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Make a Writing Timetable

Updated on March 31, 2011

Essential time away from HubPages

Whenever I return to my novel manuscript I feel guilt. Guilt that punches me in the chest and winds me, rips open my abdomen and pulls out my entrails, stamps on them, twists them around, and stuffs them back into the cavity, stitches me back up with a rusty needle and then leaves me to my pain.

Perhaps that is a wee bit exaggerated, but actually it shouldn't be: I deserve to feel guilt. Here am I, sitting on a little gem of a young adult fantasy novel, if I do say so myself, and I am not getting it finished. And I am not alone am I? Come on, let's have a show of hands now... who will admit to slacking for no good reason? Who will admit to sitting down with their notebook and pen, or their chosen brand of computer, fully intending to write a good thousand words and make some headway into the story, when they begin to drift off into daydreams? I'll be the first to say that I am a slacker, and that if an idea for a new hub (such as the one I am writing now, for instance!) begins to flutter around the edges of my consciousness, I will open the window wide and let it fly in, I will feed it and pet it and encourage it to stay. All the while, my novel sits neglected in the corner of the room, by now well used to having to retreat into the shadows when a more self-assured little bird calls in.

Well, shame on me. Shame on me for damaging my novel's self-esteem so badly. Shame on me for being such a bad parent, for leaving my novel-child alone in a darkened drawer for weeks on end, while I play and have fun and devote hours and hours to hubs that will never put food on the table. My novel lies battered and bruised; in fact, let's be brutally honest - I have treated it VERY badly, practically to the point of mental abuse. I'm surprised that it hasn't just up and left actually.

And let me tell you about my novel. It is beautiful, and the first three chapters contain large slices of my heart and soul. Now, I am not saying that it is a work of literary genius, because it certainly is not. It is a fanciful story that probably not many people will want to read. But I want to read it. I want to write it, bind it beautifully and read it to my children. It does not matter to me whether this story is published (I do not think it is marketworthy at all), I only want to finish it for myself. (Hey, that's not to say that if a publisher wants to hand me large wads of cash for it and translate it into forty-seven languages I'll say no!) It makes me happy to work on it, and it makes me happy to read it back to myself.

But it is difficult to write this novel (as it is to write any novel, obviously). The words do not simply flow from me like a mountain stream after a storm. I have to work hard to find the right words. And that is undoubtedly why hubs are easier to write, in my own voice, in a stream of consciousness (with a small amount of tweaking afterwards). Writing in this voice, I could write reams and reams if I had hours and hours to spare. But writing in the voices of other people, other people who do not actually exist outside of one's imagination, can be a painfully slow process - for me, maybe not for you, you lucky person. For me, each word has to be thought about, and I must forget my own instinctive reactions to some extent. Dedicated time in a place that is easy to concentrate is absolutely necessary.

Now, working on the same piece of work in every spare minute has so far proved impossible for me. In some ways I am like a new puppy, and I need to be rewarded for good behaviour. So I make a timetable of my free time. I remake it every now and then, on nice stationery or in a new Excel file, and I rarely stick to it. But I am hoping that by telling you about it I might be encouraged to be more strict with myself (you are now all shaking your heads in disgust at my obvious state of denial about the blatant procrastination in which I am indulging herewith). Hubs should be the dog treats of writing, the little meaty tasting biscuits that we allow ourselves one of when we have worked hard on something more important for a couple of hours. We finish our main meal, we can have our desert.

Sometimes I will spend half an hour in trying to think of a hub topic. Now what a ridiculous waste of time is that? I do not watch TV, I do not read a newspaper, I do not meet with friends in an evening. I am not making the most of my free time - actually, I am squandering it, and as we all know, once it has gone, we cannot get it back.

This is my writing timetable.  You might think that it's a bit pointless to make one at all, when I could just remember that I'm supposed to write every evening.  However, I am a little anal about these things.  You don't actually have to make one.
This is my writing timetable. You might think that it's a bit pointless to make one at all, when I could just remember that I'm supposed to write every evening. However, I am a little anal about these things. You don't actually have to make one.

So, timetabled in are my weekend treats of hubs and letters. Now, notice that I have called it 'lazy writing'. Before you rise up in arms, know that I have given Friday and Saturday night writing that label in jest - of course hubs are not 'lazy writing', and we all know that. No, not lazy, just less difficult.

So you see, I have allotted twenty-four hours a week for the writing of my novel. That should be plenty of time. I have heard lots of tales of people banging out novels in their half-hour lunch breaks, and they have done it in less time than I have taken to write my five chapters. Having young children is no excuse either - lots of novelists have young children; they also have more dedication.

Of course, I know that it is about the quality of the writing, and not about the speed with which it is produced. But it is also about a writer having a good opinion of themselves, and allowing that good feeling to be their motivator. When I am slacking I do not deserve my own good opinion!

Time away from HubPages is essential. So stop reading this immediately and go and have some fun!  


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