Kevin J. Anderson has more than 140 published books, 56 of which have been national or international bestsellers. He has written numerous novels in the Star Wars, X-Files, and Dune universes, as well as steampunk fantasy novels Clockwork Angels and Clockwork Lives, written with legendary rock drummer Neil Peart, based on the concept album by the band Rush. His original works include the Saga of Seven Suns series, the Terra Incognita fantasy trilogy, the Saga of Shadows trilogy, and his humorous horror series featuring Dan Shamble, Zombie PI. He has edited numerous anthologies, written comics and games, and penned the lyrics to two rock CDs. Anderson and his wife Rebecca Moesta are the publishers of WordFire Press.
i write. i make up stuff. i adventure hard, so you don’t have to.
A series of eleven tips to help you get more time for writing, and to produce more writing when you do have time.
If you think you need large blocks of time to accomplish any writing, then you’re kidding yourself. One sentence at a time, one paragraph at a time, one page at a time.
Sure, we’d all love extended, uninterrupted hours to do nothing but sit and think, to write page after page while immersed in the story and characters without a distraction in the world … but that’s a luxury most of us don’t have. In the real world, the majority of writers—even successful, published writers—still have full-time jobs and need to fit in their writing around other duties. Writers have families, obligations, even—surprise!—personal lives.
I didn’t actually quit my day job until I’d published eleven bestsellers. It was a 40+ hour per week position with heavy responsibilities, involving frequent travel, as well as constant pressures and distractions. Even so, by taking full advantage of snippets of time in the evenings and on weekends, and a spare lunch hour or two, I managed to write two or three novels per year.
If you have only a few minutes here and there, then learn how to do something productive in those brief bursts. You can plot a short story in the shower, develop a character background while waiting in the dentist’s office, map out a scene before drifting off to sleep at night. Make progress—however small—on your novel during the five or ten minutes of dimness in the theater before the movie starts, while cooking dinner, or while doing tedious household tasks. While riding the bus or vanpool, you can write down notes, scribble outlines, even mark up a printout of an earlier chapter.
Too often I’ve heard the lame excuse, “I don’t have enough time to do a serious amount of writing, so I’ll just [insert procrastinating activity] instead.” Science fiction writer Roger Zelazny used to advise authors to “write two sentences.” Not such an insurmountable obstacle. You may really only have time to write two sentences; in other instances, though, those two sentences will lead to two more, and then two paragraphs; ten minutes later you’ll have a page done. A free ten minutes is ten minutes you could be writing. Two sentences will take you two sentences closer to finishing the manuscript.
If you find yourself in a place where you really can’t jot down notes (in the gym, waiting in line at the grocery store, etc.) use every little snatch of time to ponder what you’re going to write the next time you get a few minutes at your keyboard. Do your mulling ahead of time, so that when you have a few spare moments to sit with your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keys, you can jump right in and get down to actual writing (instead of pondering what you mean to say).
When you have a bit of time to write—a day off, part of an afternoon, an hour, even ten minutes—use it to WRITE! Get as much written as you can. This takes a lot of discipline, and it’s easy to get distracted, but set your priorities. Do you want to be a writer, or would you rather complain about not having enough time to write?
This blog series is part of a lecture I’ll be presenting at the Superstars Writing Seminar in January 13–15 in Salt Lake City, a three-day intensive workshop focused on business and careers in writing. Other instructors include Brandon Sanderson, Sherrilyn Kenyon, David Farland, Rebecca Moesta, and Eric Flint. We hope to see you there.