Carving out the time to write a book requires planning, persistence, and at times, a lot of caffeine. Even with all the right elements in place, making time for writing is a major undertaking, especially when your days are filled with commitments to work, family, and social activities.
So, you have a dream to write that book, but you’re locked into a schedule that’s keeping you from pursuing your dream. I know the routine: Get up, work all day, come home and make dinner, and look after the kids (or unwind in front of the TV) and then you fall into bed, exhausted, before you have to do it all again the next day. When the weekend comes, you just want to kick back, take it easy, and put the week behind you. Then Monday comes around and the rat race starts all over again. Soon you can hear yourself making excuses for all the reasons why you didn’t write:
“I was so busy this week I just didn’t have time…”
“I’ll do it next week when I’m more organized…”
“I’ll start writing when I’m feeling more motivated…”
“I’ll get to it once I quit my day job and have more time…”
But as you know by now, there’s never a perfect time. We’re always busy with something. And if we don’t take action when we can, the excuses will keep coming until we run out of time forever. Don’t let your dream die. I’m going to help you get your book done.
Time for Writing: 8 Steps to Becoming a Weekend Writing Warrior
By becoming a weekend writing warrior, you can get it done. I know because I’ve done it. In this post I’ll share with you my 8 step strategy for writing a book on the weekends even if your week is crazy busy.
1. Start With Intentional Planning
When it comes to getting your writing done, strategy is everything. Without a plan, you drift; and when you drift, you end up back where you started, wasting more time while procrastinating. The key to writing a book on your weekends is to get plan out how you will use your writing time. If you know ahead of time what you’ll be focusing on, where you’ll be writing and for how long, when it comes time to start writing, you’ll show up ready for keyboard action.
Our intentional planning model should consist of:
- Researching topics, articles, and interviews
- Chapter mind mapping
- Crafting an outline
A good craftsman always shows up to create with his best tools. As writers, we need to spend time preparing to write before showing up at the keyboard. You want to do any necessary research outside of your writing time, not during it. Stopping just to check that “one thing” breaks your writing flow (and often sends you off into the wilds of the internet, never to return).
During my writing sessions, if I get stuck and need to check on something, I’ll make a note in the paragraph like CBL [Come Back Later].
You can set up your chapters as well by doing brief mind maps for each. If you have crafted your book’s outline already, this should be easy. Take a few minutes each day during the week to do a quick outline for each chapter. You don’t have to write anything until the weekend, but at the very least, make some notes about what you’re going to write when the weekend comes so you’re prepared.
2. Setting Up Your Writing Space
Your writing environment has a huge influence on how your writing sessions flow. Will you write in a coffee shop? A quiet room? Under the stairs? Locked in a closet with just your laptop and a light bulb? Wherever you choose to write, it should be at least comfortable and a place you can stay focused for long periods of time.
My environment consists of my computer, motivational quotes, and mind maps for my books. Decorating your writing space adds to inspiration, but also serves as a reminder: This is where you write. Make it a place that you can enjoy creating in. But does it have to be just the one place? Of course not.
You can change writing locations and have two or three designated spots. I would recommend having a primary spot you write in consistently, but have another place set up that you can get to just in case you need to change locations. Try out several places and see what works best. Take note of how you feel working in your creative element.
Is it comfortable? Are you comfortable? Is it an energetic spot or, do you feel irritated and restless? Do you work better in a place that’s quiet [private room] or super noisy [Starbucks]?
On days when I spend all day writing, I’ll break it up into two different locales: one is my writing room, and the other is a coffee shop. If the noise is a problem, I’ll wear headphones and tune out everything with some mellow writing music.
3. Show Up With Your Mind Map and Book Outline
I have shown up many times to write only to realize I had no plan for what I was writing. This leads to procrastination and then I look for something else to occupy my time. Know what you are going to write by planning beforehand. Developing your mind map or a book outline is the surest way to start cutting into the pages.
Before you become a weekend writer, you’ll need your mind map and outline. If you start writing without having done these important steps first, you’ll eventually end up stuck. Make sure you have your book fully mind mapped and a general working book outline.
Use your outline as a checklist to get your words down on paper with purpose. Each of your writing block sessions should have a clear purpose as to what you are going to write.
4. Eliminate Internet Distractions
One of the biggest obstacles writers face is being pulled out of their “writing zone” by message indicators, vibrations, and pop-ups. This includes notifications that “you’ve got email” or, better yet, someone that you don’t even know has just liked one of your comments on Facebook and you feel that need to check it out right away. My advice: unplug yourself from all things connected to the Internet.
