Friday, September 3, 2010

Kate Hardy's Guide to Time Management for Writers

Today we'd like to welcome Kate Hardy to our blog. Some have called her super scary for her organisational and planning skills but they certainly pay off as regards her productivity for Harlequin Mills and Boon and we can only say she's super nice for sharing her advice today...
First of all, thank you very much to the Minxes for inviting me over to talk about a subject dear to my heart – time management for writers.
Time management? Don’t you just sit and write when the muse takes you? Er, not if you write six books a year for Mills & Boon, you don’t. You have deadlines, and that means planning your time sensibly so you can meet said deadlines.
And planning is all about knowing how you work and what you’re comfortable doing. You might be the kind of writer who plans everything out and does a set amount each day to hit your deadline (aka the tortoise approach); or you might be better when you’re working on a screaming deadline, so you think about the book for ages and then write the whole thing in a ridiculous amount of time (aka the hare approach). Both approaches are absolutely valid; the trick is to find out which one suits you best. (And be aware that it might change depending on your circumstances…!)
For me, because I write for two different M&B lines (Modern Heat and Medical Romance), I write six books a year. That gives me 8 weeks per book – minus a week for thinking, another for revisions, and another to clear my head between books/deal with the unexpected, so that’s five weeks to write 50,000 words, or 2,000 words a day with two days off a week. Not quite as scary as it sounded at first, is it?
Whichever approach you take, there are some tips that can help you work smarter rather than harder:
· Build in extra time for the unexpected (especially if you have kids – if you have more than one, it’s more likely that they’ll get that lurgy one after the other rather than all at the same time)
· Give yourself time to think, research and edit
· Work at your ‘best time’ when you can (are you a lark who likes working before everyone in the house gets up, or an owl who’s best late at night? – but you do have to take your personal circumstances into account, so as I’m a lark I never get my ‘best’ working time during school termtime)
· Do the admin in your ‘worst time’ (filing, PLR/ALCS, tax receipts – also note that doing it daily in smaller chunks is less painful and doesn’t take up creative headspace. Plus you can always write blog posts in advance and schedule them)
· Schedule in some exercise (aka creative thinking time) – it’ll give you a break and you’ll come back mentally refreshed
· Know your personal time-sucks (which one’s yours? I’ll admit to email, facebook and certain forums and blogs, playing Boggle when I’m stuck, and research that goes off at tangents – and this is why I dare not do Twitter, cough) and plan round them. That means using a kitchen timer to remind you when you’ve spent half an hour playing; or working in chunks of 500-750 words, with scheduled breaks for time-sucks (thanks to Michelle Styles for that tip); or, as a last resort, unplugging your modem or working on a laptop without a net connection to make sure you don’t get distracted.


Kate Hardy’s latest book, Red Wine and Her Sexy Ex, is the first in a duo about the Lefèvre brothers. It’s available now at bookshops, Amazon or at the M&B website. Keep up to date with Kate's latest news via her blog
We're very much looking forward to welcoming Kate back to our blog on the first of October when she'll be guest blogging for us about research.

21 comments:

Sally Clements said...

Great post, Kate. I particularly like the advice about writing in chunks. I do this a lot, because sometimes it can be difficult to dedicate hours of unbroken time to writing, but if you break it into chunks, you have absolutely no excuse!

Rachel Lyndhurst said...

Really useful advice,Kate, especially on the issue of children!

The school day is a lot shorter than many would think isn't it? Nine to five? Ha, we wish!

Lots of love,

Rach.
XX

Maya said...

Thank you so much for your solid advice, Kate! I admit to being a chronic *cough-researcher-cough*, literally spending hours on the internet when I should be writing. That said, when I get going I can get quite a lot done in one sitting. But I'm so looking forward to the kids returning to school so I can have some sort of writing structure once they're in bed (I'm an owl).

Maya

Kate Hardy said...

Sally, I owe Michelle Styles so much for that "writing in chunks" advice - and it really does work for new stuff. (Doesn't for revisions, as I need to immerse myself in them - that's where I have to admit taht my time management fell down, this summer!)

Kate Hardy said...

Rach - nine to five? Yeah, I wish, too! ;o)

Kate Hardy said...

