When you work a day job as an author, you sometimes need to carve out bits of time when you can write. For me, when I worked in an office, that time was my lunch break. Even though I sat at the front desk and needed to answer phones, I could usually spend the bulk of my hour-long lunch typing bits of a story or a novel while I ate. More often, I spent about fifteen minutes devouring my food, and then forty-five minutes writing.
I’m a fast typist; if I’m really in the zone with a story or other creative project, I can easily get close to 1,000 words in forty to sixty minutes. For me, 1,000 words is roughly a scene in a novel chapter. With four or five days a week of writing during lunch, I could write about a chapter and a half a week. Several of my novels were largely drafted on my lunch breaks, over the course of several months.
The one thing that lunch time writing didn’t really let me do was revising and editing longer pieces. For those, I tended to want a little more focus and often a little more time. But for drafting quickly, lunch was a perfect opportunity.
Now that I’ve been working from home for nearly two years, I find that I don’t get as much writing done on my lunch break. My husband also works from home, and we usually chat during our respective lunch breaks. Some days, I go for a walk during the second part of my lunch break. Often, there are little household chores that I can knock out instead of writing. The time just doesn’t feel as focused and dedicated as it did when I was in the office daily.
However, I still use similar techniques when I want to draft something quickly. I’ll set myself a timer for twenty or thirty minutes and just write until the alarm sounds. Similar to the Pomodoro technique, I will often break up my writing sprints with short breaks, either to move around so I’m not in my seat all day, or to focus on another task for a bit. I find that using this technique helps me get more done without feeling overwhelmed by the larger project.
So, while my blocks of writing time may no longer be quite as organized around my lunch break, I still make use of short sprints of time to draft new pieces. It’s a useful technique for anyone who doesn’t have as much uninterrupted writing time as they might want!
Dawn Vogel has written for children, teens, and adults, spanning genres, places, and time periods. More than 100 of her stories and poems have been published by small and large presses. Her specialties include young protagonists, siblings who bicker but love each other in the end, and things in the water that want you dead. She is a member of Broad Universe, SFWA, and Codex Writers. She lives in Seattle with her awesome husband (and fellow author), Jeremy Zimmerman, and their herd of cats. You can find her and her lunchtime drafted novels at historythatneverwas.com or chat with her on Twitter @historyneverwas.