. If I write when I’m fresh in the morning, I seem to be more productive. But not everyone works best in the morning. Know what time works for you and guard it like a Mama Bear guarding her cubs. Which means turn off the phone, emails, social media, or anything else that can distract you during that high-productivity time.

2.              Get Dressed

     Yes, shed the PJs and slippers and put on regular clothes. Your brain will believe you are ready to conquer the day. Remember it takes approximately 28 days to make something a habit. So make a conscious effort to do this. You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel. Besides this is your business, take it seriously. Even changing into sweatpants, a shirt without stains or holes, and tennis shoes will make you feel better.

3.              Have a Neat Desk

     A working surface where you can find what you need with your frequently used reference books readily available can save time. Nothing is more frustrating and a time killer than to spend thirty minutes looking for your favorite pen, folder of ideas, or reference book. This is time that can be added to your writing account.

4.              Bible Study/Devotional

     After I’ve let the dog out and gotten my coffee/tea. I spend time with my Lord. He is the reason I write so it’s only fitting that I should visit with Him before I write one word. This sets the tone for my day. Mentally, I’m in a much better place to work or tackle anything that comes along. Words seem to flow much better when I’ve gone to Him first. This for me, is putting one of my “Big Rocks” in first. For those of you who don’t know what that means, here’s a link to the popular time-management concept:
During one of my devotion times the Lord reminded me very clearly:
“I can’t write through you unless you write.”

5.              Keep Notebook Nearby—

     When I begin research or planning a story, I create a notebook that includes the following forms and keep it on my desk while I’m writing this story.

a.     Character Sketches
b. A list of all the character names
    (this is usually ongoing as I write)
c.     Basic plot and location ideas
d.      A List of Chapters
    (this is created as I write)
e.     Edit Ops (Editing Opportunities).

I pull the Edit Ops sheet and a blank piece of paper (an idea sheet) out of the notebook and place it next to my computer.

The blank sheet is used to jot ideas for today’s writing direction (see Step 6)

Ideas for edits are jotted on the Edit Ops sheet as I'm writing. Later, when editing this story this idea sheet is helpful.

As I complete a chapter, the chapter number and a brief description is written on the List of Chapters form. This helps to find specific things quickly in the manuscript and also serves as a rough synopsis when the story is finished. This form could be used for writers who plot each chapter.

For a copy of my Story Development Documents, see my website:

6.              Decide Direction—

     Upon opening to my current Work In Progress (WIP), I skim the previous chapter (no editing) to get back into the story. Here I take a few minutes to decide where the next scene/chapter is headed. Taking this few minutes to really think about the story helps the story flow. I jot a few ideas on the idea sheet.

7.              Set a Timer—

     This has been the best writing strategy for me. Thanks to a recommendation by a fellow writer, Robin Carroll, I’ve increased my word count substantially. The concept is that our brains can be most creatively effective for 45 minutes and then after that we lose our effectiveness unless we recharge. I set a timer for 45 minutes. At the end of 45 minutes, I do something non-creative for 15-20 minutes such as a load of laundry, unload or reload the dishwasher, play with the dog. Something away from the computer and that doesn’t require creativity. After that time, I’m recharged and ready to tackle another 45 minutes of writing. I’ve found that in two 45-minute sessions, I’ve written more than when I’ve spent hours without taking a planned break.

8.              Listen to Instrumental Music—

      Research has shown that music enhances creativity. The tone of your music can be powerful in boosting your creativity. Pick the type of music that matches your writing. A suspense writer would listen to something different than a romance or women’s fiction writer. The following link to an article in Psychology Today discusses: How Music Feeds and Steers Your Imagination.
Many writers do this and find it beneficial.
Music I listen to while writing:
Relaxation For Women – From
Anne Trenning Radio on Pandora
100 Greatest Classical Masterpieces
Songs from the August Rush Soundtrack (the instrumental ones only)
Soundtrack from:
 The Last of the Mohicians or Randy       Edelman Radio on Pandora.
 Dances with Wolves

9.              Wear Headphones—

     This new idea came from a writer friend, Carrie Turansky’s blog and I’ve found that it really helps. Wearing headphones whether or not you’re listening to music has two benefits. 1) Blocks out distractions/background noises. 2) Provides a visual reminder to family members that you’re writing and should not be disturbed.

10.          Just write. No editing

     Let the words flow. Editing and writing use different parts of the brain. It’s easier to keep the creative flow going if you refrain from editing as you go along. (Again everyone is wired differently, this works well for me, for others this may not be the case. Try both methods and embrace what works for you.) Write for the full 45 minutes. Nothing else matters but word count during that time. You can plow through even the most unruly plot or character for 45 minutes. Imagine that you can only write for 45 minutes and the life of your children depend on how many words you write. Okay that’s a bit drastic but you get the idea. Write with wild abandon. Let the creativity flow. Give yourself permission to be messy. You can fix it later.

