Wednesday, March 10, 2010

15 Minutes to Write: The (Crazy) Writing Life

blog4 With the different deadlines I face, writing every day is a necessity. But even before I had deadlines, I wrote every day—just a smidgeon.

If I didn’t, then it was even harder the next day to get back into the groove. And my short writing session would drag out longer because I was writing slowly.

Writing really is a muscle that needs to be exercised. It’s easier to get back into your writing groove the next day if you’ve written the day before. Every day you skip makes it that much more difficult to pick it back up.

Another important reason to write every day? You get natural continuity of voice, pace, and plotting in your manuscript.

Lack of time is the number one excuse writers give for not writing. But if you can find 15 minutes, you can make progress on your manuscript:

Make a plan. Before you stop writing each day, jot down what you plan on writing the following day. This doesn’t have to be a major outline. Something as simple as “Dialogue—Kathy asks Jenny about her feelings about the murder victim and where she was during crime” will work out great.

Note where you left off the day before. Your fifteen minutes will be shot to Hades if you spend it rereading what you wrote the previous day. Again, a short note works well: “Kathy finished discussing the crime with Sam, left the park, and mulled over the potential suspects.”

Be forgiving and uncritical. This is a quick writing session to move your plot forward as much as possible in 15 minutes. You’re not going to write spotless, perfect prose here.

Open up to writing on the go. We’d all love to have a quiet, scenic little writing cabin to escape to. The reality is that many of us are writing on lunch breaks, while waiting for the train to arrive, in carpool lines, or pediatric waiting rooms. If you can learn to block out the world around you and quickly jump into your manuscript, you’ll get a lot more done.

Come equipped. There’s nothing worse than finding a small pocket of time in your day and not having anything to write on. Make a point of having a notebook in your car, desk drawer, and purse. Make sure to pack pens and pencils. Sometimes it’s just easier to whip out a piece of paper and a pencil than taking out your laptop.

But what if you only have 5 minutes to write?

It can be done! I have done real work on my manuscript in five minutes. Here’s how:

Character development: In five minutes, you can list as many things about your character as you can think of. They’re people---what do they like, dislike, and absolutely abhor? What are their pet peeves? Although this list may never make it into your manuscript, the point of the exercise is to give yourself more insight into your character and provide them more depth when you’re writing about them.

Character description: This is an easy exercise to do in 5 minutes. Describe your character. What do they look like? Sound like when they talk (loud speaker, soft speaker)? Do they smell like peppermints? Use your senses.

Setting description: Again, this is the perfect exercise for a 5 minute session. Pick a setting in your manuscript and elaborate on it.

Brainstorm 5 ideas for the next scene in your WIP: You do have one. This is your perfect time to think ahead and, off the top of your head, come up with five ideas for it. They can be as zany or as sedate as you like. Who knows what direction your story could go in? A little quick brainstorming session can open up new possibilities.

If you’re squeezing writing into a busy day, you’re far ahead of the curve. And just five or fifteen minutes a day can put you on track for finishing your first draft.

How do you squeeze writing into your day?