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How to Write a Book In Your Spare Time

How to Write a Book In Your Spare Time

Today, I’m going to let you in on a little secret:

Anyone can write a book.

Yes, that’s right, I said anyone. Even you. You have stories you want to tell. You have things you want to say. You are the only person on Earth who can tell others how you see the world, and you feel about a given subject, a particular theme or trope. Whether you’re a natural writer or in need some polish, you can write a book.

How many times have you heard something like this: “To be a writer means you’ll die, penniless and alone, in a garret somewhere!” “Don’t you have to take up alcoholism, as a hobby, to be a writer?” “Who’s going to read it?” “When will you find the time?”

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These are myths. While it is true that many writers like their sauce, and some have starved or frozen to death in drafty, unheated attics, and few have been wildly successful, none of these apply to you. You’re just starting the journey. If you decide later on to be the kind of writer who never touches a drop of liquor, likes indoor heating and plumbing, and attracts legions of fans, then you’re breaking the mold and God bless you for it. For now, it’s time to get to work on that story you’ve been aching to tell since you can’t remember when.

As to the last objection, many people have to stifle the urge to cry, “Ain’t nobody got time for that! Spare time? WHAT spare time!?” Everyone has spare time, whether they realize it or not. You may have to sacrifice your TV time or hanging with friends, but look at what you stand to gain. If you really want to write, you can and will make time for it.

This is how to write a book:

1) Now is the time to start

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    It took me fifteen years to write my first novel. Why? Because I let absolutely everything that crossed my path distract me. I always knew I’d get it done someday, but when I look back, I could kick myself for all the wasted time I spent playing video games, dealing with aborted romantic entanglements, and working at dead-end jobs. The time to start is not when it’s convenient, when the kids are grown, or when your boss isn’t breathing down your neck 24/7. The time to start is NOW. But how?

    2) Set realistic time and word count goals

    Professional writers can spend their entire day putting words on paper, planning stories, and taking care of first-round editing as they go. This is not your job right now, and you probably don’t have that luxury. Your job is to sit down and get words on the page. If you have two hours a day to spare in which you can write, then take two hours. If you can only commit to fifteen minutes, then take fifteen minutes. The point is to write as much as you can, as often as you can. Like anything else, writing takes practice and discipline to become proficient. You will find as you progress and come to enjoy writing more that you can fit more writing into less time, but getting something on paper is the mission of the moment. If you think you can lay down 19,000 words in 24 hours, go for it. Pro tip: There’s a reason they invented DVR. If you’re a TV junkie, use it. Better still, kick the habit altogether. More on this in a few minutes.

    3) Make time for it

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      It’s easy to say, “I’m too tired. I don’t feel like it. My favorite show’s on tonight. The kid/spouse/boss has this thing…” All of these are excuses. I know, because I’ve used them. I still do sometimes. If you’re really serious about getting the book written, you will make time for it, even if it’s only ten minutes before you go to bed. Type out the notes you scribbled in your steno pad during your lunch break. Please, don’t ever, EVER use “writer’s block” as an excuse. I personally believe writer’s block is a myth that people use to explain why they’re not working.

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      4) Carry a notepad with you

      Sometimes you’ll find you get a great idea: a clever turn of phrase, a precise description of someone’s eyes, or just a cool scene you want to write. The problem is, you don’t have anything to write with! The easiest cure for this is to carry a notepad at all times. That way, you can jot down notes whenever the spirit moves you without trying to remember all of your story ideas until you can get to your computer.

      5) Set a writing ritual

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        Writing is a special kind of work, and it requires a special space and time. (At least until you get your wheels under you; then, feel free to experiment.) During this time, turn off all your phones, lock the door, tell the spouse, kids, roommates, or friends that you’re on lockdown until further notice, get off the Internet, and feed and water your pets. Eliminate any possible reason anyone can have to break up your mojo and shut off anything that might create a distraction. Turn off the TV! I cannot stress this point enough. Television is to writers as Round-Up is to weeds. It will kill your creativity and your flow. Pro tip: For helpful white noise, try playing music that’s appropriate to the scene you’re writing. I personally like contemporary jazz for love scenes, rap or metal for fight scenes, and appropriate music for scenes of calm or tension. Experiment and discover what works best for you while in the middle of a given scene.

