Devious Tricks to Get That Book Written

by Marg McAlister


I belong to quite a few forums and writers' discussion lists, and if there's one thing that comes across loud and clear it's this: most of us battle to find time to write.

So many things compete for our attention: kids, work, social events, cleaning, cooking, and the biggie - TV. And if you're like me, you have to get your daily fix of reading for pleasure. Just when are we supposed to find time to write the darn book?

 Let's assume that you are actually writing and that the ideas are flowing. It's not having something to write about that is the problem: it's organizing your time. Moreover, you know all about the usual tricks: getting up an hour earlier, going to bed an hour later, writing in snatches of time in your lunch hour, delegating as much as possible to others. You've tried all that and either it hasn't worked out for you, or the person you delegated things to has stuffed it up big time. It's all back to you.

It's time to be devious. No more Mr Nice Guy. No more reluctantly agreeing to do yet another task while grinding your teeth and picturing dolls with pins stuck in them. No, it's war. That book has to get written. White lies (or even big ugly black ones) are entirely permissible.


Devious Trick #1 - Invent a Course

Every day, millions of people turn up to educational institutions to do some kind of course. You are now going to be one of them - as far as everyone else is concerned, anyway. "Sorry, I can't do anything on Fridays any more - that's when I do my novel-writing course." Suddenly Fridays have opened up! A whole day!

If it makes you feel better, you can devise a curriculum of your own. Week 1 in your course can be Ideas. Week 2 can be Plotting. Week 3... well, you get the idea. (Of course, there is nothing to stop you from finding one other writer and arranging your own home-grown course on novel-writing. Just make sure you write in separate rooms and meet only for coffee breaks and lunch. This will make your claim entirely true.)

What do you do if people ask for details of the course? Smile sweetly and say "If I tell you, I'll have to kill you." Alternatively, just say "It's privately run and the organizer doesn't want any publicity." True enough.

Devious Trick #2 - Develop Chronic Fatigue

Before you start, I know that this is a serious condition and not a joke. However, people DO know that it means you are tired, tired, tired. I'm sure you ARE tired. Perhaps not CF-type tired, but tired nonetheless. So just tell people "I'm so tired all the time, it's like chronic fatigue. I have to take on less or I'll be in real trouble." Again... true enough.

Tell them you are resting every afternoon. No calls, no driving, no chores. Then stick to it. In fact, why not start each afternoon with a relaxation or meditation session? This will not only relax you, it will free up your imagination. Then head for the computer and WRITE.

Devious Trick #3 - Lockdown!

If you work outside the home, you won't be able to take Fridays off or rest every afternoon. But you CAN go into "Lockdown Mode" to get your book finished.

This involves booking yourself into a motel or holiday cottage over a weekend. If you start getting grief about the expense, point out to the person doing the grumbling that you wouldn't be taking this measure if you could find time to write any other way. There are cheap motels around - all you need is a comfortable bed, a hot shower and a decent table for your computer. Find somewhere that will let you check in early on Saturday morning and leave as late as possible on Sunday. If necessary, book it for a second night and leave early on Monday morning.

You can do this once a month, once every two weeks, or once a week for however long it takes to get the book written. You may well find that if your loved ones are faced with the prospect of losing you regularly for a full weekend, they suddenly become much more cooperative about giving you time to write during the week.

Devious Trick #4 - Boot Camp

This one is the big brother of 'Lockdown'. You need to spend serious money and time, and you need to be organized. You also need at least one other writing friend who can do the same. Most people can arrange 4 weeks vacation a year. You might want to commit to an even longer period. The whole point is to get your entire first draft written at your writer's boot camp. To make this work, you need:

  • A PLACE TO GO. A holiday cottage with separate rooms for each attendee is best.
  • WRITING BUDDIES. Choose writers who are just as determined as you are to get the book written. If this is the first time, limit numbers to four including yourself. Don't bring too many personalities and agendas into the mix.
  • PRE-BOOT CAMP MEETINGS to organize strategies and a loose timetable. Agree on working hours and a few basic rules. (You can't have one writer disturbing the others because of writer's block, for example. But you can organize a daily debriefing to help each other with plotting problems.)

Some of the above tricks are tongue-in-cheek; some are serious. All COULD be used. You're only reading about these because everything else you've tried has failed. If you can't persuade others to be cooperative, or you simply can't carve out time any other way, then it's time to start being devious!

© Marg McAlister


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