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Busy Authors Still Need to Learn
My tips for growing my skills on a tight schedule
The number one question authors ask me is: How do you find the time?
It’s a good question, one most of us are struggling with. I have a day job, a husband, a dog, an editing & ghostwriting agency, three WIPS, a YouTube channel, and the need to stay on top of industry trends for all of you.
Your list might be different, but it’s just as big. You have kids. You work full-time. You have a significant other. You have a pet. Or two. Or five. I don’t judge.
Now that National Novel Writing Month (NanNoWriMo) has started, a lot of writers are feeling the pinch, wanting to be part of this fun (?) activity, but getting stressed because the time isn’t there.
Instead, they’re getting frustrated because they can’t:
Write their WIP
Improve their writing craft
Learn new skills
The time just isn’t there. But these are all vital to being a successful writer. Vital as in not optional. So where does the time come from?
The simple answer: Work Faster
My Time-Speeding Hacks
The only possible way I can get all my client work done, and still leave time to get smarter and have personal time, is to go faster. Some things you can’t speed through.
But for a lot of things, you absolutely can.
Here are the tools I use to keep a grip on my time.
The answer to writing quicker is easy. And you know what it is. AI
I know, I know, AI is evil, blah blah blah. But actually, it isn’t.
You can reduce the time you spend outlining tremendously by using an AI program. You can also allow the program to generate a first draft for you, even using a specific plot structure like Save the Cat if you’re into that.
As I’ve mentioned before, the words ANY AI gives you is NOT ready for prime time. It’s not great. And no matter how you prompt it, the text won’t sound like you.
But it will get you going faster. And for that reason, I highly recommend it. For fiction, you know Sudowrite has my heart.
For nonfiction, ChatGPT is always a good option, or if you want something a little more cohesive, I like BookBud.ai.
Writing Craft/Skill Acquisition
Finding time to get better at what you do is a tough one, because you don’t want to rush through just to say you completed the course—you actually want to learn.
The good news is that most courses are in video format, which means you can speed them up to as fast as you are comfortable. I personally choose 1.5 speed most of the time, but sometimes I go up to 2x speed.
This option will usually be in the lower right corner of any video player: YouTube, Vimeo, Teachable, all of it.
For craft books, the same is true. If you listen on Audible, then simply speed it up. Listening WHILE you read from the paperback or ebook also speeds up your progress and improves retention.
Another option is to use Blinkist, which I am personally obsessed with. All traditionally published nonfiction is stuffed to the gills with filler. The publishing companies want to charge a lot for their books, so they want them to be as thick as possible.
That means filler.
And as the Nonsense-Free Editor, I HATE filler.
Blinkist gives you all the important points of a huge array of nonfiction, not just on writing craft, but on most other nonfiction genres. Plus it gives you the option to read the shortened versions or listen, which helps me multitask.
Upping your writing game or learning a new skill often means squeezing in your learning between other tasks. Luckily our modern technology makes that more possible than ever.
The last piece of the puzzle is using your time wisely. Don’t worry, I’m not going to give a gross HUSTLE HARDER, BRO pep talk. I will just tell you how I manage to stay on task even though I am low energy in general and I require reset time between different jobs.
About a year ago, I switched from exclusively using paper planners to using ClickUp, a project management site. The site allows me to keep track of the status of my various clients, my personal projects, and the books I have in progress. Not to mention the ideas for new books that pop into my head. It lets you sync your calendar, so if time blocking is for you, this accommodates it.
Clickup might be overkill for most people, and if it is, whatever calendar app (or alarm app) you currently have on your phone will probably do the trick.
The alert and alarm settings are especially helpful to people with ADHD
And as a final note, if you have a hard time turning off social media, Netflix, or other distractions on your phone or desktop, there are apps that will block those sites entirely for a pre-set period of time. The one I use is Freedom, but there are several others.
If you’re not as addicted to Twitter as I am, then just turning off your notifications for a while will most likely suffice.
If you’re still overwhelmed, then by all means (and I know this is controversial), feel free to skip NaNoWriMo this year.
I promise, it’ll be there waiting for you next time around.