Image Credit: Images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
I’ve often used time in fiction. I’ve sometimes used Time as a character. I sometimes have a story where a character has a certain amount of time in which to achieve their objective. I’ve also written from the viewpoint of time travelling aliens (as you do!). I’ve written the odd story as a diary format and even timed the entries written by the narrator. I’ve also written historical flash fiction where the setting is back in time. All great fun to do.
Pockets of Time
I often blog on my social media timelines about using time to benefit your writing. For example, I’ve talked about using pockets of time to get writing done. What do I mean here?
Simply, we all have those moments where we have five or ten minutes spare and that time could be used to jot down ideas for future stories, title ideas etc. You know the kind of thing. You’re waiting to be called in for an appointment. You know you’re going to be a while. So you use that pocket of time to write down useful thoughts for blogs or stories.
I’ve been known to draft one of my shorter flashes from start in finish in ten minutes. So that’s another story written. Okay, it will need work to get it up to standard but that can be done later when I have more time to do the “craft work” here.
The one thing you can’t do with pockets of time is editing. Editing is the task it pays to take your time over, come away from it for a bit, go back, having had that break so you can see your piece with fresh eyes. I always pick up typos I didn’t spot first go when I do this! (One of Murphy’s Laws of Creative Writing, I think).
But, editing aside, it can be amazing how much you can get done in those pockets of time as these build up if you plan your writing out.
Planning Your Writing Time
I plan my writing over the course of a week especially as I know there are one or two days when I am busier than normal so may not get so much writing done. I save those times for doing “little” bits of writing. It makes me feel like I’ve achieved something useful (and I have) and I get more writing tasks off my to do list.
I base my week on my column here coming out on a Friday. I aim to have my posts written, suitable pictures sourced, and the whole thing scheduled by early in the week. It’s a good week when I have the post ready by the end of Sunday. Often it’s by the end of Tuesday but that’s fine.
I have a couple of days to “rest” the post and then come back to it for a final check on Thursday. Sometimes I pick up minor errors. I consider it a win when I don’t!
For my monthly blog spots (More than Writers, Authors Electric), I aim to have my post ready by about the tenth of the month given one is due out at the end of the month and the other pretty much in the middle of it. I take time off my deadline here to ensure I have plenty of time to go through my draft posts, find pictures, and get these blogs up and scheduled.
I write for Friday Flash Fiction most weeks and create another flash tale for my YouTube channel. I usually create and submit these (in the case of YouTube schedule what I’ve created) over the weekend/early part of the working week.
Plus I have a longer term project on the go, and workshop material to write (again for the Association of Christian Writers and their Flash Fiction Zoom group which I lead) so plenty to be getting on with and it’s why I’ve found planning out my writing time to be so useful. Doing this has made me far more productive. It also ensures I don’t forget anything!
The nature of blogging and article writing means I do have to think ahead to ensure I don’t miss any deadlines. It’s a good discipline though.
Sometimes Writing Just Because…
I build in time for spontaneous writing. Does that sound like a contradiction? It isn’t really. I know I will want to write up flash/short story ideas I jotted down earlier so I will go back to my notebook, pick out something I still like, and get that story drafted.
Sometimes I come across a competition or market I would like to write for so I will check to see what I’ve got in my “stock of stories” which I’m resting to see if there is something there which suits the theme. (There generally is a set theme for this kind of thing). Sometimes there is nothing I could use so that’s when I draft from “empty”.
When I run the Flash Fiction group on Zoom, I set writing exercises but I don’t draft my “answers” to these in advance. I write “live” with those in the group also taking part on the night of the meeting. There is something lovely about “live” writing with fellow writers and I don’t want to miss out on that. It is a bit like being in a writing conference and writing to an exercise set there and then by the tutor.
I think just knowing the others are writing to whatever I’ve set just spurs me on and I like that aspect. It’s what I like about writing to exercises set at a conference or other event. Nobody expects perfect writing (just as well).
The whole idea is just to get something down you can work on and hone later. Also with these things, you’re usually only given five minutes to jot something down before listening to the rest of the talk so if you are used to writing in smaller pockets of time, it will stand you in good stead for things like this.
It might sound odd to plan your writing out. Surely you’re just creating something for the fun of it – and yes I am, including this post. Love writing for CFT. But getting used to submitting things in good time to meet deadlines for competitions, publishers etc is a great habit to get into as it will help you for the long term.
When you’re taken on by a publisher, they will expect you to get work back to them by a certain date. Competition deadlines are never extended out. If you miss it, you miss it. So just writing regularly (and planning your time out helps enormously here) will help you, longer term, to just take this in your stride. You know you can produce something to a time because you’re doing it now (and continue to do it).
Planning your writing out and then sticking to that plan means you also get to write regularly and that builds up what I call the old imagination muscle. I’ve found the more I write (and read), the more ideas for future stories and blog posts occur to me. There is a kind of virtuous circle here.
What doesn’t matter so much is that on some days, I may only write say a couple of hundred words. On other nights I’ve written fifteen hundred or more. What is so vital is the regularity of your writing. I find planning my writing out helps ensure I do write regularly because it would be too easy to let the busyness of daily life get in the way of my creative output.
Am not having that for the very good reason if I let it, I would get far less done writing wise. I do know being creative in any way is a fabulous morale boost as it does take you out of yourself and is good for you. I can’t worry much about the state of the world while creating stories. I like that aspect! I don’t want to miss out on the health benefits of creativity either.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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