You have to have a schedule
I’m taking a break from working on my current book — The Wolf-finder General, coming eventually to an online store near you! — to write a short story. If all goes according to plan, It should be going up on this website soon, as a Winter-festival-of-choice present to the world, and a way of saying thank you to everyone who bought The Vicar Man, this year. Ok, and it’s absolutely an attempt to sucker other people into buying my books as well, but it's nicer if we don’t mention that part. The thing is, I’m not at all sure I’m going to get it done on time. Never mind the fact that about half the major Winter festivals will already be over by the time I’m planning to put it up: I’m not even sure if I’m going to have time to finish the thing by then. The problem is, I only have one writing-day a week. I know a lot of people will tell you that if you want to be a professional writer you need to write every single day, but the simple fact is that that often isn’t possible. In my case it definitely isn’t possible. Between home-educating my kids, getting them to all their outside classes, attending my own classes, and keeping my house more-or-less clean and functional, I simply don’t have the time.
Still, it's important to have a schedule, and to stick to it: I can agree on that much.
So I decided quite a while ago that the simplest thing was to assign myself one single night on which I absolutely must write, and the rest of the time I could just not worry about it at all. So every Sunday night, I write.
Of course, Sunday isn’t the only time I’m allowed to write: I’m free to write on other days as well, if I can claw a little time up from somewhere.
So I’ll generally get five or six hundred words down every time I catch the bus — each way, of course. When the kids are in their various dance classes I hole up in a coffee shop and get another thousand or so words written while I wait. If today’s home-ed involves writing essays, or drawing, or doing science theory tests — or any other kind of work that doesn’t require my immediate presence or input — I hide away in a corner and write.
I probably get about two to three thousand words written a week, in the gaps between doing things.
But none of that really counts, because those aren’t official writing days.
This is how an official writing day works.
1: Get into a writing frame of mind.
I run myself a bath, bring up my laptop, and put it down out of range of drips and splashes. Then I get a glass of water and a couple of books, and I lie soaking in the hot water, reading something vaguely useful — or at least something that won’t influence my writing style — while I listen to Max Miller’s Tasting History videos on Youtube.
It works wonderfully. OK the Max Miller thing may be weirdly specific, but I swear it works: ever since I first discovered his channel while looking for a recipe for Everlasting Syllabub I have found his videos are the perfect thing to put me in the mood to write.
Honestly, I’m going to dedicate my next book to him: he deserves it.
Anyway, mindset accomplished, I get out of the tub and head downstairs.
2: Battle the forces of procrastination.
At this point my writing frame of mind takes a slight dent, as the hot bath doesn’t actually banish my family or my cats from existence and dinner still needs to somehow be achieved. Anyway, eventually everyone is fed, the kids are helpfully distracted by their continuing mission to watch all the old episodes of Star Trek, in order, one week at a time, the way we used to have to, and I am free to write.
Write as though the hounds of Hell are on my trail. Unfortunately, writing generally does very little to deter hellhounds, so I tend to end the night without very much actually written, but the important thing is to have written something.
4: Give up for the night.
The kids have run out of Star Trek and I have run out of words.
Assuming I have written anything at all I am now allowed a cup of hot chocolate and some kind of biscuitty thing. Because I have Been Good and Done Something, that’s why. So you see it's a miracle I ever published a book at all.
It'll be some kind of extra-concentrated double miracle if I manage to achieve the same trick twice. And now I really have to stop writing this blog and go and make a start on dinner: the kids have Scouts tonight and I want to get them fed before they go, so I can spend the rest of the evening writing.
I've got this short story to finish, and I only get one writing night a week.