I do make an effort to write every day, and usually succeed, but I just have too much going on in my life right now to give my writing the time it would like to have. When I do have time, blog posts, tech papers, etc. try very hard to crowd out the fiction I do for fun (not that I'd mind publishing it some day, I just don't have the time to put in to pursue that goal in earnest right now).

  • I can't always take "just" a half hour or an hour or two more to get to a stopping point. I hate stopping when I'm on a roll, but it's just a fact of life. How do you grab what you had when you left off and lose as little of the "juice" as possible when you sit back down to write?

  • How can one shorten the time from "sitting down to write" to "oh, yeah, that's where we were..." and productive writing?

  • Are there any productivity tools you recommend to make the planning process less disjointed? I'm happy with my editor; however I'm using mindmapping software for general notes, and paper index cards for rearranging timeline, and would like to replace the index cards, or possibly both, with something better suited to the task. (I'm not interested in an IDE-like all-in-one such as WritersCafe.)

Any other tips re: productivity despite limited writing time would be appreciated, too.

5 Answers 5


When I'm on a roll writing, I always make sure I stop before the roll ends. In other words, if my "writing time" is almost up, and I have a great idea and I know what I want to say, I will often stop before I'm done, take a few notes on how I want to complete the idea, then stop for the day.

While on one hand it may be stupid to ignore the flow, this approach allows me to get started quickly the next day - I scan where I left off, and have little problem getting right back to the pace of the previous day.

I can't do it every day, but I do it when I can because it has never failed to get me into the "writers zone" quickly.

  • I never thought of it that way!
    – HedgeMage
    Commented Nov 29, 2010 at 23:21

In college I had a writing professor who was a published novelist, mother, and had worked in web design while getting her Masters of Fine Arts and writing. She told a story of another novelist who did most of her "writing" while doing chores. This novelist had a great memory and would come up with the next stage of her plot while folding laundry, on walks, in the shower, etc. When she got a moment, she wrote it all down. Because she was so immersed in her story, it stuck with her.

This won't work if you don't have that kind of memory. It is, however, how very some prolific authors get books written. They write in their heads until they can write on paper/the computer/the typewriter.

  • 1
    @justkt, "This won't work if you don't have that kind of memory," I disagree. "Writing" a rough draft in your mind will have an extremely positive effect on future drafts even if you don't "remember" the rough draft word-for-word.
    – Amichai
    Commented Nov 19, 2010 at 17:26
  • @Ami - it won't solve the "now where am I?" if you're already bad and "where am I?"
    – justkt
    Commented Nov 19, 2010 at 17:27
  • 1
    @justkt, in my experience, nothing is better for solving the "where am I" problem than repeatedly going over the relevant content in one's head.
    – Amichai
    Commented Nov 19, 2010 at 17:30
  • @justkt: Good advice, if only I had that much time doing mindless things. :P I'll certainly start looking for it, though, maybe I can fit in more than I expect.
    – HedgeMage
    Commented Nov 20, 2010 at 19:58
  • 3
    This method doesn't work for me, but it will work for many people. It's also valuable as it illustrates the point that, just because one is not actively engaged in the physical act of setting words down, does not mean that one is not working. Commented Nov 23, 2010 at 21:19

I don't always plan ahead a lot in my writing, but I've taken to adding something at the end of my word document to let me know where I'm heading. It might be plot, it might be an emotion or a line of dialogue I don't want to forget but I'm not ready to include yet. One might call it an outline, but it's very rough. I don't always end up using everything I write there. Sometimes the plot turns unexpectedly as I'm writing, but it gives me a direction I'm heading to. Then I delete as I reach.

Typing a quick sentence to let you know what you were going to do next might help you get back to where you were and get writing NOW.


That will not be the advice for every writer, but if you have limited time, you could spend it for polishing your work. Every single literary fiction act is polished to crystal clearness.


@justkt - I think your writing professor had the right idea. I find that the mental work done when not writing is just as important as the work done in front of the computer. If you do a little mental prep before you sit down--thinking about where you left off and what you're going to write when you start, then you can maybe use your bits of writing time more effectively.

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