The Lunchtime Writer Part Five: On Breaks

One question which leaps to mind on the subject of Lunchtime Writing is: can I (or should I) take breaks? Maybe take a day or two off and make it up later.

Well, sometimes you have to. There will always be days when you have literally no time, not even a spare half-hour, for writing. Or other days when you really should, for other reasons. I remember one of Isaac Asimov’s editorial columns from his magazine, where he boasted that he worked literally every day of the year, and then added (also as a bit of a boast) that this had led to his wife getting angry at him for excusing himself from a holiday visit with guests to go write. Let’s just say there’s more than one reason Asimov doesn’t have a reputation for the greatest social awareness.

But I’ll also say that part of the power of Lunchtime Writing comes from the fact that it’s a daily practice. It’s like learning a language or studying for an exam or exercising or playing a musical instrument: in some ways, doing it regularly is better for your brain than the amount of time you spend doing it.

You can also, of course, shorten the amount of time you spend on it. If you want to make sure you get in some writing every day, you could set yourself a target of 100 words, or even just 1 word, on busy days.

But if even that’s impossible… well, my advice is to keep breaks to a minimum.

The Lunchtime Writer Part Four: The Lunchtime Editor

This post is about what happens when I’m sitting down to write, but not writing.

Whether or not you include editing time as part of your Lunchtime Writing activities is entirely a personal choice. Some people might want to bang out as many words as possible, and schedule editing separately. Some might write the words on the weekday and do editing on the weekend. It’s up to you.

I like to include editing as part of Lunchtime Writing. To my mind, editing is also writing, and there are days when I want to be generating new words, and other days when I’m really not in that headspace.

The problem is, of course, that editing doesn’t break down as neatly as word count. Mindful that, as I said, writing 500 words usually takes me about half an hour, I tend to organise Lunchtime Editing sessions that way: half an hour to forty-five minutes of editing work. Sometimes, though, it seems more natural to do it by sections: two full chapters of a novel, for instance, or 3,000 words of a story. You could also mix it up: 250 words plus 15 minutes of revisions, perhaps.

The danger of not including editing in your Lunchtime routine, also, is that you might put it off too much. Many writers hate editing, and it can be easy, when you’re working to a Lunchtime Writing routine, to say “I’ll do it at the weekend,” and then somehow never find the time. So including it as part of Lunchtime Writing makes it more certain that you’ll get on to it.

If you’re experimenting with Lunchtime Writing, I’d advise you to give including editing as part of your lunchtime a try. If you find you’d rather keep it separate, then fair enough. But editing’s another thing you need to find time for doing regularly, whether it’s at lunchtime or in a separate session.

Preorder “Management Lessons From Game of Thrones”!

So, Management Lessons From Game of Thrones, based on (but expanding on!) my blogpost series Leadership Lessons From Game of Thrones, is coming out in July and you can preorder it right now!

UK link here

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The Lunchtime Writer Part Three: The Scheherazade Effect

Last time, I talked about how Lunchtime Writing is a good way to find time in your busy day to write. A regular routine of writing a small amount of words keeps you working steadily at your manuscript, allowing you to write over 100k words in a year.

But there’s another benefit to Lunchtime Writing which I call the Scheherazade Effect.

If you remember your Thousand and One Nights, you’ll remember that Scheherazade the storyteller weaponised the cliffhanger, stopping her stories at an exciting point so that the sultan wouldn’t execute her, because he wanted to find out what happened next.

Forcing yourself to stop after a small number of words has a similar effect on the brain. You go through the rest of your day thinking about what’s going to happen. Maybe running through dialogue options, or trying out different things your characters could do in response to the situation you’ve left them in.

By the time the next lunchtime rolls around, and you’re sitting down to write again, you’ve thought it all through, and the next 500 words just flow.

So, it’s not just about writing a small number of words so as to fit your schedule: it’s also about stopping writing, so that your brain goes on working on the manuscript in between. Making those 500 words count, and reducing editing time.

Which is what we’ll talk about next time….

The Lunchtime Writer part 1: Introduction

I’m starting a new series on my blog. The catalyst was this story making the rounds in late 2020: the tl;dr is that one man became quite upset upon discovering that, after his writer wife had promised to put aside writing to look after their baby, she had in fact written a book on her lunch breaks, and he felt this was a dereliction of duty.

My response? “Hang on, I’m a lunch-break writer, and I can tell you that it’s more than possible to get a 100k novel draft written in about seven months, leaving you the rest of the year to revise and edit and maybe do a few short stories.”

After a while, I got the impression that it might be useful to write a few short blog posts about the discipline of Lunchtime Writing from my own perspective: what I do, when I do it, how to set goals and stick to them, what other Lunchtime Writers do or have done, and so forth. So, here we go!

A couple of points as we begin:

1/ As I hope to expand in the next post, I’m not defining a Lunchtime Writer as someone who writes exclusively at lunchtime! Anybody whose writing practice involves daily (or work-daily) short bursts of prose, of the sort that could, potentially, take place at lunchtime, counts.

2/ I’m not going to tell you how to Get Rich through being a Lunchtime Writer. It’s possible to do so– Jacqueline Wilson is a Lunchtime Writer— but whether you write commercially salable fiction in your lunch breaks is entirely up to you, and there are a lot of other blogs that will tell you how to write for profit. I will say that it’s a good way to achieve your writing goals, and whether these involve writing massive bestsellers or incredibly literary novellas is up to you.

Right– off we go then!

Podcasting about children’s books

This week, I’m the guest on Fantasy Book Swap, the podcast hosted by literature specialist Ali Baker, where we discuss one classic children’s book, one modern children’s book, and anything else that’s relevant! Ali and I discuss Edward Eager’s Knights’ Castle, Stephanie Burgis’ The Dragon With The Chocolate Heart, and a lot of other things (like whether or not Anne is the Sansa Stark of the Famous Five). You can listen to it here, or via your favourite podcast app.