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Yesterday I was at the monthly Melbourne Romance Writers’ Guild meeting. We had special guest Anna Campbell come to speak to us about writing through the fear. Anna is a full time writer and she had a lot of great tips for making the most of your writing time.

One of the things which really stood out for me was the use of a productivity diary. It can be anything, but it’s somewhere to record the work you’ve done on your writing. One of the other participants suggested using Excel and the nerd in me was very excited. After the meeting I came home and made a spreadsheet:

Writing Tracker pic

It’s pretty simple, but it’s a way to keep you grounded about how much you’re actually producing. Anna said she was always surprised by how much she wrote when she looked back over her productivity diary. She said that a lot of her struggles with writing are based around ‘demons’ who tell her she isn’t good enough. Having a record of the writing she did over the month means she can tell the demons to get stuffed. I don’t know if it’ll work for me, but I’ll give it a try.

I’ve also started to think about what to do for NaNoWriMo this year. I’m going to use Lauren Clarke’s The Novel Handbook which I bought from her at the Romance Writers of Australia conference in mid-August. I found that with my last manuscript I was struggling to keep the characters straight in my head, to remember their eye colours, favourite foods etc. A story bible (try this one) like the productivity diary,  can be in whatever format suits you, but the purpose is to keep character, setting, and plot stuff handy so that you can refer to it.

As I was going through editing the manuscript I realised that I’d changed the names of three different minor characters. I got to a section, fairly late in the novel, and thought ‘Who is George?’ He was the main character’s father, originally named Ben. There were also two Renees.

The phrase ‘be ruthless in protecting your writing time’ has come up a number of times over the last month for me, and it’s really brought home the need for me to be disciplined. I’m good at sprinting, doing a lot of work over a relatively short period of time, but I haven’t developed a good sustainable pattern. I’ve blocked out Monday’s in my calendar for writing, and I am going to be ruthless about not booking other things during that time.

I’m going overseas at the start of October for three weeks. I’m taking a laptop with me so I hope that I’ll make some time to write. I’m going to take my Choose Your Own Adventure story with me; I’d like to have that edited by the time I get home. It might be fun just to put that up on the internet for people to read.

What are some of your techniques for squeezing out more writing time? Making use of dead time, not falling down a Netflix/YouTube hole, and doing short bursts, even if they’re only ten minutes, were all ways that I thought I might be able to scrounge some more time for writing.