Sunday, May 19, 2013

Writing During Vacations

In case you’ve been wondering where I’ve been these past two weeks, I had the pleasure of a wonderful holiday in Vietnam. With beaches, mountains, motorcycles, friends, shopping, and delicious Vietnamese food, I couldn’t have enjoyed myself more.

Before you start getting too jealous, I’d like to remind everyone that summer holidays are just around the corner. For many of you, you’re wrapping up school or work, and maybe even graduating within the next few weeks. Give yourself a pat on the back and a hearty congratulations. At the very least, you’ve nearly made it through the first half of the year!

With the prospect of some freedom and breathing room up ahead, that leads me naturally to the subject of what happens to our writing when we’re on vacation. How can we make writing a part of our holidays without making the vacation too stressful or unpleasant?

1. Have a plan
Deliberately schedule time each day or every few days to write. Don’t leave this to chance—if you don’t schedule time, the more fun activities of vacation (watching TV?) will take first place and you will get little or no writing done at all.

2. Write as early in the day as possible
Yes, I understand you want to sleep in (heaven knows we all need more sleep!), but once you’re up, don’t wait until later to write. Get it done early on.

3. Don’t stress about quality
You’re on holiday, for goodness’ sake, so relax a bit! Don’t worry about getting the story perfect. Just get it done! Particularly when you are writing your first draft, your focus should be on writing, not on how good your writing is. Even if you decide to edit rather than write over the vacation, you should still take it easy on yourself. Have confidence in the small steps you’re taking. Don’t let yourself stress about the final product before the story is even finished.

4. Determine what you want to focus on: researching/planning, drafting, editing
Each person has different writing strengths and weaknesses. For me, writing the first draft is the most difficult part of the writing process. I’ve found that, when I’m drafting large chunks of story, long uninterrupted vacation times are essential. Then during the rest of the year, it’s a lot easier to carefully edit what I’ve written. So for example, I wrote my first full draft of my novel Red Sun Blue Earth over the month of June last year, when I was on holiday. During the rest of the year, I primarily spent my time editing. Of course, each person is different, so make sure you’ve pinpointed what portion of the writing process you want to tackle over your vacation.

5. After your vacation, focus on the positives
If you’re anything like me, you probably didn’t accomplish quite as much as you’d hoped over the holidays. Rather than bemoaning the fact that you didn’t write four hours a day, however, you should congratulate yourself on what you did do. Re-read what you’ve written, if you’d like. Maybe tally up your total wordcount or pagecount. Reward yourself for what you’ve accomplished.

And that’s it—just a few pointers about enjoying yourself (and your writing) over the holidays. So tell me, do you have any ideas yet for what writing you want to accomplish over the summer? Are you planning to travel anywhere exciting? Do you prefer drafting, editing, or researching/planning over the holidays? Let me know in the comments!