11.          Log Daily Word Count—

     I write down my daily word count on my calendar. This gives me a visual of my progress and helps me set the next day’s goal. Some people use electronic word progress widgets. Use what works for you, but monitor your daily word count. It’s encouraging to see how much you’ve added to your manuscript at the end of the month.

12.          Be Part of An Accountability Group

     The best gift you can give yourself is to join an accountability group where you can set a word count goal for the month and send daily word counts. It’s amazing how encouraging it is to state to others a monthly word goal and to send in that daily count. ACFW’s Novel Track is such a group or gather a group of serious writer friends who will commit to setting goals and daily accountability.

13.          Spend Time in Nature—

     Research has found that spending time in nature stimulates creativity. Recent studies have found that disconnecting from technology for a period of time and spending time in nature, boosts productivity. Read more at:

I hope you found something here to encourage you or help you write more words today. 

What writing tips or strategies work for you?

Thanks for visiting Lagniappe

I pray that you find "a little something extra" in each of your days.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Writer’s Write. Right? – Time Management Tips for Writers. Part 1 of 2

Part 1  Setting Goals

Time Management Begins with Having a Direction

It used to be a writer’s only job was to write. In today’s publishing climate writers do much more. They edit, market, network, hone their craft, design, and well, network some more. 

It’s no wonder I’ve heard the question asked time and again: 

When can writers find time to write?

With the changing face of the publishing world, the role of the writer has changed. There’s more demand for the writer to market their work and that requires time. Especially for the typically introverted writer. 

Today more than ever, writers need good time management skills.

There are still only twenty-four hours in one day.

That hasn’t changed.

Let's look at a day as a bank account. Everything I do costs me in the payment of time.

Is trading my minutes to do something going to yield something worthwhile in return?

I must admit I’ve spent two hours of precious time watching some movies that I wish I hadn’t. Those 120 minutes are gone forever and what I’ve exchanged them for may have actually lowered my IQ. Not the best exchange for my time. The same is true for Social Media. Don't get caught in this CyberSpace Bermuda's Triangle.

  1.     Is what I’m spending these minutes on giving me 
      something of value in return?

a.     Am I wiser? Am I learning something new that will make me a better writer? A better person? Be more sensible in managing my household?

b.    Am I Wealthier? By managing my time am I saving money because I’m able to prepare meals at home instead of eating out? Am I saving money some other way?

c.     Will I save time in the future by doing this now? Meal planning, prepared blog posts, house cleaning, chapter outlines. The list here is endless.

If the answer to any of the above questions is no, think seriously about spending those minutes. 

With Internet access and so many social networking venues, families, and outside obligations it’s easy for writing time to disappear.

How does a writer stay on track with SO many distractions?

Define and guard writing time.

The first step in defining writing time is to make it a priority and set specific writing goals.

I usually set my overall goals for the year at the end of January or the first of February. Maybe it’s the rebel in me, but there’s something about setting goals on January 1 that doesn’t work for me. I’m usually worn out from the holidays, hung over from eating all the food I don’t typically eat, or just unable to focus.

Once I’ve had time to settle into the new year, overcome the effects of the holidays, and assess what’s priority for the coming year as far as writing goes I can set reasonable goals.

I’ve simplified the goal writing process. You can find much more comprehensive processes. But I’ve found that if I keep it simple, I’m likely to write manageable goals that I’ll actually achieve.

To Set Writing Goals:
1.             Make your goal specific and defined. 
       And most importantly DOABLE
       Don’t set yourself up for failure. 
       PLAN TO SUCEED by making your goals reasonable and possible.

I will write XX words this month.
I will finish XYZ story with 60K words by
        the end of XXX Month.
I will participate in an online group or solicit  
       my friends to keep me accountable for
       my word count.
I will edit XYZ story from xx/xx/xx to
       xx/xx/xx and submit it to XYZ 
       publisher/agent by XX/XX/XX.
Outline or Develop Character sketches for
      New Story. Etc…

You get the idea.

2.             Reward Yourself—Not only are you setting goals, you’re deciding how you’ll be rewarded when you meet each goal. It can be that new writing book you’ve wanted, a manicure, a new novel, a day of shopping. Be creative. Whatever spurs you onward.

3.             Write each specific goal on a separate 3 x 5 card along with the reward for completing that goal. Put the cards in the order of date/timeframe for completion.

Once you’ve completed each card, place the cards on your desk with the first card visible and where you can see it daily.

Once you’ve reached that goal, capture your reward and then flip the card behind the others. Your next goal is visible.
Continue until you reach the first goal again.

4.             Reassess on June 1st. Add, change, or remove goals as needed.

Next Tuesday, Part 2. A review of daily time-management writing tips and daily writing goals to work toward achieving your yearly goals. If you'd like to be notified by email when I post again, please sign up in the right margin.

Until next Tuesday, happy writing!

I’d like to hear some of your specific writing goals if you’d like to share.

Do you have a creative reward for reaching a writing goal?  Please consider sharing. Provided it’s rated G of course!

Happy Mardi Gras!

Thanks for visiting Lagniappe

I pray that you find "a little something extra" in each of your days.