How to Not Write

Whether you’ve got a deadline to meet or not, the act of sitting down and writing every day isn’t the easiest of routines to stick to. And while the reasons we come up with for not working on that novel/play/story/poem are pretty much limitless, there are a few that always seem like a good excuse:

Excuse 1

I’m actually working on the cover for the new book so it’s like really important, man, and you know, I need to get it out there and stuff.

Love Song cover 150x

Yeah, right. Of course the cover is important, since for most readers it’s the first thing they’ll see, but do you really need to spend three days playing around with Photoshop before finally committing yourself to an actual design?

Well, maybe you do, maybe you don’t. If you’re anything like me, you’ll know that the design for your book cover is essential, but experimenting with images maybe isn’t a great way to spend the time you should be spending on the design. Of the 20 theatre posters I created back in my WACtheatre days, I found the best ones (ie those that had the biggest impact) where the ones that took the least amount of time, like an hour, tops.

Moral: Experimenting is important, but don’t let it drag you away from the task in hand.

Excuse 2

I really need to re-read the first book in the series I’m working on, to like, get in the mind-set.

Of course you do. But reading is something you should do at a time you wouldn’t normally allocate to writing. For instance – in the dentist’s waiting room, during your lunch break, in bed, on the train. You do not have to read between 8.00 and 10.00pm if that’s the time when you need to be working on your book.

Moral: Prioritise your time. Properly.

Excuse 3

I really need to spend some quality time with the kids.

Okay. So reschedule your writing time so it doesn’t interfere with your family time.

Moral: get up earlier.

Excuse 4

I really can’t be bothered.

Fair enough. There’s lots of times when we simply don’t have the energy to focus on our prize projects, but then again, there are things you can do that don’t demand so much attention. If I’m not really in the mood to work on the next chapter, I’ll look at re-writing the one I did yesterday, or work on my chapter headings, or check I’ve got the chronology right – after all, these are things I’m going to have to do at some point, so why not do it now? Sometimes, easing myself into it like this will get me all fired up and I’ll end up writing the next chapter anyway.

Moral: there’s always something you can do.

Excuse 5

I’ll do it tomorrow.

This is a good one, cos we’re only talking about 24 little hours, so that’s probably fine. But what happens if there’s some family/work/personal crisis tomorrow that prevents you from writing? What happens if ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ turns into ‘I’ll do it on Thursday/next week/next month?’ Putting things off is a great way to build up a resistance to ever doing it – I know, I’ve been there.

Moral: Do it now.

If you’re lucky enough to write for a living you’ll know that there’s only so much time you can spend not writing, but for the rest of us, it’s pretty much buckle down and get on with it.

“I firmly believe that you get better at whatever you do in life, the more you do it.”

Michael Connelly

How to Make Time to Write Every Day

As all writers know, one of the major things you have to do to succeed as a Writer is to write. All the time. Every day. But as many of us (in the real world) also have ‘proper’ jobs that we sort of have to do in order to stay alive, making time to write every day isn’t always easy.

So here’s a few ideas that might help:head thinking words

Stop Watching TV

Okay, so maybe that’s an obvious one, and I know lots of people who would never consider this to be an option. But let’s face it, most of us spend around four hours a day watching the goggle box (according to the BBC) and that’s a fair stretch of time. Even if you’re a slow writer, you should be able to knock out at least 500 words in four hours.

Admittedly, I don’t actually have a TV, so it isn’t such an issue for me. However, I’m not claiming to be Saint Colin, since I do watch stuff on BBC iplayer. The difference is that because of the way I watch (choosing specific topics rather than just sitting in front of the TV), I only actually see one or two programmes a day, so my viewing time is probably about 60-90 minutes in total, which I don’t think is bad. I also have days when I’m so engrossed in writing that I don’t think about TV at all.

Give Up Your Social Life

Don’t panic, I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t have fun occasionally, but if you’re the sort of person who spends more than three nights per week out of the house, then maybe it’s time to cut back, I mean, how much drinking/eating/partying can one person do? Look at it this way – if you have say, three evenings a week with dedicated (ie uninterrupted) writing time, even if it’s only one hour, that’s already three more hours than you had before. And of course, if you put in the time now, it’ll pay off later, cos when you’re a famous novelist you’ll get invited to loads of great parties. Apparently.

Be an Early Riser/Night Owl 

I always wake up early so it wouldn’t be a bad plan to get up and write for an hour before getting ready for work, since I’m already awake. If you’re more of a night bird, the same goes for going to bed a little later, thereby creating a little bit of writing time for yourself. Again, it doesn’t have to be several hours, just enough to keep things ticking over.

Write Every Day

It doesn’t have to be a mammoth task. People who write every day – whether it’s work on their novel, blogging, Twittering or whatever – tend to find it easier to write on a regular basis. It then becomes a routine and like any exercise involving regular workouts, the more you do it, the better (and easier) it will get.

Give Yourself Deadlines 

I’m not talking about the I’ll-finish-this-damn-book-by-Christmas deadlines, but more the sort of thing you can reasonably stick to. Like completing a chapter in three days, a week or whatever. And the great thing about making your own deadlines is that you can break them! Not all the time, obviously, but if you have a particularly creative spurt one day, maybe you don’t need to go the whole hog the next day.

Essentially, all I’m saying is that those amazingly successful writers who we all admire, got to where they are by writing, instead of doing other things. So go fish. I mean write. You know what I mean.


Book Covers Aren’t Us

It’s always useful to get a bit of a knock-back and realize that what you thought was fantastic isn’t so fantastic after all. But that’s fine, since it helps keep things on an even keel, provides a bit of the old sense of perspective and such like.

My current cover for me eBook ‘The Architect’s Apprentice’ was (I thought), reasonably good, but apparently it doesn’t pass muster with everyone. Those nice people at ‘They-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named’ reckoned it was a bit lacking in ‘quality’. Okay.

So what now?

I used to think I was pretty good with Photoshop, but (as in this situation) it’s becoming more apparent that I need to up my game a bit. There’s a great set of vids on YouTube by Phlearn, who cover all those funny little tricks that can make a world of difference to an image. Yesterday I finally got the hang of the clone stamping tool, which is definitely the neatest trick I’ve learned this week. Now I can get rid of anything I don’t want in my images as if they were never there.

So now I’m working on a new cover for the aforementioned book and hopefully by this time next week I’ll have it uploaded to Smashwords et al. According to Smashwords founder Mark Coker, changing a book’s cover can make a boatload of difference to the number of downloads it gets. So we’ll see.