Hello Old Friends, Please Forgive My Absence!

My new “fiction workstation”

Ever since I started blogging, my non-blog writing has stagnated. Specifically, my fiction writing has stalled. Sure, I’ve had spurts of activity, but I’ve only written about 7,500 words this past month, not a great improvement since I blogged about it here and here.
Over the weekend I sat down to re-familiarize myself with my WIPs (yes, I have two in progress and another in revision/submission)—and I realized I’m a little out of touch. I felt sad when I realized I had to get to know some of the characters all over again, revisit scenes and even settings. It was really disheartening, almost like I had lost touch with a friend.

Just like when there’s been a rift in a friendship, I need to put in some extra effort. I’m just not pulling my weight, and things can’t go on this way! Although I am heartily discouraged, I also know that I’m not so unique. Lately I’ve read some similar blog postings, specifically by Aanna and Hallie Sawyer. And I’ve talked to other writers about this via Twitter and email, so I know it’s a struggle for other writers, too.

The real culprit for me is the blog-tweet-blogcomment-retweet-blogrecomment cycle. In the almost-three months since I started blogging, I haven’t found the right balance—but I’ve come up with some ideas of how to start. I’m hoping with my compromises and changes, my old friends will welcome me back with open arms—and that we go on to become even better friends, maybe even create permanent relationships through publication!

So, my dear WIP friends, please forgive my absence, and now you have my word as my seal:

Time tracking: Starting today I will track all my time. For starters, I’ll use a pad of paper and pen, but I may get more sophisticated with a time tracking app. 

Renewed commitment: To 1000+ words a day.
Daily Blogging: When I started blogging almost three months ago, I made a commitment to blogging everyday. This actually is working well for me because I’ve set an early morning deadline, and it helps me get the day started out right. Daily blogging stays.

Twitter: This is a huge time sink, especially if I keep it as an open window! I need and want to limit my time here. For now, I will track how much time I really do spend—with the eventual goal of limiting myself to a total of 20 to 30 minutes a day. I am also finally going to check out Hootsuite and Tweetdeck to see if they will increase my productivity and time management. This is a tough balancing act, because I get so much writer-now-friend support via Twitter! 

Reading and commenting on blogs: Again, this is tough, because I enjoy it so much! But I need to limit it to a maximum of 1 hour a day. Now that I use Google Reader and I am not notified by email, I can wait until it’s convenient for me to scan my list of blogs and see if new postings have been made.

Change of Venue: I usually blog/write at my desk. Over the weekend, I moved all my fiction writing to the kitchen table. I’ve decided that until I have a handle on the division of work, I will work on my fiction at the kitchen table and keep my blogging and other writing on my desk.

This is definitely an ongoing process. If you have any suggestions, comments, or thoughts, I’d love to hear them! How do you get organized? Do you have apps that help you? Do you use Hootsuite or Tweetdeck? Productivity or time tracking apps? Are you better than I am at focusing on your WIPs and avoiding other shiny objects of distraction like Twitter and other blogs? Do you ever feel like you’re out of touch with your WIPs?



  1. Hallie says:

    You and I are going to have to hold each other accountable because I sat down last night and started writing some of the exact same goals you did!

    However, I am violating one of them write now. My schedule says I should be writing right now!

    I commend you for taking an active approach to making changes that will work better for you! I’ll be emailing you soon to compare notes! 🙂

    Thanks so much for the mention in your blog! Very honored! XO

  2. Hallie, I would love to have someone to be accountable to! And, I too, already violated my goals. UGH! 🙂 I’m trying to be both hard on myself but also forgiving…a delicate balance. Thank you for the visit and the comment, also honored!

  3. CMSmith says:

    All good ideas. It’s hard to structure your time when you work at home with virtually no deadlines but the ones you set.

    So good. Set the structure. Let us know how it goes.

  4. I love the change of venue idea.

    I do not do much fiction writing at this time, except for Creative Copy Challenge and a couple of other writing prompts.

    I find that things tend to go better if I work on my newsletter editing at the kitchen table and my other writing at the desk.

    At work of course, I do everything at my desk.

  5. Chris Fries says:

    Hi Julia!

    I know what you’re saying!!! I’m still “new” to blogging, but I can easily tell how it could be a big time-sink. I’m already having to remind myself that my blogging is supposed to be about, and in support of, my writing, not a thing in and of itself. My writing is the point.

    And I refuse to twitter unless I do it in person when my wife is snuggling up to me and tickling my ear.

    Best of luck to you in your new committment!!! Hang tough!

  6. Erika Marks says:

    Julia, just this weekend I was saying this exact thing to my mom–that when I first started on the road to publication 20 years ago, there was nothing but writing to really consider and now, there is so much more to balance! I haven’t yet figured out any balance and I’m starting to wonder if I ever will without feeling as if I’m leaving one in the dust…

  7. Nancy Kelley says:

    I love Twitter and I am fully aware of all its benefits, but it definitely is a huge time sink. My iPhone makes it even worse. I’m going to write downstairs today, away from my computer… but I’ll still have access to Twitter.

    I set a timer to keep myself on track. I write for 30 minutes, and then I take a break. The idea is to get up and move around so I don’t murder my back, but I also sneak in some blog reading/commenting and tweeting. Those 30 minutes of writing time are sacred though. With three or four of those chunks throughout the day, I actually get a lot done.

    Good luck with your new plan. Keep us informed!

  8. Oh, Julia! We’ve all been there! I wish we were still in the days when all we had to do was scribble down some creative genius, then spend the rest of it smoking cigars and lounging in the sun (although I don’t smoke and I burn easily, so I don’t know how this could’ve panned out).

