Apologies in advance for what may be a very stereotypically newbie post.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on getting started on fiction writing. I’m a full-time freelancer with a family, and so finding time to do writing that no one is paying me for is an enormous challenge. How do you do it? Do you set aside a certain time each day to write? Do you squeeze it in between innings while watching a ballgame? Something else?
I’ve got a couple of unfinished short stories rattling around on a flash drive, and a couple of more ideas knocking around in my head. But bringing these things to fruition has been difficult. And so I thought I’d join here and see what you folks thought. Many thanks in advance.
You put your rear end in a chair and you write, basically. It’s as easy (and as difficult) as that.
Some people stay up late or get up early so that they can find quiet time while the rest of the house is asleep. Some people take long lunches and write on their lunch hour. Some people write between innings of the ballgame, some skip the ballgame entirely and write instead, or use the ballgame as a reward once they’ve gotten their words in. Some people set aside a certain time every day, some people set a word count goal, some do both.
Combining fiction with non-fiction can be tough, though. You may find that you need to create mental space between the two, say by working on fiction in the early morning and non-fiction in the afternoon. If your existing work tends to be bigger projects, you may find that it makes sense to use short stories as a break in the downtime in between paying projects.
If the problem is that your freelancing takes up too much time, you might also try raising your rates. Reduce the number of projects you take on, but get more money for them. People are always reluctant to consider this, but someone once told me that if my clients never get sticker shock I’m probably not charging enough. It’s been very good advice.
It seems to be alluded to very regularly, so I might as well continue the trend and quote Stephen King…
How do you write? A word at a time.
For me, a lot was done as a Uni student when writing my thesis. Now that I work full time, it is a lot harder, but I try to do it 3 times a week between the hours of 7pm (or whenever I get home) and 11pm (or whenever I go to bed before getting up at 7am the next morning for work).
One thing that has made me write more, is throwing the advice that you need two or three free hours of writing to actually do something. I write when I get the time, sometimes it’s for three hours straight, sometimes it’s just fifteen minutes, sometimes not even that. But I find that actually putting a few words down each day helps out a lot, you keep your mind on the story, you get time in-between to actually think of your story, actively or just be lazy and let your subconscious work.
Maybe you could try rewarding yourself, “I need to finish this work I get paid for, then half an hour on the fiction”. As an ex-smoker I’ve used this to some extent, when I finished dinner, write some words down while drinking coffee, each morning, coffee and some more words, and so on.
Thanks very much for your thoughts, all. Katherine, your insights in particular on the difficulty in separating fiction and nonfiction writing, and your suggestions on ways to reduce the time spent on the nonfiction work while not losing revenue, were interesting and helpful.
I’m fully aware that the way you write is to write. My issue is carving the time out of an already very full life. Any further suggestions are very welcome, and thanks again to all.
The best time to write is now. If it’s on your mind, it’s worth doing. I’m skeptical about “writer’s block.” My experience of it, backed up by conversation with other writers, is that it’s more accurately termed “writer’s detour.” The problem isn’t that you can’t write, but that you can’t write what you want to at the time. To extend the (admittedly awkward) metaphor, your choice is to take a different route, or to do nothing.
I can usually force myself to take the alternate route. Go someplace I wasn’t expecting to go – as with this note, for example. It’s good exercise, and there’s always a chance I’ll wind up back on the road I thought was lost.
I always carry a pen and notebook, and try to write something whenever there’s a chance. (I’m writing this, in fact – the rough draft of it – at a footbridge along a bike path, waiting for friends.) It’s also a defense, on trains or in waiting rooms, against unwanted conversation with strangers. Most lonely compulsives will intrude if you’re reading. “Is it any good? What’s it about? I think I read one of her books a long time ago.” They are not easily dissuaded by an attempt to return to the printed page. They are less likely to intrude if you’re writing, and if they do, are more readily dispatched by returning to the empty page. Once in a while, of course, even that fails. I’ve been thinking about pepper spray as a next step.