by Guest Lindsay Harrel
I’m a planner, through and through. Call me Type A, Uber Organized, whatever—that’s me. I love lists and calendars and scheduling myself to the brink.
But then, inevitably, life happens: a kid gets sick, I get sick, I don’t have the energy for writing, my dog eats our dinner right off the counter (true story), my husband has a work emergency and can’t come home to watch the kids. Et cetera, et cetera.
And I fall further and further behind on my oh-so-lofty goals.
It’s then I’m tempted to say, “What’s the point? I can’t do this! There just isn’t enough time.”
I’m guessing you’ve been there a time or two (or fifty…who’s counting?). But I’m here tell you that it IS possible—you CAN get that first draft done. I’ve written three books in the last three years as a work-from-home mom (I currently have a 3 year old and an 11 month old), so if I can do it, you can too.
In fact, I’ve compiled a list of tips to help you work toward completing that first draft.
1. Understand your weaknesses—and plan against them. We all have those writing pitfalls we fall into when it comes to procrastination and not making progress on our first draft. Do you get too tired to write if it’s past 7 pm? Try waking up early and writing at 5 am. Is your problem getting distracted at home because of all the unfinished chores you see piling up around you (or because of the TV)? Don’t let it be an issue; change up your locations and see where you write best (the library and Starbucks are a few of my faves).
2. Commit to smaller writing sessions if you have to. I usually write during my children’s naptime and I can hammer out a scene if I write fast enough (and my kids sleep as long as they’re supposed to!). But there are days when things don’t go according to plan—and that’s okay. Train yourself to think in smaller chunks. Can you find 15 minutes before dinner to write the dialogue for that important scene you’ve been ruminating over? Or maybe you can’t manage to get up a whole hour before everyone else in your household, but you COULD manage a half hour. Remember that any time spent writing is forward motion—and all of that time adds up in the end.
3. Think creatively when it comes to your schedule. Just because you’ve always done something one way doesn’t mean you have to continue to do it that way, especially when you’re trying to write a first draft quickly. For example, if your family is used to fancy dinners that take an hour to prepare, throw in a few crockpot meals here and there. Or, use Evernote to dictate your story into your phone while you fold laundry or are driving to the school pickup line, doctor’s office, or wherever you’re going. Things don’t have to be as black and white as you sitting at your desk in complete silence writing one whole scene at a time. Get creative and make more time in your busy schedule for writing.
4. Remember that you are only one person. Something’s gotta give—you cannot be Superwoman (or Superman, if any guys are reading this!) all the time. Inevitably, you’ll falter in some area and will feel guilty (even when you shouldn’t). It’s okay to ask for help. Get the kids to do more chores. Ask a friend or family member to babysit. See if someone else can volunteer at church just this once. Of course, you don’t want to shirk your duties in other areas, but there’s a beautiful balance that’s possible when you remember that you don’t HAVE to do it all—and you shouldn’t expect yourself to.
5. Keep your editing hat far, far away. If you’re a perfectionist like me, it’s really difficult to write a bad scene and be okay with it. But I have learned over the years that if I don’t just write during a first draft WITHOUT editing, then I’ll never make any progress. If I write something particularly cringe-worthy, I tell myself, “You can fix that later.” Having that knowledge in the back of my mind helps me to pound out the story without worrying so much about the final outcome.
6. Make sure God is part of the equation if you’re a believer. I recently finished what will be my third published book, The Secrets of Paper and Ink, which won’t release until next February. I have always prayed over first drafts, but not like I did with this book in particular. This time, I felt God calling me to write with Him. That idea came from a session by Allen Arnold I attended a few years ago at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference. In this case, “writing with God” meant that I put aside my need for reassurance from critique partners and just relied on Him while writing my first draft. And you guys, I felt such a peace throughout the drafting process. There would be times when I’d question whether I was crazy to do it this way, but when I’d pray about whether to send the story to someone, it just didn’t feel right. I’m not saying you need to do this—critique partners are VERY important!—but just remember to immerse yourself in prayer and ask God for direction as you write. He may lead you to a theme or a story plot you hadn’t anticipated. Just keep yourself open to what He has for the story, even if you had something else planned.
7. Remember—you and your calling are worth it. It’s easy to let other things in our life take priority over our writing. Sometimes, they should, no doubt. But other times, it’s just an excuse. I firmly believe that if God’s called you to it, He will equip you and give you the time you need to do it. There’s no way I’d get it all done with two little boys and a husband if that wasn’t the case. I have a dear friend who likes to say that she’s actually a better mom because she writes. It doesn’t take away from her life—it adds to it in so many ways. It is worth the time and energy it takes to write stories that will bless others.
Don’t let fear, indecision, unpreparedness, or anything else become your excuse for not getting that first draft done. You CAN do it. Don’t allow anyone—including you—tell yourself differently.
YOUR TURN: What is something that’s held you back from writing in the past? What can you do to overcome that? Is there some way we can be praying for you in this regard?
Thanks for having me today, Seekerville! To show my appreciation to all of you lovely readers and fellow writers, I’m giving away a copy of The Heart Between Us (U.S. residents only), which releases TOMORROW! This book is a testament to the fact that anyone can get a book completed, as I wrote it with a toddler running around trying to eat up all my attention and edited it when I was seven months pregnant with my second son. J
Please let us know in the comments if you'd like to be entered.
Lindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd who lives in Arizona with her young family and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. She’s held a variety of writing and editing jobs over the years, and now juggles stay-at-home mommyhood with writing novels. Her debut novel, One More Song to Sing, was an ACFW Carol Award finalist in 2017, and her second, The Heart Between Us, releases this month (March 2018).
When she’s not writing or chasing after her children, Lindsay enjoys making a fool of herself at Zumba, curling up with anything by Jane Austen, and savoring sour candy one piece at a time. Connect with her at www.LindsayHarrel.com.
About The Heart Between Us
Megan Jacobs always wished for a different heart. Her entire childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, sitting on the sidelines while her twin sister Crystal played all the sports, got all the guys, and had all the fun. But even a heart transplant three years ago wasn’t enough to propel Megan’s life forward. She’s still working as a library aide and living with her parents in her small Minnesota hometown, dreaming of the adventure she plans to take “once she’s well enough.” Meanwhile, her sister is a successful architect with a handsome husband and the perfect life—or so Megan thinks.
When her heart donor’s parents give Megan their teenage daughter’s journal—complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. Caleb—a friend from her years in and out of the hospital—reenters her life and pushes her to find the courage to take the leap and begin her journey. She’s thrown for a loop when Crystal offers to join her for reasons of her own, but she welcomes the company and the opportunity to mend their tenuous relationship.
As Megan and Crystal check items off the bucket list, Megan fights the fears that have been instilled in her after a lifetime of illness. She must choose between safety and adventure and learn to embrace the heart she’s been given so that she can finally share it with the people she loves most.