Time, as they say, is one thing no one’s making nay more of. Well, they also say that about land, but as a sci-fi guy I’m pretty certain someday we’ll either terraform another planet or find one we can live on, so that possibly won’t be true forever. Time? Well, we might find a way to slide along the timeline a bit, sure, but at some point the Heat Death of the Universe is going to arrive and that’s all she wrote.
Writers know the icy touch of time better than most, because we’re almost always struggling to find time to work on our genius fictions in-between a day job, raising a family, staying out of jail on bogus public urination charges, and other annoyances like eating and sleeping and playing video games 16 hours a day. Writing a novel within one normal lifespan is hard enough. Writing more than one is mega-difficult, and writing novels on a regular basis, especially if you’re under contract, can be maddeningly difficult.
Writers try a lot of different approaches to achieve the disciplined productivity that requires. I’m always dismissive of word counts, of course, though I freely admit that forcing yourself to write a certain number of words every day works for a lot of people when it comes to productivity. My complaints about word count are out there; let it drift. Here’s another strategy that works for me: Microbursts.
Float Like a Butterfly
The Microburst is grabbing any extremely short period of time and writing. Five, ten minutes, scattered throughout the day. Sitting on the bus to work. Waiting for the boss to arrive at a conference call. Waiting on friends to arrive, or your coffee to be served—basically, using all those wasted moments that everyone’s life is cluttered with. We all get robbed of moments throughout our day, empty spaces in-between the bigger tasks. The Microburst approach simply makes use of those small periods of time to get a sentence, two sentences—a paragraph!—written.
It’s worked for me in the past, mainly in the zero-draft stage when having a 100% coherent plot isn’t always required, because it does mean there’s no time for reading back and checking notes. You find yourself with five minutes before lunch, you dive in and write whatever comes to mind for five minutes. If you pause to check your notes for the spelling of that character’s name, by the time you’re done your five minutes are gone.
It can be a hectic, crazy way to write, but that energy sometimes translates into the story, giving it a crackling sense of urgency otherwise lacking. And during periods where finding a solid hour or two to write involves staying awake for 72 hours straight and realizing everything you’ve written appears to have been poorly translated from the secret language you invented as a child, the Microburst approach adds up. Think about all the wasted time in your day, and whether it might just combine into a solid hour of writing.
Or, if you’re me, you might realize that more writing time probably just means less drinking time, and then you get sad.