Here is what you do:
Option 1: Unplug yourself completely from the internet. Turn off Wi-Fi or physically unplug your network cable. This is the best option to separate yourself from the internet during your writing time. This is the “zero tolerance” method that I use as my number one choice for getting things done.
Option 2: Use productivity apps to eliminate or cut down on time spent checking certain sites. Use an app such as RescueTime to block the sites that distract you by choosing the amount of time you need to focus.
RescueTime send you updates via email to let you know how much time was spent on certain websites. This is good to know, because the next time you catch yourself saying “I didn’t have time to write” but you spent three unproductive hours on a certain site, you can channel this time into your weekend writing schedule.
Two more apps I recommend are: Cold Turkey and SelfControl [for Mac]. Both apps are designed to reduce or eliminate wasted time, and this means higher focus and more time targeted for writing words fast.
In a nutshell: Sit Down. Unplug. Focus. Write.
5. Establishing a Writing Schedule & Time Slots
When time is limited, it’s important to be strategic in how you use it. In the previous step, we took action by cutting off our interaction with the Internet during our writing time. The next thing we want to do is decide:
- How long are your writing sessions going to be? 25 minutes? 40 minutes? One hour?
- How many writing sessions are you doing today?
For example, I’ll do three one-hour sessions in a day. I’ll write for one hour, take a ten minute break, repeat. During the break, get up and move around, stretch or grab some coffee.
How to Set Up Your Writing Session
One option is to use the Pomodoro Technique. Self-published author Steve Scott, who has written close to 70 books, utilized the Pomodoro Technique to structure his writing time. Set your timer for 25 minutes and write. Take a five minute break, and repeat. This system works really well and is great for getting focused and writing in short bursts.
If you want to go longer, set your timer for sixty minutes. I use the timer on my iPhone. Set it for the time you are committed to writing and GO. You should focus only on your writing during this period. No research, editing, or breaking the writing flow, unless there’s a house fire. Just write.
Set a goal for yourself to crank out one thousand words in an hour. These are longer stretches and can be tough for some people so if you are struggling, start with the Pomodoro System and ease your way into doing longer sessions.
6. Set Your Word Count Target
Many people get overwhelmed when they think about writing a book. But if you write 3000 words a day on the weekends, you can be done with the first draft of your book in a month. If you plan ahead and set your writing goal at a pace of 800-1200 words per hour, you’ll be done in thirty hours of writing time. This might seem like a lot but think about it:
How much time do you spend watching TV in a week? How much time do you spend at the office? How much time do you spend checking email or on social media?
It can be done, and you can do this!
Set a daily word count target for yourself. Be strategic about this and take a rough guess how long your book is going to be. If I know I’m planning to write a 25,000-word novella, if I crank out 6000 words per weekend, I can complete a draft in a month. If your book is shorter or longer, you can adjust to fit your target deadline.
You can easily track your word count in Scrivener. You can also use a Google spreadsheet or a simple Excel spreadsheet. By tracking your progress, you have a clear indication of how close you’re getting to your goal. It’s also highly motivating to know you’re making progress.
7. Reward Yourself
There’s a famous proverb that says: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” I have no idea who Jack was, but I do know that if you spend your entire weekend writing, you’re going to need some R&R at the end of it.
This is a critical stage. If you spend week after week putting in time at work and then working more on the weekend, even if it is a passion project like writing your novel, you’ll get burned out and feel less inspired when the next weekend comes around.
You deserve a break. Do something for yourself. Go to a movie. Take your friends out to dinner. Get away from the manuscript. I usually end the weekend by engaging in some fun activities such as:
- Watching a movie
- Spending time with the kids
- Taking a long walk or running
- Taking a long drive and thinking about future goals and what I accomplished this weekend
- Meditating or working out
8. Plan Your Next Writing Weekend
There’s one more stage after you have wrapped things up at the end of your writing weekend. This is an important step. Before you pack it up, take ten minutes to draft a quick action plan for the week. This consists of the book research, chapter outlining, and anything else you need to do outside of the writing process.
I do this step Sunday night before bed. Then, when the week starts I know exactly what work on to set myself up for success the following weekend.
The alternative to this is to spend five minutes each night writing down what you’ll do the next day. Do you need to outline your next chapter? Tighten up your overall book outline? Reach out to any online influencers about your next book release?
This step is part of the intentional planning phase that will keep you focused. So even while you are busy in the week with your other commitments, having a short list to refer to makes your mission clear.
The weekend is nearly here again. Are you ready? Don’t make excuses—get your book written. You can do this. If you follow the 8-step plan, three months from now you can be celebrating the publication of your next book.
The next time someone asks you the question: “How do you find the time to write?” You can now tell them: “Oh, it’s easy. I write books on the weekends.”
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