Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Writer's World - The Best Time To Write, Annie West

The Pacific Ocean around midday
I've been facing a few challenges lately which are impacting on my writing schedule. Sound familiar? Hands up those writers who face interruptions on a daily basis.

It doesn't matter if we're full or part time writers, our hours to write always seem threatened by other things - family needs, for instance, ensuring everyone in the house as at least one set of clean clothes. Or perhaps it's a noisy neighbour chainsawing or otherwise making a racket when you most want to work. Appointments. A course you've enrolled in. The day job. Emergencies. There's always something, isn't there?

On the other hand, one of the great benefits of a writer is our ability to adapt (hopefully) and be flexible. We've learned (or are perfecting) the art of writing in between other activities. Even if we're in the lucky position to have a serene writing space and hours of uninterrupted exile in which to write, we still need to wrestle ourselves into productivity. Yes, habit is a great boon. If you sit down every day at a certain time and force yourself to write, eventually you'll find it far easier to produce those pages.

Early morning light
Whether you're a strict-routine sort of writer, or a sneak-in-a-page-in-between-other-tasks writer, it's important to think about when you're most productive. For some that will be when the sun is high in the sky and other workers are busy at their chosen jobs.

On the other hand, you might be up with the birds. Do you bound (or drag yourself) out of bed in the pre-dawn light? Is that early morning peace the only solitude you'll get during the day? Or, just as important, is that the time when your mind is at its most productive - buzzing with ideas after sleeping on some knotty plot problem?

Mid morning - time for a cuppa or time to get started?
Or perhaps you start late. Maybe you have a school run or prefer to jog or hit the gym. Maybe you can't start work till the washing or other chores are out of the way. Maybe your brain doesn't kick into gear until you've had that second cup of coffee and a read of the newspaper. In that case, what's the point of beating yourself up for not having written 5 pages before mid morning? Isn't it better to feel productive than guilty?

Early evening - just the time to focus?
Alternatively you may find that you're the sort of writer who needs to mull in detail before you start writing a scene. Do you find yourself hearing snippets of dialogue as you cook an evening meal? Does it take you most of the day to sort out in your mind exactly how to tackle that next, difficult scene? Do you just find that no matter how hard you try, you produce little of value before the early evening?

Or perhaps it's not early evening. Perhaps you're a true night owl and you get a rush of focused energy just as everyone else is heading for bed.

Who wouldn't find a Parisian night inspiring?
My advice? Listen to your brain and your body. Sometimes we have no say in when we get to write. Sometimes time is too limited. But even when it's limited, know yourself. If you only have time early in the morning and late in the evening but you find you're only half awake in the morning, why not devote that time to research or answering emails or searching the web for details of contests to enter? You can save your evening for actually putting words on paper. Or if you find you're sleepy after lunch and too tired to write, maybe giving yourself permission to doze for half an hour will rejuvenate you and, who knows, giving your mind time 'off' could produce some unexpected plot solution.

I'm trying to practice what I preach. I'm considering carefully when I'm most productive and trying to knuckle down then. I'm allocating those other times when I'm not really at the top of my game to emails and administration. So if you get an email from me that doesn't quite make sense you'll understand why!

How about you? Have you worked out your most productive times - for writing or any other activity? Have you taken time to think about what works best for you? Have you changed your schedule and seen any benefits? Are you a night owl or a nine to fiver? Someone who produces a massive amount in their lunchtime or a slow and steady pacer who needs the whole day to achieve your goals?

If you're curious about what Annie has been producing with her precious writing time, head to her website for the latest details. Her current release is DEFYING HER DESERT DUTY which coincidentally starts in the middle of a dark Parisian night. By the time dawn breaks over the city both hero and heroine know they're in big trouble - attracted in a case of forbidden passion. Also out now is the SULTRY NIGHTS anthology which includes Annie's THE SAVAKIS MISTRESS. Both are UK releases but there's free international postage from The Book Depository. Here are links for 'Defying her Desert Duty' and 'Sultry Nights'. If you're in Australia or New Zealand, watch out in November when 'Defying Her Desert Duty' goes on sale.


  1. I have to work at the day job but, if I'm not there, early morning seems to be my most productive writing time. Usually though, I have to settle for whatever spare time I can get after dinner and house chores are finished and bh settled into his evening work. Best thing for actual word production was the sprint room during the June 50/30 challenge. Produced a complete first draft in that time. Amazing what selective pressure can do for creativity!
    Btw Annie, Just arrived home from Italy to find your latest book awaiting me--guess what I'll be reading next!

