Do you ever sit down to write and find that instead you’ve spent an hour researching?
Well, here’s a little writer’s hack from the mines of my writing brain to limit that issue – I call it Splitting Time.
If you’ve checked out my blog post Ten Tips for Planning Your Writing Week, you’ll know that I am a planner.
I know, from experience and my Creative Writing studies, that planning is the best way to get that novel written.
I mention this because that’s the backbone of Splitting Time – preparation is KEY!
Here’s the practice: research and writing time are different.
Writing a novel requires ongoing research, but there’s a difference between checking a word is correct, making sure a phrase was used in the era you’re setting your novel in, and getting into a research rabbit hole that started with the type of wood used in a manor house in the nineteenth century, and suddenly has you watching an hour-long documentary on refurbishing listed buildings.
The point I’m making is – at some point, this sort of research becomes procrastination and goes from being helpful, to stopping you from getting useful writing done.
Splitting Time requires you to separate research and writing time.
For example, if you’re faced with the situation just mentioned and actually, you decide that it would be super helpful to watch the said documentary, that’s fine. But the time you spend watching that documentary will then mean that you owe that hour back to creative writing – that week. It’s up to you to hold yourself accountable.
This trick requires you to plan your week of writing ahead (so if you haven’t read the planning blog post – I would recommend it!), so that you know you’re spending three hours on Monday writing, for example.
Once you learn to view creative writing time as separate from research time, you’ll find that you’re getting more writing done.
Here’s how your week might look before time splitting.
In this example, we are imagining that you would like to spend four hours working on your novel during the week, and you have decided to do this between Monday and Thursday so you can have the weekend off:
- Monday – Three hours of writing (made up of two hours of creative writing, one hour of research)
- Tuesday – None
- Wednesday – None
- Thursday – One hour of writing (half an hour of writing, half an hour of research)
As you can see, four hours actually turned into two and a half hours of writing, and one and a half hours of research.
Here’s how your week would look after time splitting:
- Monday – Two hours of writing, One hour of research.
- Tuesday – Half an hour of writing, half an hour of research.
- Wednesday – One and a half hours of writing.
- Thursday – Half an hour of research.
You will notice that in this week, unlike the week before, any time taken from writing by research was then made up in the week.
This is why it’s helpful to have the week planned ahead of time, so you know how much time is owed to your writing practice.
In the second week it is acknowledged that the practice of writing deserves four hours this week, and so any research time is separated entirely by recording the time actual writing is taking place.
Remember that research is good fun!
That’s exactly why setting time for research specifically will not only limit the chance of falling down a rabbit hole and procrastinating under the guise of useful research but will give automatically assign more time to your writing.
Does it mean that you’re working on your novel more hours a week? Yes, it does, but by specifying ahead of time what your action is, more value will be gained.
Give it a go and let me know what you think!