    For me, it’s easiest if I can upload some tweets in the morning (I use Hootsuite), then check back after my writing session is over in the afternoon. Mondays are still pretty crazy for me, but I try to make up for it after lunch. Speaking of which! Time for a sandwich! Thanks for your honesty, and I know you’ll find the perfect balance!


  9. As you know, Julia, from my comment on Hallie’s blog, we’re on the same page. I do find the change of venue for novel writing works. Last week, I took the laptop and my WIP notebook to our camper and cranked out FAR more words than I would have at my desk. In that new “space,” I have given myself new rules: no Internet on, no social media, no telephone (even though I have access to all of those things in the camper). I think it’s a never-ending struggle of balance. But as @thecrackedslipper told me last week, “We are novelists, not professional bloggers.” That message hit home!

  10. aanna says:

    These are great thoughts and ideas! I made myself a new workstation in order to write, but since I also pay my bills and do Twitter there, I find myself picking up my laptop and going to the couch to write. It’s interesting how important context can be.

    Thanks for all the good tips!

  11. Julia,

    I’m wondering if you should consider blogging less often. Even though blogging IS writing whereas Twitter, really isn’t, all that blogging requires extra Tweeting, extra thanking for RTs, responding to comments, etc. As we’ve “discussed,” I only blog once a week and I’ve found my blog still feels lively and active. What if you tried going down to 3 times a week to see how it feels. Just an idea . . .

  12. I loved hearing about you getting back in touch with your old friends. And about the plan you’ve got to stay connected to your WIPs. Loved the pic of your new fiction writing station!

    I don’t use time-tracking but I do use Google Calendar to remind me of important stuff, and that really helps.

    I used to spend way too much time on Twitter. Now I probably don’t spend enough. I haven’t even logged in for days. I don’t know what the balance is.

    I tried Tweetdeck and couldn’t see what the benefits were. So that didn’t last long. I have not even heard of Hootsuite, so that’s how last-century I am. LOL!

    Best of luck with your plans. They sound sensible and doable, and I think that’s the key to any good plan (plus, feeling inspired enough by the plan to continue with it on an ongoing basis).

    ~ Milli

  13. Christine, You are so right about how hard it is to set structure and deadlines while working at home! I am hoping I can be more self motivated than I usually am! I’ll let you know how it goes!

    Steve, I’ll let you know how the change of venue works…today it was good except I notice the kitchen chairs aren’t as comfy!

    Chris, The whole blogging concept is a weird one to get used to! I often have to remind myself of the point of blogging, too. Thanks for your support!

    Erika, Life does complicate writing, doesn’t it? 🙂 There’s always something else to do… and it’s hard to wipe my brain clean to allow me to only think about writing…. as you say: balance is key!

    Nancy, I like the timer idea a lot–I may try that one! Also, I’ve discovered a problem with the kitchen table, I take my computer with me so of course I still have all the distractions I would at my desk. Still, the change in venue is good. I’ll keep you posted!

    Jolina, I hate cigars AND the sun…. so I guess I’ll stick with the current plan, too. It is comforting to know that all writers (seem to) go through this at some time or another. Your comment about the sandwich reminded me of one problem with the kitchen I hadn’t considered: TOO CLOSE TO SNACKING! 🙂

    Melissa, I’ve actually been thinking of turning off the internet while I’m at the kitchen table because apparently I have NO SELF CONTROL AT ALL!! I really like that quote from @thecrackedslipper — that we are novelists not bloggers, so true!

    Aanna, Thanks for coming by and for your comment! I agree that context, like venue, can be key!

    Nina, Thanks for the suggestion about blogging. That’s so true about the extra tweeting, etc.– I hadn’t really considered that! I may eventually blog less frequently, and when I do, I hope my blog will be as successful and active as yours is!

    Milli, Thanks for your support; I hope my plans are not only doable but that I will also DO THEM… that remains to be seen! Twitter is definitely something that I seem to have trouble balancing, too, so that’s an ongoing challenge!

  14. Julia, this is so true of me as well. I love my blog, but must limit myself to only one post a week. More is just too much. And I adore my twitter pals…so much friendship and support there. It’s amazing. I won’t let that go.
    Your idea of making a different venue for the fiction writing is the ticket, I think.

  15. Leah says:

    Julia, all so true! But first off, I can’t believe you’ve only been blogging for three months! Seems like you’re a pro with this. Anyway, it is so tough! I love writing my blog posts and want to make sure I keep up posting on a regular basis. And I also love reading/commenting on other blogs. But I’m now finding that I really want to work on my personal novel writing and I don’t have time. I have five or six ideas I want to start flushing out. But with a day job, family and blog, it’s tough! Yet how will I ever get anything published and quit the day-job if I don’t write?! I think a schedule is a good thing. Maybe writing blog posts one night and novel writing another. We’ll see. It’s a work in progress.

  16. Leah, Thanks for the HUGE compliment, Leah! It’s especially nice because I’m such a big fan of your blog! It is so tough to find time, I know. Sometimes I’m actually more energized the more I do, but still….there’s a finite amount of time in the day. See my blog today for more about daily blogging… Thanks again for the compliment!

  17. Count me in as one that has lost touch with my friends (characters). Everything is getting in the way, and it seems like my friends get no love. Gotta get more organized to get back on project. In all of this, I love your writing, so i’ll take what I can get 🙂

  18. Kenneth, There’s a lot of that going around…not having enough time. And so I especially appreciate the time you took to drop by my blog and leave such a huge compliment, too! Thanks and here’s to getting back in touch with our characters!!