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How to put down your book and start writing more productively

Well, another month has passed, and it’s time for our Round Robin already. Where do all the weeks go? It’s a good question to ask for this post, since this week’s theme is on the subject of time –  namely, how do we find time to read, and time to write?

My bookcase
My bookshelves

My answer to the first question is easy. I’m always reading. I don’t need to find time at all to pick up a book. I always have time to read. What I need to do is put my book down and get other things done! Sometimes I wonder if there’s such a thing as being addicted to reading. I find I read newspapers from cover to cover; even the backs of cornflake packets get scanned as I’m eating breakfast. Some time I plan to see if I can get through two days without reading a single thing. It will be tough!

Finding time to write is a different matter altogether. I’m not one of those writers who loves to write and is forever found scribbling away on the backs of old envelopes and napkins, dreaming up the next scene. The part of writing I like best is working out a new idea – when everything is new and shiny and fun, and I’m not struggling with the “saggy middle,” or having to go back several chapters to make sure I’ve foreshadowed certain events, or made my hero’s character consistent, etc. I also love writing a dramatic scene. Both those things come easily, and in those situations I find myself even able to put down my book and get on with writing for hours at a time.

The rest of it, though, in the words of best-selling author Catherine Gaskin, is “a slog.” Sometimes I struggle for a long time just on how to close a chapter. I’m a slow writer, and one of my resolutions this year was to attempt to speed up a little. I already use a technique called the Pomodoro technique, which I’ve written about before here. Basically, I set a timer and write for a specific amount of time (usually 25 minutes). When the buzzer rings, I rest my mind for five minutes, either getting up to make yet another cup of tea, or doing a few rows of my knitting, or watering the plants, or anything else that doesn’t involve deep thought. I am NOT allowed to check Facebook or Twitter in those five minutes…or pick up a book!

Everyone has a different method of working, but I find by allocating my time like this I’m less likely to procrastinate. I really can’t advise people on finding time to write, as I’m not a good example of writing productively. All I can say is, writing is 1% inspiration (the fun bit) and 99% perspiration. If you really want to complete a novel, you just have to put your bum in the chair and get on with it. I’ve almost finished my fourth novel now, and I hope by the end of this year I’ll have improved in self-discipline and will be able to get past my times of being “stuck” at a certain point more easily.

And here’s a couple of photos of the places where I write. If you look at the first one closely, you’ll see the screen shows the first draft of my novel A Way from Heart to Heart, which was published last November. So you see, all those 25 minute stretches finally added up to a finished novel!

helena fairfax, a way from heart to heart
My dog Lex . My best critic


Helena fairfax, A Way from Heart to Heart
This chapter must have been a little boring!


How about you? How do you find time to read? And if you’re a writer, how do you find time to write? Do you have a way to keep yourself on track without procrastinating?

If you have any questions or comments at all, I’d love to hear from you!

And now please feel free to drop in on the other authors in the Round Robin. I aim to visit, too, and see if I can find any advice on managing my writing time!

Geeta Kakade
Marci Baun
Rita Karnopp
Heidi M. Thomas
Ginger Simpson
Beverley Bateman
Fiona McGier
Rachael Kosnski
Margaret Fieland
A.J. Maguire 
Skye Taylor
Rhobin Courtright



24 thoughts on “How to put down your book and start writing more productively

  1. I had never heard of the Pomodoro technique, Helena, but I suppose it makes sense because it is a lot more productive to write in short, intense bouts and to have a time limit. I try to fit in writing whenever I can and I love scribbling ideas and thoughts in my little ‘cahiers Clairefontaine’ that I buy in France and always carry with me. I am a slow writer too, and I despair at times!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Marie, I’ve found that this technique really helps me. In the five minutes “break” I often think of a better way to phrase something, or even a different direction to go in. It’s better than staring for hours at the screen.
      I also keep a notebook now, and have jotted down ideas for new stories. I wish I had time to write them all up!
      Thanks for coming by, and for your comment!


  2. You sound like me, Helena – both with reading and writing, except I write quite quickly once I get going! I also seem to write better at the cafe once a week or on trains with pen and paper – may I should write that way more often instead of straight to computer.


  3. Helena, congratulations on your method of being more productive. That’s wonderful.

    I believe I am a slow writer as well. I’m very structured, which is my method. If I decide today I’m going to write all day and I do. I have been pushing myself this month and have done little social-wise. This weekend is a work weekend for me. I plan to submit my third Kay Driscoll mystery next week.

    When I start my next project I will have a less hectic schedule and plan to write twice a week, all day. I have to structure myself because of other commitments. If today is a writing day, I sit down and write.

    Like you, I love the new idea. I work in stained glass. I love to design. Even to cut the glass, a challenge if it is difficult. Soddering it together, not that much, but I want/like the finished product.

    Great post.


    1. Hi Susan, I think you have a lot of discipline. I empathise with wanting the finished product. I love to “be a writer” and have the finished books to my name – but the actual sitting down and grafting, not so much!
      Congratulations on finishing your third Kay Driscoll mystery. That’s a tremendous achievement, especially if you have a hectic schedule. I hope you achieve much more this weekend – and lots more in 2015!
      Thanks for coming by and for your great comment!