    1. Sue, welcome home! Hope you had a marvellous time. Hope too that you enjoy the book.

      It sounds like you're incredibly disciplined to write in between other jobs, and as for the sprint challenge - that's an amazing achievement, especially with a day job. I feel inspired just reading about it.

  2. Hi Annie, what a thoughtful post! I kept identifying with so many of the things you said: the conflicting demands on our time, the way our creative processes work, the need for self-knowledge about our optimum time for writing.
    I'm a natural born procrastinator who needs the impetus of a deadline--self-imposed or otherwise. Being an owl, I love to work through the night--the small hours of the morning in the peace and quiet with only a cat's purring to interrupt me are the times my muse really makes herself at home. Sometimes (when it's working!) I can write for hours without really being aware of it!
    I hope your muse is working hard, inspiring you with must-get-them-down-on-paper (or screen!) ideas for more of your wonderful stories. Your readers are waiting! (No pressure, you understand!)

    1. Kandy, I'm glad you connected with my ramblings. I love to procrastinate too, but fear gets the better of me and I know how much work I have to put into writing a book, which spurs me to plug away at it.

      I'm in awe of you writing through the night. That's something that doesn't come naturally to me. I feel a bit like Cinderella - knowing her coach is going to turn into a pumpkin when it gets too late.

      Yes, thanks, Muse is working (after a tiny break). I hope the same goes for you. I'm looking forward to your next book.

  3. Hi, Annie! Congrats on your wonderful new releases.

    I arranged my day job hours so I start before the crack of dawn and leave the office when everyone else is polishing off their lunches. This (theoretically) leaves the afternoons free so I can write until dinnertime. I do have to be very firm with my time and devote x amount of time for emails, gym, cleaning (ugh!), etc. This discipline doesn't come naturally, believe me! When I do get into a writing groove, I'm always surprised by how much I can get done in a short amount of time.

    1. Vanessa, it sounds like you're another very organised writer. That's impressive. You know, I think sometimes the less time we have for a task (like writing) the harder we work at it when we do have time. Perhaps that explains your high output? Maybe it's all that creative energy finding an outlet after all that cleaning and exercise...

  4. Annie, adore the photos! You certainly made good use of your camera at the last Romance Writers of Australia conference! Good on you! Oh, time management - it's a constant gripe from writers, isn't it? Some days, it's easier to do the right/write thing than others, isn't it? I just got a book in so I'm cleaning up all the things that piled up while I was writing. Still, there's something nice in accomplishing a lot of small things in a day - writing a novel is such a big job, you need to divide it up into small steps to get that sense of achievement each day.

    1. Anna, I couldn't agree more about breaking up a job into bite sized chunks. Even novel writing. I love to be able to tick off at the end of the month that I wrote x number of chapters or pages. It's a way of reassuring myself that I'm progressing, even if there are glitches on the way. I hope you enjoy your little vacation from writing as you tackle other tasks.

  5. Annie - this post spoke to me so much! Challenges - check! Interruptions - check! Finding time to write . . . Finding a brain to write with when you fi9nd time to write . . . Double check! But I'm breathing alittle more eaasily right now with a book finally in an a ccepted - so I'm treating myself and Defying Her Desert Duty is right there on the top of my TBR . . . . Can't wait!

  6. Kate, it's interesting, isn't it? I'd thought that after I was published the interruptions and distractions would lessen but it's still an effort to separate out writing time, isn't it?

    Congratulations on getting your book accepted - yay! What a wonderful feeling I hope you enjoy your little break with some reading. Hope 'Defying Her Desert Duty' hits the spot!

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  8. Let's try that again... :-)

    What gorgeous pics, Annie! They bring back lovely memories...and a desire to explore the Gold Coast further. :-)

    I'm definitely a routine gal. My sacred writing time (when all is going well with no emergencies, appointments or such like distractions) is 8am - 11am. That's when I'm most productive. Still, when I'm doing fast draft I push on into the afternoon...usually at a crawl. :-)

    Hoping you can find a whole load of time away from the distractions and emergencies to pen your next fabulous romance!

  9. Michelle, your writing routine sounds marvellous. I find an early start works best for me too. Hope the routine is bearing wonderful fruit right now!