Writing: The Gift of Little Pieces

I may have mentioned before that July seems to be a month of (wonderful) deadlines, and August is setting itself up to be that way. It would be easy, but depressing, to just let my fiction go and give into the panic worry that maybe there isn’t enough time for it all.

I’m trying to respond to that temptation with one word: Nonsense!

Not nonsense as inΒ I’m Wonder Woman (whose new costume, I LOVE, btw!) and being able to do it all. But nonsense as in reminding myself that if I just take that hour of panic worry that I can easily use up in a single day, and give it to my fiction, well, hey, look: presto-magico…progress! And no depression. πŸ™‚

And-as usual-I’m making a discovery along the way. This first draft I’m working on has its own moments of panic (yes, this time, PANIC) about where I’m going and how much I don’t know and how much I will have to weave together even when I DO know it and, oh, I could go on and on…. But guess what? The panic drops when I’m just working in little bits of time and pages.

I take one morning to plot out a new scene. All sorts of questions rise up to haunt me–“Oh, yeah, and where is THIS going to lead?” “You DO know this means you’ll be rereading those books about fancy-schmancy department stores?” “You’ve decided to write about a sabbath dinner after all, because…why?!”

Well, guess what? All I have to do that morning is plot that one scene. That evening, or the next morning, I can write it…or half of it. That afternoon, read just one chapter on department stores, for now. The next morning, plot that scene. And so on. When I’m not looking at hours of plotting and writing–all in one fell swoop–when there’s only so much time (and, oh, yes, panic) I can give to my fiction that day, it’s…easier.

Maybe it’s not the best way to immerse myself in the story, maybe it’s not the best way to get hundreds and thousands of fiction words onto the page. On the other hand, maybe it’s exactly how I need to be doing it this month.

Do you work best in small chunks or in long, dedicated hours? Are there times when one style works better for you than the other?

Have a wonderful writing week!


  1. It’s funny — earlier today I set the timer for 30 minutes and told my son to focus on a project he’s been avoiding. I used that time to work also and I really liked making that short time to focus. I’ve never done it before, but I think I might make a habit of it. Twice a day, it’ll add up πŸ™‚


    • beckylevine says:

      Good for you guys! Scary how much we can learn from our kids, isn’t it? πŸ™‚

      I think it’s most important to put in some time almost every day (I do tend to give myself weekends off), so we don’t get so far away from our story. More important, probably than getting hours in once a week.

      And it does add up.


  2. Jenn Hubbard says:

    I do both. Usually during the week I have small chunks of time, and on weekends I have longer.

    Line edits are actually something I can’t spend much time on in a single sitting–after an hour or so, I’m wiped out. Those who see me Twittering while I write and wonder how I do it–usually this is what I’m doing, brief bursts of concentrated edits, relieved by little momentary breaks to clear my head.

    But first drafting, or rewriting a whole scene, usually requires a few uninterrupted hours. During those times, I’m usually absent from the internet.


    • beckylevine says:

      I like the way you dissect it, Jenn. And I like the way you get your breaks in, too. πŸ™‚


  3. Lua says:

    Right now I’m revising my first draft and I can totally relate to that state of PANIC (yes- with capitals) πŸ™‚ But I love your approach to the whole situation, β€œBut guess what? The panic drops when I’m just working in little bits of time and pages.” It is true, when you take it little by little, fix it here and there as you go along instead of having a massive head explosion about the fact that you have a huge pile of mess in your hands, it gets a lot easier πŸ™‚ Thank you for the wonderful, inspirational post.


  4. beth says:


    That’s EXACTLY how I feel right now, too! URK DEADLINES!


    • beckylevine says:

      Hang in there! You’re still recovering from Europe–your brain will return into its time change.


  5. I used to be an hours-and-hours person. But circumstances now force me to work in short bursts. And planning/outlining have gotten more important to me as a result — otherwise I spend the whole time trying to figure out where I was going!


    • beckylevine says:

      I find, this summer, I’m doing shorter bursts of plotting as well–rather than days of getting it “figured out” far ahead, I’m taking it more scene-by-scene. Hence, I think, the panic, but I’m trying to go with it!


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