Like any finite resource, time must be managed properly. And since writing is perhaps one of the most time-consuming crafts one can undertake, time management is an essential skill for any writer.
In this article, let’s examine some ways to streamline our writing time. To be clear, this isn’t about devoting less time to writing—it’s about getting more accomplished with the time we have. Onward!
The first of my time-saving tips: The mouth speaks faster than the fingers type. In other words, one writes faster with dictation software. In fact, I’m dictating this article right now.
For those who haven’t tried it before, dictation is the process of using voice recognition software to write. Instead of physically typing (or worse, writing by hand), you simply say what you mean to write, and your software marks it down.
Dictation might even add more writing time to our days. For example, some days when I don’t meet my word count in the morning, I dictate the remaining words during my ride to work. Time I’d normally spend doing one task becomes time to write more.
I’ll admit, this isn’t a fool-proof system. I tend to mutter, so in the previous paragraph, my phone wrote the word "mark" instead of "work." Even the best dictation software is going to misunderstand you once in a while, so factor in a bit of extra editing after the fact.
Mind you, that’s not enough to offset your time savings. I don’t care how much you’ve practiced with Mavis Beacon—nobody types faster than they speak. Therefore, dictation is an excellent way to save time while writing. (Or "riding," as my phone thinks I just said.)
I don’t know about you, but some mornings I wake up with the intention of writing, but instead just stare at the screen. I want to write, but the problem is, I don’t know what to write. Sometimes it takes me 15, 20 minutes just to decide what I’m working on.
My advice to myself (and you): Plan ahead! Devising a weekly schedule relieves a burden at the beginning of the writing day. Instead of sitting down, planning what to write, then writing, I should map out my projects. That way I can go straight to the keyboard (or dictation software, as it were).
For novelists, you might take things a step further and outline your entire novel before writing it. Map it out, describe it to yourself, then write it. Each day, you can select a section from your outline and write it. You’ll be finished with that novel in no time.
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By thinking about the key elements of your novel before you write, you’ll speed up the writing process and save hours spent staring at a blank page.
Remember that some writers simply can’t do outlines. That’s okay! Some people live by outlines, others prefer to see where their writing takes them. If you’re one of the latter, keep doing what you’re doing. If not, use that outline to plan ahead and save some time.
I love writing, but sometimes I love other stuff a little more. My phone, Googling UFO conspiracies, browsing my Magic: the Gathering collection... I’ve got no shortage of distractions. When it’s time to write, I need to limit them.
I’ve got a spare bedroom, so when I need to escape distractions, I go there. There are also apps, if you really need them, that can limit your time on the internet. (I might need one of those to prevent me from going down Reddit rabbit holes.)
Furthermore, since so many people are working from home these days, I’m sure you’ve come to the same conclusion I have. When you have a space solely dedicated to a certain task, it’s easier to focus on that task in that space. Furthermore, if you can control your surroundings in that space, you can eliminate distractions before they become distracting.
My final bit of advice on this subject: Try writing early or late. This might not work for all writers, but I find that the earlier or later you work in a day, the less distractions there are. I write very early in the morning partly because nobody’s awake yet. That means no calls or texts, no emails, and sleepy pets (two cats and a dog demand a lot of attention). The same would be true for those who write late at night.
You might prefer writing on your lunch break or some other time during the day. But if you want to eliminate distractions, becoming an early riser or a night crawler might help.
I hope these tips give you some ideas on saving time while writing. Best of luck to you!