**Note: Wednesday's blog posts are hereby dedicated to my fellow writers. For my non-writing friends, I still love you! Check back on other days of the week for more general LL stuff **
I'm kicking off my first ever #writetip Wednesday, with a question I get frequently, not only from aspiring authors, but from my published peers as well:
How do you write so fast?
Or as it's sometime phrased:
You have seven books coming out in a year. How?
First, I need to rip the band-aid off here and say that 80% of these questions come at me via some form of social media, which is interesting because ...
The reason I get so many books written, the reason I regularly write 10,000+ words a day is because I stay off social media.
I avoid the Internet in general.
And okay, yes, that's oversimplifying.
I mean, I don't stay off entirely.
I have blogs I like and check up on every other day or so.
I love Instagram. I check in on that regularly, and guilt-free.
And I check in on Twitter/FB/GR often enough to receive the questions I mention above.
But I schedule my social media time. If I don't have "Facebook" written on my planner from 10:30-11AM on a given day, I don't go on Facebook.
See, my default is writing--I spend far more time in Pages or Ulysses (my favorite writing apps) than I do Safari.
And I don't have Facebook or Twitter apps or Pinterest or GoodReads apps on my phone. This removes temptation.
If waiting for someone in a restaurant or before an appointment, or while I wait for my hair color to set, or my nails to dry, I'm on my phone like the rest of you ... but not on Twitter. Not on Facebook.
I'm either working on my manuscript (yes, on my phone), or I've got Evernote open and I'm jotting down ideas. Or blogging.
Now ... I feel like I need to say that there are plenty of prolific authors who also manage to have a pretty steady Twitter or Facebook presence.
I could name a handful of peeps right now who have me in AWE because they write as much as I do, or more, and they seem to be on Twitter or FB all day long. RESPECT.
Good for them, truly. If you can swing both, and want to swing both, absolutely go for it.
But these people are rare. Far more often, I encounter writers lamenting how they haven't finished the book and who want to know my "trick" for writing as quickly I do.
Well, I'll give you a hint. Your number of tweets is like 100,000% times what mine is.
I'm not judging. Really. I say if Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest lights your fire, GO FOR IT.
But if you're struggling to get the sort of word count output you're looking for, social media might be the first place to look.
Or perhaps it's not social media that's your time suck. Maybe it's the TV or some sort of game on your phone, or even reading. I'm not saying don't do those things.
I'm saying be honest with yourself about where your time is going.
So here's the #writetip:
Start tracking your time.
I know that's not a writing tip, exactly, but it's a tip that can help you get to writing, and that's just as good.
Compare your writing time to your Twitter time (and FB, and Pinterest, and whatever else the cool kids are using).
Once you start to track your time, you should be able to figure out a ratio:
You'll find out how much time you spend writing versus social media.
And yes, I'm back to picking on social media, mainly because I find that a lot of writers seem to justify social media time as being "necessary" for their career.
And perhaps it is, in doses, but not at the expense of the writing.
The writing must come first.
So what's my ratio?
I spend about 6 hours writing/editing for every 30 minutes I spend on social media. That's a daily average. There are exceptions. On release weeks I spend more time on Facebook, on deadline week I might not touch Facebook at all.
But on average, I've got a 12 :: 1 ratio of writing :: social media
That may not be the the right ratio for you. I'm not saying it should be.
I'm just saying know thy ratio.
And here's an important note. It's not about hours. You may not have six hours to devote to writing, and that's completely fine. I'm not even saying you should aim for that.
Maybe you only have 30 minutes a day for writing--that's okay.
Own those thirty minutes.
But if you find your social media time (count the time you're looking at Facebook in carpool or from bed first thing in the morning, or on your lunch break), equals an hour per day, guess what?
Your ratio is 1 :: 2, writing :: social media.
You spend twice as much time on the internet than you do on writing.
And that, my friends, is why you're not finishing the book. It's why you're not fitting in that extra release per year.
It's about your Internet time versus your manuscript time.
And I know that's not what you want to hear.
But simply put, the reason I write so damn much so quickly is because writing comes first, above everything. Intentionally. Any spare minute goes to writing unless it's a scheduled break. (side note, you REALLY should schedule breaks so you don't lose your mind)
So figure out where you're at. Track the time, with no pressure.
Go easy on yourself.
Don't try to force yourself to do anything just yet. Don't try to cut back on Facebook, or even to increase the word count. (I'll have tips on that later).
Just track it. For the next week (better yet, the next month) track your time.
From the moment you wake up, write down how you spend your time. Coffee, Shower, Carpool, Manicure, TV, Texting Friend, Facebook, Writing, Feeding Baby, Outlining, Manicure, Breast feeding, Twitter, Grocery Shopping, Parent/Teacher Conference, GoodReads, Movie, Vacuuming ...
You get the idea.
Write it down. All of it. Grab a notebook, write the time, write what you're doing. (Or download my time-tracker below)
This tracking process is tedious, but it's simple.
And it's crucial.
There may be room to trim "other stuff" to make time for writing, there may not.
Maybe you'll find that your work/life balance is exactly where you want it to be.
Plenty of you will say, "You know what, LL, I don't want to write all the time. I LIKE talking with my friends on Twitter the amount that I do!"
That's fine--it's great!
But for those of you frustrated because you're not writing as much as you want, before you can fix anything, you've got to know what to fix.
And you won't know that until you keep track.
Know Thy Ratio.
And then ask yourself:
Are you comfortable with it?
If not, I'll tackle how to fix that next Wednesday.
The below button will open up a PDF version of the time tracker that I actually use. It'll open as a new window in your browser, and then you'll want to "save as" to your desktop, or wherever.
If you have a Mac, this means opening with Preview, and then saving. If you don't have a Mac ... eh, maybe Google can tell you how to save it.
Also, this is a morning person's time tracker. Morning's are my best time, so this starts at 5AM and ends at 8PM, because 5 is when I aim to wake up, and 8 is when I try to wind down. I know. Don't hate the player, hate the game.
Those of you with a different schedule? Just adjust the times in the margin. Maybe your day starts at 7AM and ends at 10. Or whatever. Make it work for you.