Saturday, August 20, 2016

A New Schedule Calls for Precise Writing

Scott D. Parker

We’re a week in for the new school year and I’ve already had to adjust my writing schedule.
One of the best things about the end of school this past May was that I had the mornings to myself again. I’ve always woken before the family on weekends and holidays, and that’s where I get a lot of my writing done. But the weekdays are different. Starting the Tuesday after Memorial Day, I’m on my own, the boy having his summer break. I still wake at 5am, but I not longer have to stop at 6:15am to help him. Now, I can write and write and write all the way to 6:30 before I have to stop and get myself ready for the day job. Thankfully, my commute is literally around the corner, so I can leave at 6:55am and still be at work by 7:00am.

As one might expect, when I had my summer months to myself, I occasionally slept in. Didn’t feel like rising out of bed precisely at 5:00? No worries. I can sleep in an extra ten, fifteen, or even thirty minutes and still have an hour’s time to write. It was a great system.

That system is no more.

The boy now carpools with another dad. That dad is a teacher at a nearby school. He has to be in his classroom by 7:05am. That means he has to leave his house—around a different corner from my house—by 6:30am. I think you see where this is going. Backing up, I now have to wake the boy up at 5:45am. Yikes both for the time, but also for the writing schedule.

I quickly realized a week ago Thursday that I’m down to a good 40 minutes of writing time. I subtract five minutes for waking, getting coffee and my warm lemon water, and feeding the animals. Do I have time to sleep in now? Nope. By the end of this week, I was actually setting my own alarm for 4:55am. What?! Yeah, really. I want to sit at the keyboard and start writing as close to the top of the hour as possible. Then, after I walk him to the neighbor’s house, I tend to have about 20 more minutes to myself. I’ll typically finish the scene and then head to work.

It’s worked pretty well. On the mornings in which I’ve known exactly what happens in the next scene to write, I can almost finish it in that time frame. But when I don’t, when I’ve sketched the scene so broadly, leaving it to my future self to ‘fill in the blanks,’ I’ve gotten into trouble.

So I’m falling back to precise writing. This is my own term I just created that basically means outlining. With so little time left for writing—the evening is still and has always been family time; I don’t like the idea of sequestering myself away during those time unless absolutely necessary—I need to know exactly what I have to do in the time I have. It’s almost like a mini Pomodoro time keeper.

I’ve reached 10,000 words on the new book. That’s not precisely where I want to be by this date, but it is where I am on this new schedule. I’m hopeful to catch up this weekend and get back on pace. But I’m also going to revisit my notecards and put in more details before I get to those scenes so that I can use the time I have and produce the most optimal results. Or I have to write faster. Perhaps I'll do some more dictation. Who knows, but it'll be fun to experiment.

1 comment:

Steve Weddle said...

'precise writing' is a clever term
i can't stand to write for much longer than a half-hour or so. i get too exahusted