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Seven Strategies to Keep Momentum When You Don’t Have Time to Write

The Rich Writer: Seven Strategies to Keep Momentum When You Don’t Have Time to Write

The Rich Writer

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road

Friday, February 25, 2011

Seven Strategies to Keep Momentum When You Don’t Have Time to Write

Over the past week, I’ve had a flood of freelance and contract writing—which is wonderful and fun, but makes it much more difficult to maintain momentum on my work-in-progress (WIP). Back in January, blogger Jill Kemerer wrote about how momentum is vital to success


I wholeheartedly agree. When I lose momentum on a project, I often dread returning to it. I know it will take me days to get rolling again, and I’ll be plagued by the ghosts of ideas that I meant to write but can’t quite grasp anymore. So how do you keep writing momentum when your time is limited?

Here are a few tricks that have worked for me:

  1. dropbox-150x150Keep your WIP nearby, whether as a printout on your nightstand (or, if you prefer longhand, your notebook and pen) or as an electronic file carried on your smart phone, iPad, netbook, or laptop. (I particularly like Dropbox for carrying my WIP on my phone. I don’t usually edit on the phone, but it’s great for when I have 5 minutes to re-read a chapter. More here.)
  2. If you use an outline, keep that with you in your computer bag, purse, backpack, or electronically like your WIP. I used to write scenes longhand on index cards—I like being able to rearrange plot elements manually—but I got tired of rewriting the cards every time I made a change. Now I type scenes into a Word template, print onto Avery labels (or onto paper, which I cut & paste, if I’m feeling more frugal), and paste onto index cards. Plot Cards
  3. End your writing time with a plan for the next writing session—a scene to work on or a question to answer.
  4. Keep a list of “short assignments”—plot questions to unravel, characters to explore, details to fill in—on index cards for 15 minute time slots.*
  5. Schedule brief brainstorming sessions throughout your day.
  6. collageCreate visual reminders of your story: a vision collage (more here, here, and here), a timeline posted on your wall, or even a picture on your computer desktop. The key is to pick image that will make you think about your characters and story. Even if you don’t have time to sit down and write, keep your subconscious working!

  7. Create a story shelf: a space where you can display symbols and memory-joggers for your WIP. For instance, for one project I had a shelf covered with a dragon figurine, a silver unicorn necklace, a magic wand, and coins. This project goes beyond visual reminders, giving you concrete symbols to manipulate.

What about you: what strategies help you keep momentum when your time is limited?

*Photo courtesy of andy_c on Flickr Commons

Page after Page**Inspired by Page after Page author Heather Sellers, a great resource for keeping momentum all the way through your writing project.

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At February 28, 2011 at 8:47 AM , Blogger Julie Hedlund said...

I'm bookmarking this post because I too often convince myself that I can't write unless I have a whole hour. I needed ideas like this!

Although Dropbox continues to elude me... I lost some edits I made on my iPad and now I'm very afraid of it

At February 28, 2011 at 8:37 PM , Blogger Cheryl Reif said...

Yay, I'm glad this helped! Your Dropbox experience worries me, tho...that's weird. I use it primarily on my laptop and don't usually make changes on other devices--I just like to be able to read my latest draft on my phone.


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