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.



Sherry said...

Thank you Marian for these wonderful tips! And the web sites are an added bonus. Looks like I have some habits to form lady! Great ideas to get me inspired. Thank you my friend.

Write on sister,

Marian Pellegrin Merritt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marian Pellegrin Merritt said...


Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you found something valuable to spark your inspiration!

Happy Writing!