Think you're too busy to write a book? As part of a series on how to make it as a writer in partnership with Windows 10, Acting Features Director Corinne Redfern shows you how easily it can be done.
You’ve got your storyline all worked out, and you’ve practiced your Booker prize acceptance speech. If only you actually had time to write your novel – things would be so much better, right?
But as it turns out, you do have time after all. The average UK commute takes about 47 minutes – meaning that, unless you drive to work, you have nearly an hour of potential writing time, five days a week.
TIP ONE: PLAN AHEAD
You don’t need to fill five notebooks with character descriptions and plot outlines, but you do need to work out your route in advance, and pack accordingly. On a scale of one to impossible, how likely is it that you’ll manage to get a seat at a table on the train? Do the seats have those magical fold-down-tray things? If so, remember to pack your clip-on keyboard for your tablet – it’ll make typing smoother and faster, without taking up any additional room. Plus you’ll look fantastically professional.
No tables to type on? No fear. Windows 10 has got some fantastic features, specifically for professionals-on-the-go, and we can’t get enough of them. First up, make sure you’ve set up Microsoft OneDrive on your tablet/laptop and your phone before leaving the house. If you never quite manage to get a seat on your morning commute, you can type on your Surface Pro 3 tablet when you’re standing up too – just switch to tablet mode, and type with your thumbs on the on screen keyboard. It will also sync to your smartphone automatically – meaning you can switch seamlessly to typing on your phone when walking down the road or waiting in the coffee queue.
TIP TWO: GET IN THE ZONE
Earphones are going to save you. You don’t need to even play music through them – you’d be amazed at how well they work at blocking out sound too. And they don’t just help you concentrate. They also work as an almost foolproof device for getting people to leave you alone. Better yet, set your Surface tablet to ‘quiet hours’ in the Action Centre, to stop those endlessly distracting Facebook and Twitter notifications from coming through while you type.
TIP THREE: BE FLEXIBLE
There’s an urban legend in book-writing of a woman who wrote the whole of her debut novel on Excel. And while that may not be a technique you fancy adopting for yourself, the message is still worth taking on board: you don’t to write in size 12 Arial font in order to be a success. You also don’t have to be sat in the same seat of the same coffee shop while drinking the same type of coffee in order to have great ideas. Once you open yourself up to the idea of writing 100 words on your tablet on the 344 from Liverpool Street, then 200 more on your sync-ed up smartphone as you walk from the bus stop to your office, you’re opening yourself up to higher word counts. Just, er, put your phone down while crossing the road. Please.
TIP FOUR: COMPARTMENTALISE
Writing your book on the way to work is different to writing your book while you’re work. If you use a computer in the office, that’s fine and well. But if you use your laptop or tablet, then you can switch between virtual desktops you’ve curated to boost your writing skills on the way to work – pinning Word to the bottom of the Start menu for easy access – and having a separate desktop for your professional life. After all, nobody wants to be caught out typing a sex scene while they’re supposed to be taking minutes from a board meeting, do they?
TIP FIVE: PRIORITISE YOUR WRITING
Yes, writing on the way to work probably means that you don’t have time to apply 16 individual make up products on the back seat of the bus. But ask yourself this: is contouring your cheekbones more important to you than becoming an author? If it is – that’s awesome! Go grab some highlighter and sculpt away. But if it’s not, then there you go: put your cheekbones on hold for the next few months and cut your make up routine down to the basics. The best thing is, you can leave your mirror at home – just use your the camera on your Surface or download a mirror app to check your reflection instead.
TIP SIX: EAT BREAKFAST AT HOME
Have you ever tried to hold a takeaway cup of coffee in one hand, and type on a tablet with the other? Exactly – it can’t be done. And unfortunately, the same goes for croissants, or funny-little-pots-of-yoghurt-with-granola-on-the-top. Yep, if you want to write a novel, you don’t have to wake up at 4am and sit by the window bashing at a typewriter until sunrise. But you do have to wake up five minutes earlier than normal, stumble to the kitchen and make a cup of tea before leaving the house. And for that, we can only apologise.
TIP SEVEN: SET REALISTIC GOALS
Honestly, unless you live in Manchester and commute to south east London on a daily basis, you’re probably not going to manage more than a couple of hundred words in 47 minutes – and that’s if you know what you’re writing about. But think of it this way: five days of that, and you’ll have a thousand. A year of that, and you’ve got a novel. Three years of that and you’re basically Tolkein. But if you’re still at the research stage of your book (and feel yourself freaking out at the thought of attempting to write without access to the internet), give yourself a break. Spend a day at the weekend adding relevant articles to your ‘Reading List’ a useful feature in Microsoft Edge, so that you can come back and trawl through them properly when you’re on the tube without wifi later that week.
TIP EIGHT: DEAL WITH TYPOS LATER
Writing on your commute is all very well – and all very doable. But editing isn’t quite so easy. That’s OK though – you can do that later! The main thing at this stage is getting words down on the page. That means not freaking out about typos, trying not to over think your grammar, and just typing as you think. Oh, and head to the Action Centre at the bottom right hand side of your desktop and make sure the battery saver function is on. Until somebody somewhere starts installing plug sockets on the bus, you’re going to need this.
Now that I’m on track to getting my book finished, be sure to read next week’s article where I learn about how to find a literary agent.
To find out more about how to upgrade to Windows 10 visit windows.com/10
WATCH OUR ‘A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A NOVELIST’ VIDEO, IN PARTNERSHIP WITH WINDOWS 10: