Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Time Management Tips from a Teen Writer

Pema Donyo is the author of The Innocent Assassins and One Last Letter. She is also a coffee-fueled college student by day and a creative writer by night. She currently lives in sunny Southern California, where any temperature less than 70 degrees is freezing and flip-flops never go out of season. As a sophomore at Claremont McKenna, she's still working on mastering that delicate balance between finishing homework, meeting publisher deadlines, and... college. Find Pema on TwitterGoodreads, or her website.


I write because, like most writers, I have a consuming and compulsive need to write. That passion pushed me through the writing, editing, and publishing process of my Young Adult romantic thriller The Innocent Assassins (Astraea Press, June 2014) and my historical romance One Last Letter (Crimson Romance, August 2014) this past summer.

But I’m also a college sophomore who feels buried in schoolwork on a daily basis and who wants to go to the Saturday night party as much as the next kid. When my friends find out I spend time writing novels as well, the question that immediately follows is usually: “How do you have the time?”

I don’t. Do any of us? As students, we’re all incredibly busy. It’s not about having enough time; it’s about finding enough time. The following tips are a few that help me maintain my productivity as a writer and keep me producing new work.

1. Set small, daily goals. Whether it’s 100 words edited or 100 words written, make sure your daily goal is manageable. Even if you decide you only have ten minutes to write on a certain day, those ten minutes will add up over time.

2. Write down your writing goals in your planner as if it’s actually homework. Crossing things off a list is always helpful for me, and encourages me further to finish everything that’s on the list. When you treat your writing goals like actual homework assignments, it helps you finish them faster.

3. Form your goals in advance. If you jot down your writing goals like homework on a planner, you put more pressure on yourself to follow through with your intended writing plans. When editing The Innocent Assassins during my freshman year of college, I thought I could decide on a day-by-day basis how much I would edit. Because I never quantified how much I was planning to revise, it was easy to keep putting off the chapters I needed to edit and let them accumulate … until my publisher’s deadline approached! Time is never going to “slow down.” There’s always going to be another homework deadline coming up; there will always be another party you want to go to. Planning your goals in advance makes accomplishing them much easier.

4. Vacations = writing time. Even without those daily writing goals, sometimes there’s still barely enough time to hit up the dining hall for two meals a day or finish all your homework assignments. I’ve been there – especially during finals week. That’s why fall break, winter break, spring break, and summer break are all great opportunities to catch up on writing or increase daily writing goals to finish more of your manuscript.

5. Make time for your friends and family. Time spent with them is just as valuable as time spent with your WIP. They will end up being some of your staunchest supporters once you start sending your work out into the world, not to mention your soundboards when you experience rejections or bad reviews. And sometimes, one of your friends may just be the person to encourage you to continue writing when you feel discouraged. Writers don't have to be solitary figures; it always helps to have a support team behind you.


The most important thing to remember about balancing writing and assignments and a social life is that there is no perfect balance for everyone. Different schedules work for different writers. Just enjoy whatever stage you or your writing process may be at right now, and just keep writing.

21 comments:

  1. Hm, writing down my goals like actual homework seems like it would work very well for me--that's what kind of kid I am. XD

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    1. And being able to cross it off becomes incentive enough!

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  2. Thanks for your helpful suggestions-especially "Form your goals in advance" and "Set small, daily goals". I'm participating in GTW's 100-4-100 and I'm finding that I have more time to write than I thought I did. Having a daily word goal and recording your number of words, I've found, is a great way to stay motivated.

    Thanks again!

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    1. Small word goals seems time-consuming in the short run, but it's another example of persistence paying off. It's not much, but it adds up.

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  3. I am a Junior in college and usually have to treat my writing as homework too. Problem is, it doesn't work if I "assign" the work, which is why I am doing the 100 for 100 challenge. Having the knowledge that I am supposed to do this because I signed up saying I would is a lot more effective for me.

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  4. I like the idea of writing down writing goals for the day as homework :D That would so totally work for me. I literally have about three or so chapters left to write in my fantasy WIP. Something got in to me yesterday and I wrote over 1,000 words (yes, I know that's usually for NaNoWriMo and probably other writers, but I usually write about 100 words and then I just simply can't think of anything else for the day) That was great :) I would love to get done with it today, or at least sometime this week. Writing down writing goals as homework will be helpful for me when I start the whole editing process :)

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    1. *love to get done with my book today. I didn't quite make that clear ;p

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    2. Congratulations, Emily, on almost being finished! You can do it!!

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    3. Thank you, Linea! :)

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    4. Emily, congrats on almost finishing your WIP! It's much easier for me to get absorbed in my work when writing than editing, so I think writing tasks down as assignments becomes even more useful during the editing process.

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  5. Great post, Pema! Setting a daily goal really does help. I find that without them, I get a lot less done. But if I've set a concrete goal then I feel obligated to complete it.

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  6. Love the post, and it is all so recognizable. I'm in my final year of college and work is swamping me. Setting goals has really helped me improve to keep constant flow of writing. Unfortnately, break weeks are usually planned for us right before finals (I still don't understand why someone thought of that as a good thing, grrr).

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    1. Definitely feeling overwhelmed too. During the summer you get so much time for writing every day - then college assignments start pouring in and it becomes difficult to find enough time to finish all your school essays, much less finish your WIP's.

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  7. Thanks for this encouraging post! It's good to know I'm not the only student trying to juggle too many projects;) but what you said about setting goals and to just keep writing helped.

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  8. Thanks for this AWESOME post. Lots of helpful ideas! Thanks, Pema!

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  9. Thanks for this, Pema. Great ideas. I really need to get better at this...

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  10. Oh, how well I remember those college-crazy days. It does get better, I assure you. ;) But breaks--I kinda miss those. Treasure them with lots of ink! :)

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  11. Ugh, my comment from earlier disappeared...

    I said it was funny how I actually just started doing number 2. It really does help! :) Thanks for the tips!

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  12. Fabulous tips, Pema! Listen to this girl, friends. She knows what she's talking about!

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  13. I can't imagine having so much to do!! I have mad respect for you, Pema!!

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  14. Really good tips! Love especially how you say that writing is something we make time for, as and we'll always have something else to do :)

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