Tips and Tricks

Time Management for Student Novelists

Life is busy. Life is messy. There are only 24 hours in a day, and if you’re a student (whether in high school or in college), then you know that organization is key. Even more so when you’re also a writer.

Today, I’m giving you a list of suggestions for time management. I’m a student. I’m busy. But I still try and find as much time as I can to focus on my writing projects. And I’ve learned a couple tricks that could end up helping you as well…

1. Take stock of your other commitments first

It’s so much easier to focus on how much you want to write that day if you figure out your school workload first.

Do you have a homework sheet lying around and demanding your attention when you’re trying to concentrate on writing the perfect escape scene? Well, you can’t escape homework. It’ll be a load off your mind to get other important things done first. Write that report. Do the laundry. Get ready for that meeting. Then you can concentrate on that all-important scene without distractions.

2. Limit distractions

Hey, speaking of distractions! Is the TV on? Are your friends glancing over your shoulder as you write? Are your Twitter notifications calling your name? Check really quick to see how many words you’re writing and the quality of work you’re producing when all these distractions vie for your attention.

Procrastination can take many forms. If my desk is even the least bit cluttered, I figure I should probably take an hour to clean the entire dorm. By the by, there’s also a half-finished puzzle that needs finishing. And even when I do get my butt in the chair and type away at the keyboard, that wifi is tempting me to surf the net. I feel like my attention span has gotten shorter and shorter.

So, the first thing I do when I sit down to write is to focus. Netflix can wait. If your friends are distracting you, find a spot where you can be alone. If you find yourself on YouTube instead of your manuscript, turn off the wifi on your computer (and try not to play the no-internet dinosaur game). I think you’ll find your mind clearer and your writing sharper when you focus your attention like this.

3. Outline your project

I know, I know. I can hear the pantsers groaning from here. If you like to fly by the seat of those pants and write without any knowledge of where you’re going, then, by all means, set forth into the unknown! Everyone has their own style of writing.

However, if you’re willing to try something new, something that could help you make the most out of your time as a student writer, outlining your novel is worth a shot. You don’t need to know every single plot point or character arc in your novel, but having some sort of direction for each portion of the story helps you plan out which scene or chapter you’ll write on which day.

Outlining has greatly helped my output, even if I feel a little constricted by the outline itself. But keep in mind: your outline is by no means a limitation. You aren’t married to what you plan to accomplish. If your story changes, you can always change the outline accordingly. What matters is that you have a plan of attack.

4. Don’t be too hard on yourself

Did studying for that test take much longer than you anticipated? It’s okay if you didn’t get around to writing what you planned for today. Sticking to a writing plan or outline is kind of like sticking to a diet; only, it’s admittedly way more fun! If you take a cheat day, it’s fine to let yourself go! Just make sure you’re back on track tomorrow.

And when you do have a great day (maybe you wrote even more than you thought you would), you’ll feel accomplished looking back on how much you’ve grown since you took that cheat day.

5. Be nice to yourself: give a reward!

You. You are a wonderful person. You’re a student. And you’re writing a novel! How amazing is that? How amazing are you?

Pretty darn amazing.

So, when you reach your daily goal, don’t hold back! Give yourself a reward. Even if it’s only a piece of chocolate, a little time with friends, or an hour of TV time. You learned it for doing everything you set out to do! Give yourself a smile, pat yourself on the back, and then get ready to meet that goal tomorrow too.


Being a student is hard. Trust me, I’m walking in your shoes right now, and let me tell you, that backpack is heavy. But just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you can’t cover multiple important goals at once. Get that degree and finish that novel! And make sure you’ve set aside time for fun too. Don’t wear yourself too thin. If you don’t take stock of what it’s possible to accomplish, you’ll just burn yourself out.

That said, it’s not a bad idea to push yourself to see what your own limitations are. It’s possible that you can accomplish much more than you originally thought.

I’ve got your back. Crush that test and that chapter!

Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash