Saturday, November 19, 2016

7 Ways to Write More Words and Read More Books

Before we dive in, I'd like to highlight some great editing tips Jenny Frietag @ The Penslayer compiled this week. You can read the post HERE. I was thrilled to see a piece of my own advice included!

The end of November is drawing near, folks, in case you haven't noticed. Which means thousands of writers are striving to meet their fifty thousand word goal in the days remaining. I am not among that huge tribe of crazy (that is, crazy awesome) people, but perhaps I'm absorbing some of their excitement, because I've been more productive this month than I have been in the last two months combined. Hooray!

Whether you're doing NaNoWriMo or not, if you're a writer, you probably want to write. (I should hope so, or else why call yourself a writer?) And quite possibly, you want to write more than you are currently doing. But life is busy, isn't it? How do you find the time?

However, not all of you reading this are writers. But there's a 98.239% chance that you are a reader.* Life is busy for you as well. Things like school and work and obligations crowd out less urgent things like reading.

*I would be surprised if this blog attracted someone who didn't care for books in some way.

So what are we busy readers and writers to do? I can't promise a magical solution to clear your schedule, but I do have some lil' tips to share that can help you put more time into your creative pursuits.

Step 1: Recognize that time is not a thing to be found or made.

You can't find time--you already have it. Nor can you manufacture time. You have twenty-four hours every day. No more, no less. The most productive writers and most prolific readers out there don't have more time than you do! They've just found a way to manage their time wisely.

Time is a resource, just like health or finances. So evaluate where you're putting it. Figure out what's nonnegotiable, such as sleep, work, school, time spent with God, building and maintaining your relationships, etc.

Step 2: Manage your free time.

Everything outside of those nonnegotiables can be moved around or minimized.

I keep my Goodreads status updated, so obviously I have time for it. Likewise with the shows I watch, blogs I read, and YouTube videos I consume. All good things, but also all potential time-suckers.

For a few days, pay attention to all the little things you do, then decide whether those are things you want to spend time on. Trust me, I'm as guilty of wasting time as anyone else. (I'm trying to break some bad phone habits, to be honest.) But you might be surprised how quickly those little things add up. Five minutes on your phone five times a day is twenty-five minutes, you guys--almost half an hour.

Step 3: Find the blank spaces in your day.

This will look different for everyone. For me, I read during my lunch breaks at work, even if it's only a few pages. My brother and I take turns driving to school, which gives me forty free minutes to read when he's the driver. Three days of the week, my college schedule is such that I have a couple free hours over suppertime, so if I don't have homework, I usually answer emails and blog comments, draft a new post, or write.

If you're in a waiting room, that's another chance to read. If you have a few minutes between activities, you can scribble out some plot points so that later, you can jump right into your next writing session without staring at a wall for ten minutes.

Step 4: Carve it out of your schedule with a ruthless knife of terror.

If you've done all of the above and you STILL DON'T HAVE TIME (oh, excuse me, haven't managed the time) . . . you may have to carve out a block of your day to curl up with a book or write a few pages. Don't feel bad if you have to schedule this stuff in.  If to-do lists and planners are your thing, penciling in your hobbies might be the trick to finally doing them.

Step 5: Hold yourself accountable.

Whether it's the satisfaction of checking off that box or buying a new book once your current read is finished, find a way to reward yourself for sticking to it. Writers, what motivates you? Some of my writer friends like to forbid themselves from using the internet until they've written X amount of words each day--for them, social media is a nice little break before jumping back into their manuscript. Or maybe taking a walk, playing with your dog, grabbing a snack, or indulging in stupid YouTube videos is what will drive you to reach a daily goal.

It's also a good idea to find someone who will keep you accountable, someone who will ask you what you've written this week. Knowing you have to report to them will give you that extra drive to keep going.

Step 6: Short stuff.

Obviously if you read shorter books you'll read a larger quantity of books, and if that makes you feel better, no problem. But that's not really the point, because you're still not reading more pages . . . So I guess that's not super useful! But reading in short bursts whenever you have a minute helps.

In writing, don't underestimate the power of word sprints/word wars. I've found that I can write more if I set myself a series of ten or fifteen minute sprints, with the simple goal to see how much I can write during that time.

Something the 100-for-100 challenge taught me was that even if you're crazy busy, you can still write a little bit. And we all know that a lot of little bits add up to a big bit.

Step 7: There's a time to just do it, and there's a time to relax.

Sometimes you have to work at getting around to the things you love. Silly, I know, but that's how life is. And if you're fighting to guard your reading/writing time, great. But don't become so task-oriented that you suck the joy out of those things. Don't write just because you scheduled it 7:30-8:30 every Wednesday night, and you have to write five hundred words or ELSE. Don't read just because you have to get through six books a month to meet your Goodreads challenge.

Do it because you actually want to.

Really, there's nothing wrong with wanting to shut off your brain after a long day, and watching a movie instead of writing. You need to unwind too, or your writing will suffer. And don't be so wrapped up in making progress that you kill the book you're reading. It should be recreational, after all! Take it easy now and then.

All you NaNo'ers: this is the month to power through and meet those goals, yes! But don't do it at the expense of your health or peace of mind. Take a day off if you need to, even if it means working extra tomorrow to make up for it. The world will not end if you don't write 1,667 words today.

So why are you still hanging around Adventure Awaits? Go write that book! Or read it, whichever you choose.


  1. Why am I still hanging around? To comment on this amazing post, of course! ;)

    Each of these are lifesaver tips, and yet it's amazing how often we forget them. At least, I forget them. ;) Especially the last one, because that's one I've been struggling with. I just need to breathe amidst NaNo and craziness and give my problems to God. :)

    1. Haha, thank you! ;)

      I forget them all the time, tbh. XD Yes, that last one is an especially hard one to live out. We tend to try running on our own steam far too often. (Or at least I do.) Lately I think I've been doing a little better at giving myself permission to relax when needed. Maybe that's because it's become a necessity in order to handle the busyness? XD
      So yes--breathe. Cast your cares, however big or small, on God. And remember to slow down every now and then. I believe in you! <3

  2. THIS. POST. I think subconsciously I've been wanting a post like this from you! Because I am ALWAYS amazed at how you have school AND a job AND STILL write so much and read and keep up with blogs and things. YOU AMAZE ME. This post is just perfection!

    You know what? If I had read this post last year I'd be thinking, "Man, am I failing at this." But my big goal for 2016 was to find balance, to find time to keep up with things without completely stressing myself out. And I've actually made strides! I'm REALLY seeing the progress I've made now that it's NaNo. Usually during NaNo my inbox gets completely ignored and explodes, I get weeks behind on blog posts, everything just gets out of hand. But this year, I'm writing a lot and yet still have managed to keep pretty on top of things, and not stress NEARLY as much. So I'm really happy I'm improving with this. BUT I still have a looong way to go. I've only sat down to read TWICE since NaNo began. o.O And have ignored some lifely things... Haha. All your points are just golden and I want to, like, write them down and keep them with me always!

    I looove your point on how we all have 24 hours, no matter what, and it's how we use those 24 hours that counts. Using my "blank spaces" is where I fail most. Like yesterday I was at work and nooothing was going on. I sat there for the longest just scrolling on pinterest and twitter, then I was like, "I could be using this time reading!" And so I did and it was sooo good getting immersed in a book again. You're so right in phone time and such sucking away time we COULD be using doing something we really love. We're silly creatures.

    Anyways, I'm just babbling. BUT I LOVED THIS POST SO MUCH. I am so keeping it to memory as I continue my quest for finding balance. THANK YOU, TRACEY. YOU ARE AMAZING!

    1. Really? I've been subconsciously thinking I should write an article like this, especially when reading comments on the S&S posts. XD I honestly don't feel like I get astronomical amounts of things accomplished, but making good use of the time I have is something I'm always playing around with.

      CHRISTINE, THAT IS SO GOOD. Balance is something I strive for too (though frequently fail to attain), and I also hear so many others complain about not having balance--so it's so encouraging to hear that this is something that's been going WELL for you lately! You go, girl! I'm amazed at how you're keeping up with things on top of that ginormous NaNo project. *shakes head in wonder*

      LOL, saaaame! I find myself scrolling through things I just checked ten minutes ago--pretty useless. But today I spent a goodly chunk of the afternoon reading, and it felt wonderful. (I love that your workplace gives you time to read! I mean, you're surrounded by books! <3)

      Thank you! I'm so glad it was helpful! YOU ARE AMAZING TOO! ^___^ KEEP UP THE AWESOME NANO WORK!

  3. Good post, Tracey! I like it! :D


  4. That first step is such an important thing to keep in mind- but I've never really thought of it in that way before. That explains it all, now! I didn't see the step clearly, and that's why I would trip!

    1. I hadn't either, but we've been talking about time management here and there during college. Quite illuminating! I hope this helps you structure your days. (I hope *I* put it into better practice as well!)

  5. Great post, Tracey!
    And kudos to you for getting more writing done this month! :D
    Time management is definitely key, alongside prioritizing! I think your last point is very important: remembering that this is all for fun, and that it's not the end of the world if some days you just need to not be doing anything.
    Hope you have a wonderful week!

    1. Thanks, Sarah! Writing more has been a glorious feeling. :D

      YES, prioritizing is a big deal as well...figuring out what's urgent, what's important, what's trivial. Exactly, we don't need to be working every single day. God designed rest for a reason!

      Same to you! I hope you get a chance to relax a bit this week. ^_^

  6. Awesome tips here! I usually stink at time management. I'll get immersed in what I'm doing (especially if it's writing) and then I'll spend at least an hour doing it. So if I give myself less than an hour or so to write, I'll inevitably be late for something. :/

    I'm actually supposed to be working on an essay right now. But after working on it for three hours straight, I decide a small blogging/supper break was in order. XD

    I do like what you said about the short stuff. I *might* have to try that with writing. If possible. But I like doing it with reading. I like to have a collections of short stories around to read when I don't have a lot of time. I won't be reading more pages, but I'll get more stories. And if there's a huge stretch of time between reading periods, I won't forget things as easily because I can finish a short story in one sitting. (Sherlock Holmes stories are the best!)

    Great post!

    1. That happens to me too sometimes--I get wrapped up in the writing and nearly forget other obligations. :P It's worth noting that sometimes it's better to block off a larger chunk of time rather than writing in spurts. That's the beauty of writers: we all work differently and find different ways to be productive!

      You deserve a break from all that essay-writing! Sounds intense.

      That's a good idea, keeping collections of short stories around! I regrettably have not read any Sherlock Holmes books. Yet. I don't read many mysteries, but I need to give those a try because CLASSICS. :D

      Thank you--glad it was helpful! ^_^

  7. This is a great post! And I agree, word wars really help me write more, especially during NaNo. They really help me to focus on my writing without getting distracted for some reason. :)

    1. Thank you! Oh, same with me--when I have that timer ticking down, I won't let myself get distracted by emails or people as easily. I'll even hold off on research and just stick placeholder names in there, a tactic I'm not entirely sure is good or bad... But it helps get those words in!

      Hope NaNo is going well for you! :)

  8. Doing just a little bit is definitely my philosophy. That's gotten me through many a time when I really didn't feel like doing anything, but I needed to make some progress. Great tips!

    1. Yep, it's definitely helped me keep plugging along as well. Thanks for reading, Tori--and as always, happy writing! ^_^

  9. I needed this post, time management is my biggest downfall at the moment.

    1. Glad you found it helpful, Skye! Sometimes I wish the days were longer, that's for sure.