Picture, if you will, the moment every writer dreams of.
A scene moving flawlessly from your mind onto the page. Dialogue flowing as if your characters stood before you speaking. The characters themselves following the outline, moving closer to the heart stopping moment you’ve been dreaming of writing since you first began plotting their paths.
Their eyes lock.
Their voices fail.
Their hands brush.
And then —
Crying. Unintelligible screaming. Something heavy falling. Louder, now desperate, sobbing.
You’re torn violently away from the words before you. But, unfortunately, not as violently as your toddler grabbed his twin’s hair and threw him to the ground in an attempt to steal his toy.
If this all seems a little too specific, that’s because it absolutely is too specific. And, as bitterness cannot accurately be conveyed through text, I’ll admit it’s still a touchy subject.
Not every part-time writer is desperately trying to teach toddlers that hair pulling is not an effective way to convey one’s feelings, but many part-time writers struggle to balance a sometimes unpredictable and usually erratic schedule with a desperate need to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys).
A year and a half ago, as a new mom with raging ADHD running on more caffeine than sleep, getting any writing done had me feeling like Sisyphus by the end of a single paragraph. In the intervening months, and through a lot of trial and error, I finally found my part-time writing schedule groove. Don’t get me wrong, I still drink way too much caffeine and feel like I’ve pushed a boulder to the top of a hill by the end of the day, but at least it’s a new hill every day.
The three essential elements to my part time writing schedule are:
Kroger brand flex scheduling
Detailed scene outlines
Cross-device syncing apps
Kroger Brand Flex Scheduling
Name brand flex scheduling in a corporate setting is as simple as allowing employees to work where and when best fits their productivity cycle. Although flex scheduling doesn’t give flexibility to how much time you spend working, it gives flexibility to when you need work.
Unfortunately, half flexibility isn’t enough when it comes to the unchallenged confidence of a toddler who has figured out how to climb into things, but not out.
Which is why I use Kroger brand flex scheduling. Instead of creating a schedule around how much I need to write, I create a schedule around what I need to write.
Every week I choose a single chapter I want to outline or a single scene I want to write. Depending on how difficult I think the task will be, I put two, four, or six thirty minute writing windows on my weekly to-do list.
And two, four, or six times throughout the week when I have thirty minutes to myself, I start writing and tick off one of my weekly windows. I rarely write in the same place at the same time. Some weeks I find time for three windows in one day. Some weeks I don’t find time for three days straight. But I usually manage to get through the scene by the end of the week.
“What a nice theory!” you say. “And how impractical.”
So is the way my toddlers eat – throwing crackers on the floor and only returning to eat them once they’ve been thoroughly crushed – but it works. And I promise it’ll seem at least a little more practical after I explain the planning app I use (spoiler: it’s called Structured).
Detailed Scene Outlines
I outline each of my stories three times.
The first outline is basic. Nothing more than a page long synopsis of the story I want to tell.
The second outline cuts up the first. I break up the synopsis I have into chunks that I think would make decent chapters. Some chunks are made up of a single sentence from the synopsis. Some chunks have five or six sentences. Some chunks are new sentences added to connect existing chunks.
The third outline is where the work comes in. Beneath each of the chapter chunks, I list out the scenes necessary in the chapter. Every time a different character joins the action, characters change locations, or the emotion shifts, it signals a new scene. Chapter chunks can have anywhere from three to six scenes.
For this part-time writing schedule, it’s the third outline – the scenes – that matter.
Whether I’m breaking a chapter chunk into a scene outline or building a scene outline into an actual scene, I’m expanding something I’ve created before not creating something from scratch – and it’s vital to the part-time writing plan. If thirty minutes is all I have, it’s important to make sure I’m in a place to absolutely rock those thirty minutes.
For a simple guide on how synopsis or chapter outlines work, the Free Novel Plan is a great place to start! If you want a more detailed guide or advice on scene outlines, The Plotters Almanac and Novel Plotting Academy both have you covered.
ALSO: How I Plan My Novels
Cross-Device Syncing Apps
Please note: If not for the aforementioned raging ADHD, a nice planner with a to-do list and a carry-everywhere notebook would do the job of the apps listed below. I, however, need to ping my phone every time I set it down. I would lose both the planner and notebook immediately.
I use two apps to maximize my ability to write anytime and anywhere.
I know this one is a little sketchy with all the current AI privacy issues going on, but I am still working on finding an alternative I like. GoogleDocs works on my laptop, phone, or tablet, which means I have it with me all the time, everywhere I go.
I will never admit to the number of scenes I have written in GoogleDocs, on my phone, while sitting in a drive thru because I’m still in the “overly-dependent-on-caffeine” phase of motherhood.
Structured is a planner that floods my ADHD brain with dopamine for so many reasons (color coordination!!) but the one that matters for the part-time writing schedule is the to-do list. The to-do list supports timed tasks!
At the beginning of each week, I create my thirty minute writing windows in the to-do list and then drag them into my schedule throughout the week when I’m able to write. The visualization is a must have for me.
And that’s it! Between these two apps, detailed scene outlines, and Kroger brand flex scheduling, I’m able to set and stick with writing goals even though I haven’t been able to set and stick with an actual schedule for eighteen months.
Yes, there are still times where stuck or fighting toddlers pull me away from my writing window early, but this plan has given me enough of both structure and flexibility that I don’t end up neglecting my writing or my toddlers.
Bonus App – KindleApp
I would absolutely admit to the number of books I have read, on my phone, while sitting in a drive thru because I’m still in the “overly-dependent-on-caffeine” phase of motherhood if I could remember the number.
Seriously though, if you’re struggling to find time to read, get an app. It doesn’t need to be this one.
Written for The Plottery
I’m Elizabeth Miles, but you can call me Lizzie! I am a full-time stay-at-home mom and part-time author during breaks from chasing down over-confident toddlers. Mystery, romance, and fantasy are my favorite genres for both reading and writing.