Writing A Novel On Your Lunch Hour

Writing A Novel On Your Lunch Hour

Okay,​ so I didn’t really write a​ whole novel on​ my lunch hour. But I did develop a​ lot of​ the​ characters,​ locations and plot by taking a​ half-hour out of​ each workday to​ sketch some ideas. You’d be surprised with what you can get done in​ just thirty minutes a​ day.

First,​ a​ little background. I had a​ job that was driving me crazy. Corporate priorities at​ the​ company I worked for changed on​ a​ weekly basis. Projects I managed got cancelled halfway through development,​ blew up on​ the​ launch pad,​ or​ went on​ indefinitely without any measurement of​ success. My job had become more about shuffling papers and schedules than creating great work. I was frustrated. My thoughts turned to​ that novel I’d never managed to​ write.

But how was I going to​ write it? I never had time. When I got home from work every day,​ it​ was late. I was tired and cranky,​ unable to​ do much but eat dinner and go to​ sleep. Weekends were filled with taking care of​ the​ house,​ doing laundry,​ seeing family. I needed to​ come up with some kind of​ plan if​ I was going to​ get anything done. I began by promising myself I’d take a​ half-hour break each day at​ work,​ pick up a​ notepad and pencil and write down whatever came into my head.

Some days I went out for lunch,​ sat by myself at​ the​ juice bar or​ taco stand and wrote as​ I ate. On days when I’d brought lunch from home,​ I’d drive to​ a​ distant parking lot or​ side street and sit in​ my car,​ making notes. And on​ days when I couldn’t get out for lunch,​ I’d make sure to​ reserve a​ private half hour slot in​ the​ corporate calendar so no one could schedule me for a​ meeting. at​ the​ appointed time,​ I’d pick up my notebook,​ find a​ cubbyhole in​ some corner of​ the​ building where staff rarely went,​ sit down and start writing.

At first it​ was difficult to​ put aside thoughts of​ work. But soon enough,​ by implementing some simple strategies,​ I was able to​ write at​ least a​ couple of​ pages each day. Some days I just scrawled out lists of​ phrases,​ adjectives,​ names and on​ others I managed a​ few paragraphs of​ tolerable prose. But the​ more I did it,​ the​ easier it​ became. After three months I’d filled two notebooks with ideas for characters,​ situations,​ locations. My novel had shape. Rough shape,​ to​ be sure,​ but shape nonetheless.

There were other benefits,​ too,​ ones I hadn’t expected. Writing in​ my notebook for half an​ hour gave me a​ sense of​ satisfaction that helped alleviate the​ stress of​ my job. My afternoons became lighter,​ less dreary. I dare say I developed a​ spring in​ my step that hadn’t been there before. it​ also gave me the​ confidence to​ look for a​ new job,​ one with less time load,​ so I could dedicate myself to​ completing the​ work.

So if​ time is​ a​ problem for you,​ here’s ten suggestions on​ how to​ start a​ lunch-hour writing routine,​ including some tips to​ keep you on​ track.

1. Character sketches
Pick a​ character you’ve thought about. or​ invent a​ new one on​ the​ spot. Start with a​ name. is​ the​ character male or​ female? How old? Single,​ attached or​ married? What color eyes? What color hair? What do they do for a​ living? Where do they live? Start with the​ city or​ town,​ then add details. What does their house or​ apartment look like? Details make a​ difference. Keep adding as​ many details as​ you can. What kind of​ car does your character drive (if they drive)? What do they eat for breakfast? What kind of​ clothes do they wear?

2. Location sketches
Again,​ start from the​ general and work your way down to​ the​ details. You can start with a​ real location or​ imagine one,​ or​ start with a​ real one and move to​ an​ imagined one. is​ the​ location outside or​ inside? Who's there? if​ it’s outside,​ what kind of​ plants and animals might there be? Once you’ve come up with the​ idea,​ take a​ tour of​ the​ location in​ your mind. Walk through it,​ pause,​ look around. What do you see? Step through your senses as​ you look around. How does it​ smell? What does it​ look like? What do you hear?

3. Mix it​ up
Once you have a​ dozen characters and locations or​ so,​ try putting them together. What would happen if​ character a​ and character D met at​ location C? Why would they be there? Are they meeting there for the​ first time or​ do they already know one another? How does each respond to​ the​ meeting?

4. Schedule your sessions
Put it​ in​ your calendar system. It’s easier to​ make yourself write when you treat the​ process like all your other business meetings.

5. Get out of​ the​ cubicle
There’s too many distractions in​ your workspace. How are you going to​ be creative with all those responsibilities staring you in​ the​ face?

6. Turn off your cell phone
There’s nothing so important it​ can’t wait a​ half hour.

7. Get a​ pad of​ paper,​ and a​ pencil or​ pen
Computers are great for making things look nice. They’re not great for brainstorming. a​ pad of​ paper allows you to​ write in​ the​ margins,​ scrawl anywhere.

8. Pause,​ but don’t stop
Don’t spend twenty minutes deciding if​ your character prefers donuts to​ bagels. That can come later. Just pick one and see what happens. Writing things down,​ anything,​ pushes you forward.

9. Don’t worry about “writing”
This is​ not the​ time to​ critically assess the​ quality of​ your prose. in​ fact,​ you may not want to​ “write” at​ all in​ this first phase. Make lists of​ character qualities or​ location features. Make lists of​ names for characters. On the​ other hand,​ don’t be afraid to​ start writing,​ either. Go with whatever feels right that day.

10. Don’t worry,​ period.
If nothing much happens at​ first,​ don’t worry about it. It's just a​ half-hour out of​ your day. at​ worst it​ was a​ quiet break. And you get to​ come back again tomorrow.

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