Maya - sorry about the gap in reply, had to fetch gingerbread from oven. LOL on being a chronic researcher. Trust me, the kitchen timer is brilliant for that! And me too on the return to school. I love spending time with my two, but structure makes such a difference...

Heidi said...

Kate, as you know I worship your time management skills. I'm an owl hare according to your fab workshop at the RNA this year... And knowing that has really helped my productivity in the last few weeks. My biggest problem though is that I still seem to write in circles, however much I try to plan - with me it's always a process of trial and error (and usually more errors so lots of trials) so for every 10K I write, about 5k has to be discarded.... ARghh... Which explains why I'm nowhere near writing 6 books a year. But you give me hope... BTW am loving Red wine and Your Sexy Ex!

Heidi x

Lorraine said...

Thanks for all the useful tips Kate. Your RNA workshop was fab, I've found setting a limit on time sucks helps, as does switching off my email!

joanne pibworth said...

Kate, I am in awe! Thanks so much for visiting with the minxes today and sharing these fabulous tips, I def need to have a more structured approach to time management.

Jo

Kate Hardy said...

Heidi - you're such a sweetie - thank you! I do think it's a matter of finding out how you work and tweaking things to suit you/make your life easier. (I can't do pantstering because it freezes me - and I know others who come out in hives at the idea of planning - definitely vive la difference!)

Kate Hardy said...

Lorraine - yup, switching off the email definitely works. (If it's switched off on you by an ISP playing up, though... that's another matter!)

Kate Hardy said...

Joanne - glad they're helpful. But do use them as a tool to help rather than something to beat yourself up - doesn't work for everyone, so take what's helpful and ignore the rest :o))

JV said...

Great advice, Kate! You make it all sound so simple!

Julie Cohen said...

Switching off the internet really does work...but I'm rubbish at doing it. About thirty minutes after unplugging the Air Port I'm back on the floor plugging it in again to see what people are talking about on Twitter...

Still though I think that breaking down writing into chunks is totally the way to go, and I, like everyone, am in awe of your time management skills!

Lacey Devlin said...

Great post Kate! Thanks so much for sharing :)

Maisey said...

Kate, *waves* fab post!

*laughs hysterically* nine to five...hhahha...would that I had ONE child in school...

Yes, timers are excellent. So is my hubby unplugging the wireless modem and hiding it. And as long as I don't sneak my BlackBerry in the office with me...that works. Me? Waste time? NEVER.

Kate Hardy said...

Jan - honestly, it's much easier and less scary than people think. (Just... got to be disciplined *g*)

Julie - yeah, it needs discipline. (Or working on the iPad because then I have to switch out of Pages completely before I can go into Safari, and that makes me feel guilty *g*)

Lacey - glad you enjoyed it :)

Maisey (waves back) - glad you enjoyed it. (And yeah, it's more like 9 to 2.30. If I don't get the "Mum, I forgot my PE kit/guitar/swimming kit/homework, I'll be in trouble, pleeeeeease can you bring it?" *g*) And LOL on getting your DH to unplug the modem!

Romy said...

Unplug the internet?! Next you'll be telling me to take out the coffee drip!

Seriously, this post has been really useful Kate. When you put it like that it sounds so do-able.

Suzanne Jones said...

Time management is one of my biggest downfalls (which probably explains why I've arrived so late to comment on this post) so thank you very much, Kate, for your terrific advice.

X

Jane Writes Romance said...

A kitchen timer is a great idea for play-time, thanks for that suggestion. I actually use an alarm clock when time is short and I want to go on Twitter or check my emails first thing. (Otherwise I look up and it's noon!!) But a kitchen timer is easier to set for short amounts of time and I don't have to re-set it afterwards for 7am or whatever.

I've always written in chunks. I'm too restless to write for hours straight through. And i like to reward myself. Another 500 words and I'll ... etc.

Great post.

Kate Hardy said...

Romy - LOL! (I'm going cold turkey on caffeine again this week. Going to be, cough, interesting...)

Suzanne - glad it was useful.

Jane - I did try using the clock on the computer, but I ignored it. Kitchen timer is loud and can't be ignored *g* Good idea about rewards. (I do that for revisions. So many pages and I can have a square of chocolate....)