Making the Clock Your Friend

Making the Clock Your Friend

Howard's haunted clockI’m busy.

I know, I know, a lot of us are busy, and I’ve been busy for a long time. But I mean I’m busier than I’ve ever been in my entire life.

So busy that if I don’t figure out a way to manage the busy-ness I’m mortified that I’m putting my dream job at risk. It took me decades of hard work to make it to the point where writing is actually my day job, so I’m fighting like tooth and nail to keep it that way.

In brief, here’s what’s been happening over the last months, in the order that the events began to impact the household.

  1. I’m promoting the second Dabir and Asim novel, The Bones of the Old Ones, which will appear in print on December 11;
  2. I’m writing my next Paizo Pathfinder novel, and the deadline’s creeping ever closer;
  3. We’re undergoing a big bathroom/master bedroom remodel — we’ve been saving up for it for years, and there are constant interruptions and some consulting that has to take place;
  4. My mother had a heart attack followed by a triple bypass and is moving into my office until she’s well enough to move into the basement;
  5. The basement is currently unfinished, and I have to organize, clean, and trash what doesn’t need saving prior to it being turned into a small apartment for my mother; and
  6. Mom’s house has to cleared out and readied for sale.

Now I’m not complaining that we’re in a good enough financial position that we can afford to do some remodeling, and I’m not complaining that I have two separate series to work on, and I’m not sharing any of that because I need extra hugs. I’m just explaining what I mean by busy. I’ve got to take care of my mom, who was wonderful and supportive my whole life long, and I’ve got to keep my job going.

Pathfinder Tales: Plague of Shadows, by Howard Andrew Jones. Coming February 2011Here’s the challenge. I prefer to write with long, dedicated chunks of time and I’m just not getting them. It’s hard to have more than 20 minutes of uninterrupted activity these days, and my word count has fallen as a result. Until, that is, I found a new way to trick myself into more productivity.

When I’m in rough draft mode my daily goal is 2-3 thousand words a day. (That’s assuming that I have a solid outline in place already so that I don’t have to stop and think about character motivation and nefarious plots and all that). Since I don’t have the luxury of huge chunks of time, I’ve been almost paralyzed by the clock. That is, until I realized that 1000 words in an hour is only 100 words in 6 minutes.

I’m a helluva fast typist, so I thought to myself, hey, I can easily do 100 words in 6 minutes. But I found it easier to break things down even further. Could I write 250 words in 15 minutes? As it turned out, sometimes, yes. Sometimes writing is like taking dictation. Sometimes it isn’t, and I have to stare off into space looking for the right turn of phrase (although I try not to do too much of that when I’m rough drafting). What I actually discovered is that 250 words in 15 minutes isn’t that feasible, consistently, but that I can get 250 in about 20 minutes.

I have made the clock my friend. Now, instead of looking at a 2 to 3 hour block and thinking that there’s no way I can get 2000 words in that time and getting nervous, I can approach my writing in 20 minute blocks. It was a doh! moment. Many of you out there have probably figured this out already, but I offer this to those of you out there who are busily struggling with choppy schedules, like me. Now, back to writing.

Howard Andrew Jones is the author of the historical fantasy novels The Desert of Souls, and the forthcoming The Bones of the Old Ones, as well as the related short story collection The Waters of Eternity, and the Paizo Pathfinder novel Plague of Shadows. You can keep up with him at his website,, and keep up with him on Twitter or follow his occasional meanderings on Facebook.

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Good observations on how much time we really have in a day.

John Whalen

Sorry to hear about your mother. Here’s hoping she makes a good recovery. It seems to be some kind of perverse law of the universe that as writing success makes some gains, personal matters begin to require more attention. We find ways to achieve a balance between caring for those we love and reaching our career goals. There’s a line from one of Stirling Silliphant’s route 66 scripts. “It’s the curse of a writing man to wonder if his fingers are as true when they touch paper as they are when they touch his daughter’s tears.” We persevere.

John Whalen

Thanks for asking and remembering. Tragon is doing okay, since you published his first ever story in Flashing Swords. He’s in a tale that will be included in Christopher Heath’s upcoming antho “Artifacts and Relics: Extreme Sorcery.” Along with stories by Joe Bonadonna, Fred C. Adams, Bill Ward and others. He was also in last year’s Pill Hill Press antho “Shadows & Light, Vol. II.” One day I’ll complete the first draft Tragon novel sitting in my computer. Cheers.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x