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Finding a time and place to write

How to come up with ideas for a book

In this series of blog posts, I’m going to show you how to come up with ideas for your book. I’ve found pictures of suitcases to go with them in honour of one of my favourite writing games, ‘the bag’. More on that in a later post. First, in order to come up with ideas, you’ll want to consider when and where you’re going to write. This will give space for the ideas to percolate. So, before I launch into idea generation, I’m resharing a post I wrote a few years back on exactly that.

Your typical week

Take a look at your typical week. Grab a sheet of paper and draw a timetable, of the kind you used to get at school. Create rough time slots for each part of the day, including early morning and evenings. Use colour to add in all of the activities that, in the usual run of things, you HAVE to do. Take the kids to school or do paid work, for example.

Hand drawn timetable

My Grannie’s day

Keep working on your ‘typical week’ timetable. Add in anything you’d LIKE to do, like exercise or chores, for example. Add in meals and cooking time. My Grannie used to organise her day around food: breakfast, elevenzies, lunch, afternoon tea, sherry time, dinner, a little something before bed. The cake in the picture is my attempt at my Grannie’s chocolate cake recipe. She died just short of her 100th birthday so she must have been doing something right! Seriously, though, structuring her day like that gave her moments to pause and take stock during the day.


Even if it simply involves a coffee or tea break, add in some moments when you can pause and breathe during the day and stare into space for a moment. Now do one of two things, depending on how hectic your life is (and therefore how easy or hard it is to fit in time to write):

  1. Spend a week reviewing what you do each day, using your timetable as a guide. In those moments you’ve dedicated to stopping and taking a breath, think about where you are with your day. In other words, get some perspective. You’re aiming to answer these questions: Where in the day could I fit in some writing? Or: what would I have to stop doing / not do in order to write today? Once you’ve done this, you can move on to step 2 below.
  2. Look at your ‘typical week’ timetable and add in some writing time. Decide when, where and how long. Use a bold colour so it stands out. Stick this up on the wall. Cross off the time in your diary or add it to your digital calendar. Tell someone else that you’re going to do it. This may seem like overkill, but committing to it like this makes you more likely to do it.

Writing space

Writing space is as important as writing time. One such space several of my students have perfected the ‘tray in bed’. They wake up (or go to sleep) half an hour earlier / later and write on a tray in bed. Consider how much you can put up with interruptions or noise. I quite like writing with people in the house, but I can’t concentrate if I’m interrupted. Some people I know need total silence. Another thing to consider is mindset. If you always write business reports at your desk, it may be hard to write a romantic novel in the same place. Some people wouldn’t be bothered by this at all, for others it would be a cause of writers’ block. I know at least one novelist who has two desks, one for crime and one for romance!

What next?

  1. Using trial and error, work out how long you need (or want) a typical writing session to be. Ten minutes is probably too short. Four hours is probably too long. How long does it take you to write, say, 500 words?
  2. Use the Pomodoro technique to get some writing done. Do one or two Pomodoros to start with if you haven’t written regularly before.
  3. If you need more on finding your optimal writing time, check out this post.

More soon. Until then, happy writing,

Lou xx

P.S. Here’s the next post in this series on idea generation.


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