On Time


Nineteen ways a writer looks at time.

No time to lose­–Do not wait another second to start writing your novel. It’s a long process. The time is now.

Doing time­­­The hours you put in studying craft, through reading, taking classes, participating in critique groups and workshopping your draft.

Spare Time–Something you will never have, ever again. Writing a novel is a large undertaking, and your writing time has to be a priority. You will learn to say no to volunteer requests. The laundry will wait. Cleaning the bathroom will wait. Your dog cannot wait. Take him out for a long walk and think about the next scene you are going to tackle.

Hard times–These will come, in the form of crashed hard drives, lost manuscripts, rejections from conferences, editors, agents, contests.

Waste time–This is what you do when you have made a big announcement to your family, insisting you do not want to be disturbed while you are writing. Helpful hint: if you do this on your computer (I recommend online shopping) you will look like you are writing when your loved ones walk by. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram are also excellent tools for wasting time.

If I could turn back time–this is what you will wish (and if you are me, sing, in an outstanding impersonation of Cher) when you realize your story would work just as well today as it does in 1763, and that if you had made it contemporary you wouldn’t have spent the past two years doing research.

Two-time–You will be tempted, more than once, to start another novel. When you are feeling stuck on a plot line, or have written your character into some implausible corner, your new, fresh, problem-free novel idea will sound SO DELICIOUS. It will be almost impossible to ignore. Ignore it. Well, write it down, THEN ignore it. You will be a stronger writer for sticking out the first one.

It’s about time­–This is what some of your friends and family may quietly whisper to themselves when they hear your have finished your first draft. You may even mumble this to yourself.

Time out­–The break you take from your book before you start revising. Take at least a month if you can. It makes a huge difference in your ability to see your plot holes and character flaws.

Time stands still–This is what happens as soon as you hit send on your query letters to agents.

Kill time–This is what you will do when you are waiting to hear back from agents, because if you are at all like me, it is IMPOSSIBLE to do anything else. I perfected a method of stalking all the agents I queried on Twitter and Querytracker, which kept my mind occupied and my cellphone bill high.

Right time, right place–When you meet the agent who loves your work for the reasons you love your work, and who also laughs at your jokes and you can imagine having drinks with, you will experience that little bit of magic that occurs in the agent search that is not unlike falling in love, only it’s about your book’s life and not your own.

Long time, no see–This is what you will hear from your friends and family when you have finally finished the revisions your agent suggested so she can start to pitch your book to editors.

Time flies–Even more surprising than how slowly time moves when you are waiting to hear back from agents is how racecar-fast time can move when you are working on deadline. Especially if you are reminded that…

Time is of the essence– Which is really just a nice way of saying that Time is money. In other words: get it done.

In the nick of time­–This is when you will hand in your revision. I was still tinkering with my mine five minutes before I sent it to my editor. It was hard to let it go!

Only time will tell–how well your book will do out in the world. You have written the funniest, most romantic and/or thrilling book you could, and your editor has guided you through all the changes to make it the absolute best book it can be. It has been lovingly copy-edited and proofread. The art director and her team have created the most beautiful cover, chosen the perfect typeface and designed the pages down to the paper . The marketing and publicity teams have done everything to generate buzz about your book and about you. And the sales team has talked about your novel with passion. Now we wait. We have all seen books we adored get published without much fanfare, books that we really didn’t love skyrocket to the top of every list, and quiet books whose audience has grown steadily over time. Anything can happen, and you have no control over any of it! This is the best time to get focused on something new if you haven’t already.

The Big Time–The New York Times Best Sellers list, baby. I’m only half kidding here. I think most writers daydream of seeing their book on a list or two. But it’s important to take a moment to define what success looks like to you before your book hits the shelves. Maybe for you it’s seeing your book in a bookstore, or being invited to a book festival. Skyping into a book group discussion or getting to participate at a writers’ conference. Make a list of what you hope to achieve when your book is out in the world, and pay attention when those dreams come true.

The time of your life–You, in a bookstore. Your book in hand. Your book–complete with a striking cover, blurbs and a description, your author photo and bio on the back flap. All of your friends and family in the audience. And strangers! People who like to read! Reading from, and then signing your book. A party after. Your book, next to all the books you admire. You book out in the world, ready to find its readers.


Author: Louise Miller

Louise Miller is the author of THE CITY BAKER'S GUIDE TO COUNTRY LIVING (Pamela Dorman Books/Viking/August 9, 2016), the story of a commitment-phobic pastry chef who discovers the meaning of belonging while competing in the cut-throat world of Vermont county fair baking contests. Find out more at louisemillerauthor.tumblr.com.

9 Replies to “On Time”

  1. Hi Louise, I love this post and I am so glad I took the time to read your words of wisdom. They are all so important – those bits of time. I was reminded by your photo of the wonderful old clock on my kitchen counter that belonged to my Mom and her Mom years ago. Every now and then the pendulum needs a push to get started….after all its old. It reminds me of times gone by, ones that I miss, but also of how precious one minute, one day at a time is to keep moving forward. And your book, yes, its on my to be read list! That time will be here sooner than we think.

    1. Carol, thank you so much for your lovely comments! I love the image of the clock on your kitchen counter and how it sometimes needs a little push to get going–don’t we all! Thanks so much for reading.

  2. I once heard someone say…..
    TIME in the beginning is your enemy
    In TIME it is your friend………….

    Best sellers list for sure!

  3. When I think of time and writing, I think of it mostly in terms of fun. You can control and play with time, in ways that you can’t in real life (well, at least I can’t).

    You can tell a story slow or fast, on sequence or not, forwards or backwards or sideways, or in little circles or spirals.

    What fun! 🙂

    1. So true, Anthony! I kind of backed myself into a time problem with my first book that took me a while to sort out. I’m hoping to have more flexibility time-wise in my next project. Fun indeed!

Comments are closed.