        6) Seek out other writers for inspiration and challenge

        Many writers hang out on Twitter, and they love to encourage new authors. If you want to test yourself, try following a few and look for the hashtag #1k1hr or something similar. This means “1k (1,000 words) in 1 hour.” It is a friendly challenge; there are no prizes and no one’s going to give you a hard time if you don’t make the goal, but it’s a good way to flex your writing muscles. You start a timer and write like a crazy person until the timer goes off. Then you report your result. Some people surprise themselves by laying down 1.5k or even 2k words within the time limit. Test yourself! This is also a great way to communicate with other authors, and start networking early.

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        7) Ask questions

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          Another good resource is Writing.com. This is a great place for getting positive feedback, and it has forums where you can ask questions about plot, spelling, and all manner of nuances related to writing. I strongly suggest you do your writing first, and then post any questions you’ve generated during your writing time, afterward.

          8) Don’t worry about getting published right now

          By the time you’ve followed the previous seven steps, you will be in a pretty good place. Your story should be moving along, and maybe you’re thinking about publishing it. This is not the time to worry about it. You can’t sell a product you haven’t finished at this stage of the game. Worry about getting the book done first.

          Once the book is done and you’ve typed the words “The End,” walk away. Put it in a cabinet, a desk drawer, or anywhere you won’t be tempted to drag it out and mess with it. Leave it for at least two weeks and do something completely different to rest your weary cranium. (Many professional writers, like Stephen King, suggest a month to six weeks, but I think two weeks is plenty. Do what works for you, though.) After time has passed, print out your book and read through with a red pen. Notice any places where you have repetition, misspellings, or awkward working, and mark your copy appropriately. Next, rewrite. If you can cut without losing the flow of the story, do so. In the process of editing, sometimes an entire chapter goes to the wood chipper, but you’ll be a lot happier with the results.

          Improve Your Business Writing

            The best part is, once you’ve done all this, now you can start thinking about agents and publishers. When someone asks you what you do, you can look them in the eye with absolute confidence and tell them, “I’m a writer.” Don’t EVER use the word “aspiring.” You’ve done the work and you’ve got the product to prove it. You’ve earned the right to call yourself a writer. Be proud of it!

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            Last Updated on November 19, 2019

            20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

            20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

            Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

            If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:

            1. Create a Daily Plan

            Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

            2. Peg a Time Limit to Each Task

            Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.

            3. Use a Calendar

            Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.

            I use it. It’s even better if you can sync your calendar to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are. Here’re the 10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track .

            Find out more tips about how to use calendar for better time management here: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

            4. Use an Organizer

            An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

            These Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools can help you organize better, pick one that fits your needs.

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            5. Know Your Deadlines

            When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.

            But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.

            6. Learn to Say “No”

            Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

            Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No

            7. Target to Be Early

            When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.

            For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.

            Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.

            8. Time Box Your Activities

            This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Why time boxing is good for you? Here’re 10 reasons why you should start time-boxing.

            You can also read more about how to do time boxing here: #5 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity.

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            9. Have a Clock Visibly Placed Before You

            Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.

            10. Set Reminders 15 Minutes Before

            Most calendars have a reminder function. If you have an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.

            You can learn more about how reminders help you remember everything in this article: The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

            11. Focus

            Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.

            Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

            Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

            12. Block out Distractions

            What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

            I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.

            When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.

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            Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

            13. Track Your Time Spent

            When you start to track your time, you’re more aware of how you spend your time. For example, you can set a simple countdown timer to make sure that you finish a task within a period of time, say 30 minutes or 1 hour. The time pressure can push you to stay focused and work more efficiently.

            You can find more time tracking apps here and pick one that works for you.

            14. Don’t Fuss About Unimportant Details

            You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective.

            Trying to be perfect does you more harm than good, learn here about how perfectionism kills your productivity and how to ditch the perfectionism mindset.

            15. Prioritize

            Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest.

            Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. You can also take up this technique to prioritize everything on your plate: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

            16. Delegate

            If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.

            When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more. Learn about how to effectively delegate works in this guide: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

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            17. Batch Similar Tasks Together

            For related work, batch them together.

            For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups:

            1. writing (articles, my upcoming book)
            2. coaching
            3. workshop development
            4. business development
            5. administrative

            I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.

            18. Eliminate Your Time Wasters

            What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often.

            One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites.

            While you’ll still checking FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.

            19. Cut off When You Need To

            The number one reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to.

            Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.

            20. Leave Buffer Time In-Between

            Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

            More Time Management Techniques

            Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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