  4. Hi Helena, Organizing time better should have been my New Years resolution. Maybe it’s not too late. You are an inspiration with all you do. Read the paper. Write a blog. Walk the dog. Take pictures. Write books. And I just saw on another blog that you watch TV. Ho hum. What else can I get done today?
    Always fun to read your blog.


    1. Thanks so much, Kenneth! I wish I could feel I work hard at the other things, but walking the dog, reading and watching TV are all really good fun things to do! I do try and be disciplined, though, and keeping up to this blog takes some discipline, but once people started following me I felt I shouldn’t let them down by missing the odd week when I’d sooner be reading my book :) Once my post is up, it’s fun then, and so the discipline is worth it! Thanks so much for your comment. I enjoy all your beautiful photos on FB!


  5. Aloha Helena.

    Great post. :-) I go through patches with reading. But like you – will read anything. I usually take my phone in the bathroom. Lol. Otherwise I’ll have to read the back of the toilet roll packet again. Lol.

    As for writing. I rarely write unless the Muses are here. If they’re shivving off I’m The Bahamas again. I edit.

    When the Muses are here. I can write for hours without much of a break. They dictate. I type.

    When I get stuck, I write around the scene. Or write a different scene. I don’t always write in sequence. I’m a complete pantser. :-)

    I write what is calling me. Not what’s up in the timeline. At the moment the Muses have been popping in and out. But I’m physically very tired so I’m not getting as much writing done.

    It’ll come back. :-)

    As always – I enjoy your blogs and everyone’s different views. Thanks and aloha Meg :-).


    1. Hi Meg, it’s so hard to write when you are exhausted. I feel for you. I went through a very long period like this. I had no enthusiasm to write, but I tried to force myself. It didn’t work. I wrote a couple of paragraphs, and my eyes literally started closing. There’s a difference between being disciplined and forcing yourself to act when what your body needs is some real R&R. I hope you can get yourself off to a beach in the Bahamas and live it up with your Muse for a while.
      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Always good to hear from you.


    1. Haha! Writing always makes me hungry, Heather! Getting another cup of tea and a biscuit is much more fun than writing the next paragraph :) I think you must already be very disciplined, especially with all your commitments at home. Congratulations on getting your third Josie Picada novel finished. I’m looking forward to reading it!


  6. I also have a reading addiction much like yours. Luckily many scientific studies are coming out telling how reading keeps our brains healthier than any other activity. Great news for me. Interesting post, thanks. Love your critic partner.


  7. I’m a “pantser” so I only write when my characters are talking to me. They lead the way and I type their story, adding in emotions, smells, and all the elements that turn a story into a novel. I’d buymyself a timer, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t work for me. Glad it does for you.


    1. When my characters lead the way, it’s generally when I’m lying in bed without a pen or piece of paper to write down what they’re telling me! In front of the keyboard they can be very difficult :) Thanks for coming by, Ginger. I enjoyed reading your post on the Round Robin!


  8. Enjoyed your blog and photos. I read every night before going to sleep, although I am hearing a lot of reports that reading on a screen device, my Kindle, keeps one awake. I think that could be true, except reading usually relaxes me so I can snooze. When I was working on my WIP, I set aside time every day to write after lunch. I kept to it pretty well. But now comes the part like you said, attacking the muddle in the middle and the foreshadowing I am not quite so disciplined. I think this quote pretty well sums it up for me (and maybe for you and most authors) “Write your first draft with your heart.Re-write with your head.” –in the movie, Finding Forrester.


    1. Hi JQ, that’s a great quote. I can definitely relate to that. My trouble is I edit as I go along. Everyone tells me I shouldn’t do that – I should just keep going forward with the first draft – but I’m a terrible perfectionist and I can’t let things go. This is a big part of what slows me down!
      Hope you manage to get stuck into your second draft. Good luck!


  9. Interesting post, Helena and everyone’s comments, too. I especially connected to your last sentence about needing it to be perfect before you can go on. When I’m writing first draft I put Scruffy (a small stuffed dog) hanging over the wood that folds down to cover the keyboard. He reminds me to keep those words flowing. Don’t stop. Once the words are down you can fix anything, but you can’t fix a blank page. Oh, I stop a bit, but not to get it “perfect.” With the 6th book I’ve written (my 3rd published book) about to come out, I’ve realized you don’t get perfect. I’ve just received that book from my editor and am working through the ms. What amazes me is how much better I making the book now. ( I thought I was sending her some pretty good stuff! LOL) . So whatever works for you, Helena, to get the words on the screen, do it. I’m not a fast writer either. Some of that is because I usually have several projects going on at once–not good for me, but it’s the way it works. One book in planning stages, one book being written, and one book in production/editing mode. (Not to mention all the marketing we have to do.) Yikes! It’s amazing we get done what we do! I’ll share this, Helena. Always love your blogs. :)


    1. Hi Marsha, what an encouraging comment. I’ve been thinking how long it’s taken me to get so far in my ms, but of course I’d forgotten the rest I’ve done:- submit my previous book, get it accepted, complete all the edits, get it published, and all the many promo items I’ve written for it. Plus some other writing projects I’ve had along the way.
      Great advice about putting hanging a reminder over the keyboard. I’m definitely going to try that one! Thanks for a super comment!


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