Writing time: Making the Minutes Count

Posted by Justine Solomons on 3 March 2015, in News

Are you always complaining you don't have enough time to write? Well here's some advice from author, journalist and editor Lane Ashfeldt

For years before putting any real graft into my fiction, I wrote professionally. I even did a sizeable stint as a fiction editor, refining stories and novels by other writers. I was following the logic that as a young working mother, life was too full for me to write a book of my own. Wrong!

In the end, my fiction writing kicked off when I was doing subbing shifts at a news agency, a job I’d taken because it fit around school hours. On the subs desk the big challenge was to balance speed with accuracy. Possible stories were assigned as soon as they came in, and subs had to crank them out pronto. You had to pull out any guff or waffle trying to pass itself off as fact, rewrite the copy, fact check and house style it, and press publish. And always, you aimed to press publish before the next guy. A bit like running word-races at six in the morning every day.

Between assignments there were odd chunks of unused time: three minutes here, half a minute there, rarely as much as ten. We couldn’t muck about and make tea, it wasn’t a break. We had to stay at the desk, alert. Most sub-editors used to talk or read magazines, but I was on earlies and am not a big talker in the morning, so I followed weird internet links instead. In those chunks of dead time between assignments, I’d follow facts that interested me, drift into the worlds they came from, and start writing short stories. By lunchtime when I went to do the school pick-up, I’d have some half-done stories that would keep until the little one went to bed.

Being the parent of a young child is an under-rated period for writers, I think – yes, it’s full, but that very fullness gives you lots to draw on. And there’s an energy, too, in that constant rush.

If I’d needed to stuff my writing in envelopes and queue at the Post Office, that would have defeated me. Instead I emailed stories to online fiction magazines and short story comps. Lucky for me, a few of them were scores.

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