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If you’re a fiction writer, you know the drill: You have to invest a lot of time to get good at writing stories readers love.

No matter what stage you are at in your writing career, managing your time is essential to your success. And as a fiction writer, you have to juggle a lot of different tasks, from coming up with ideas to plotting to writing to editing and more.

But sometimes it can be hard to find the time or use your time in productive ways. Fortunately, there are tried and true time management tips that can help you take back control of your creativity, so you can still give attention to other interests in your life.

Here are 10 tips to help you improve your productivity and write more words in less time.

Time Management Tips:

1. Get on the Same Page with Yourself

The first step in effective time management for fiction writers is to know where you are now.

So it’s important to determine how much time you can reasonably devote to writing.

How much of your current time are you already spending on your fiction? What is your current productivity level?

How many hours can you realistically work per day? How many words can you write per hour?

Be honest with yourself.

2. Find Your Finish Line

It’s easy to write the first line, but it’s hard to reach the finish line. So you need a deadline.

Inspiration will only take you so far which means you must develop strong time management skills to finish your first draft.

But before you set a goal for your project, you should assess your writing speed.

Because if you want to write a 300-page novel, that’s about 75,000 words. Divide that figure by the number of words you can actually write in an hour, then you’ll have your deadline.

Let’s say you can write 500 words per hour and you only have one hour per day, that would take you 150 consecutive days (five months) to go from the first line to the finish line.

3. Minimize Distractions

Technology is not your enemy but shiny objects like television, social media, and the World Wide Web can make it difficult to focus your creativity.

Try staying on track with a distraction-free writing app such as FocusWriter, Calmly Writer, or ZenWriter.

Also, try changing your smartphone notifications to decrease alerts and increase productivity.

3. Plan More

If you only have one hour to write in a given day, spend the first 10 minutes planning what you will do. Then spend the next 50 minutes doing what you planned.

Or maybe you spend several weeks turning your story ideas, scenes, and characters into an unstoppable outline so you can tackle daily writing sessions with confidence.

4. Take a Page Out of Your Favorite Writer’s Playbook

Your favorite author reached bestselling status by acting like a pro before actually turning pro. Realize and accept you are competing against full-time creatives who want to outrank your book on bestseller lists.

If you do not already possess a professional mindset, study your favorite author’s approaches and apply them to increase word counts and improve time management.

5. Stop Multitasking

There is really no such thing as multitasking. It is simply your brain switching back and forth rapidly between two tasks.

The result? More stress for you, and each chore takes more time when compared to working on each thing one at a time. 

So do yourself a favor and either write, research, or edit, but don’t do more than one of these things at the same time.

6. Keep Learning About Writing and Storytelling

The more you know about storytelling, the faster your stories can be developed and written.

Subscribe to a valuable email newsletter, study story guides, read novels, watch movies, attend workshops, etc.

Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t work in the stories you consume.

What makes you keep reading? What makes you lose interest?

What makes you allow the next episode to autoplay? What makes you want to stream something different?

Spend time accelerating your learning curve today to save time writing your story tomorrow.

7. Take Advantage of Your Downtime

If you commute and drive to a day job, use voice-to-text technology like Otter or Siri to write. Or spend the time listening to audiobooks or podcasts about fiction writing.

If you commute to work without driving, use the time to write.

If you work at an office, use your break and lunch to get some writing done. Also, assuming you’re up to date on tasks and your boss is okay with it, use your day job downtime to build a story that works.

8. Get Organized

A well-organized workspace can also help you to be more efficient.

Clean up your surroundings and make sure that you have everything you need before you start writing. This includes a notepad, pen, research materials, etc.

Having everything you need within reach will help you to avoid distractions and dialed into your writing.

9. Take Breaks

It’s also important to take breaks when you’re writing. This will help you avoid burnout and stay fresh.

Maybe you need to take a few minutes every half-hour and step away from your desk. Go for a walk, listen to music, or just take some time to relax. This will help you stay focused and productive when you actually sit down to write.

10. Just Say No

When it comes to time management for fiction writers, you must learn to say no to things that will take up too much of your time and keep you from reaching your writing goals.

If you are invited to a movie when you planned to write, say no.

If you are asked to attend a dinner event when you planned to write, say no.

Say no to distractions and say yes to better time management.

That’s it for this Saturday.

If you enjoyed this article, would you share it with a fellow fiction writer? Maybe you’ll be helping them write the story they’ve always wanted to finish.

See ya next week!

— David