Huzzah, it’s time to submit!

Greetings, writers! The link to submit your story to the judges is finally open. Submit HERE.

Please note that there’s NO RUSH. The submission deadline is Sunday, May 29, so you still have a several more days to make your story as good as it can be.

(P. S. Don’t forget to keep helping your fellow writer in the Spring Contest workshop!

No time to Write? Here’s a 3-Step Solution.

Real life often gives us no time to write.

In an ideal world, we’d all have that perfect writer’s schedule. We’d rise early and toss out five thousand words before breakfast. We’d lead off lunch with a few hundred more, and after the kids were in bed, conclude the day with another thousand just because.

My life certainly looks nothing like that. Does yours? From personal experience, I’m here to tell you how to write when you have no time.

No time to Write. Here's a Solution

How to Write When You Have No Time

(FYI: I got this idea from a truly useful book, 5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter, by Chris Fox. It’s worth a read.)

If you want to write when your schedule is crunched, it’s going to require a little bit of prep.

It’s worth the effort.

Think of it as marinating the chicken breast before you leave for work so it’s ready to cook when you come home: it’s prep that leads to a faster (and more delicious) delivery.

Step One: Decide You’re Going to Do This.

This has to be serious. Death-and-taxes serious. If you make this decision with anything less than your full heart, it’ll go the way of New Year’s resolutions and quick-fix diet plans. You have to decide to do this—and mean it.

That means TV can’t get in the way. That means closing the door (if you have one) between you and spouse, children, pets, etc.—at least for a few minutes.

They will all survive a few minutes without you. You can survive without them, too.

Step Two: Plan a Scene.

No, not the kind where you throw shoes and break crystal vases. I’m talking about a scene in your story.

Scene Definition

I promise I will go into how to pick and choose scenes later. For right now, here is your definition of a scene: a single moment with a beginning, middle, and end, without the need for transition. It’s the bit between fade-to-black or any kind of time-skip.

Your planned scene doesn’t have to be in-depth. I’m not a plotter (though I wish I were), but even my pantsing style can handle planning out one scene ahead of time. I’ll give you an example.

  • Beginning: marching into the office to clock her required hours at her civil service job.
  • Middle: idiot coworker tosses all the mail down the incinerator instead of the mail slot.
  • End: “So now that the wedding certificate is ash, I am free. I can be anyone I want… but precisely who is that?”

Obviously, the details are needed between each of those items for them to make sense, but it’s a roadmap. It’s glow-in-the-dark stepping stones. Here’s a scene I’m planning out for my very next writing session:

  • Beginning: bored with teaching, escapes through the window and explores at night
  • Middle: meets HER, is taunted way above his head, has no idea what she’s promising/asking
  • End: returns to his room with that huge secret; doesn’t know that by keeping it, he’s changed the course of his life

A scene could be your character making a sandwich. It could be a single conversation. It could be one glimpse of contemplation on the road as your character heads into work.

You can plan that scene while waiting for email from your boss, or watching your smallest child brush her teeth, or idling at a traffic light.

Plan a scene. Ahead of time.

Step Three (The Writing Part): Set Aside Five Minutes.

You saw that right. Five minutes.

This needs to be five minutes without interruption. Tell your spouse about it; politely ask your children for the space (and ignore them if they interrupt those five minutes—that’s just teaching them boundaries, not bad parenting). Shut off the phone. Close Twitter.

Make sure you have a timer. You can use the one at the end of this page. You can also (as I learned) type “timer” into Google search, and the Google search page itself will give you a timer. Nifty.

Are you distracted by noise? Put on noise-cancelling headphones or those little rubber earplugs.

Don’t look out the window.

Don’t doubt.

Don’t judge yourself.

Don’t question whether you can do this. You can.

Sit down. Start the timer. And without stopping to correct typos or any other error, write the scene you planned out from start to finish.

Yeah, it’s that simple. Yeah. It really is.

6 Final Tips for Writing When You Have No Time

If you need some extra mental fortification, here are six final tips:

  • Anyone can manage five minutes. Most bathroom breaks are longer. It takes just a little bit more time than that to brew coffee. Don’t see it as impossible; believe it’s possible, and you’ll find it is.
  • Do. Not. Stop. Not while the timer is going. Even if your writing is filled with horrific typos, keep going. Even if you couldn’t remember that word and had to put, “and then she asked me about the [WHAT THE HECK IS THE NAME OF THAT SCIENCE STUDYING BIRDS], but all I could tell her was I thought the Potoo was the funniest looking bird I’ve ever seen.” (And it is, if you’ve never seen it. The Potoo looks like a Muppet.) Look up the missing word (ornithology) later. During those five minutes, you don’t stop writing for hell or high water.
  • The world will try to steal those five minutes. Seriously. THAT will be when the toilet overflows, or the cat swallows the other cat’s tail, or some kid with a tricycle crashes into your front porch. Keep. Writing. Five minutes; anyone and any situation (except maybe the choking-on-a-tail one) can afford five minutes.
  • Did I mention to avoid editing? Don’t reword. Don’t delete. It doesn’t matter if what you just wrote wasn’t the best phrasing; what matters is you got it down, and you can fix it later.
  • Just write like someone cut open your brain and you’re bleeding words.
  • Write the scene.

I know this sounds like it won’t help you, but believe me, it will.

Look at it this way: if you can grab six five-minute spots during a day (and you can do far more than that, believe me), then you’ve gotten in half an hour of writing—and if you planned out your scenes ahead of time, that’s potentially five whole scenes in one day.

Do you see where this is going?

Do you have trouble finding time to write? Let me know in the comments.

PRACTICE

Plan out one scene (beginning, middle, end), take a deep breath, and write for fifteen minutes (or if you can’t afford fifteen, write for five). Stick to your scene. Do not stop. No editing while those five minutes (or fifteen) are still counting down.

Post your practice in the comments when you’re finished, and leave feedback for your fellow practicers.

About Ruthanne Reid

Bestselling author Ruthanne Reid writes about elves, aliens, vampires, and space-travel, and she is the author of the Among the Mythos series. Subscribe to her articles at RuthanneReid.com, and follow her on Twitter (@RuthanneReid)

  • Roger MacRae

    This is fantastic advice. I can see how implementing it could drastically improve the idea machine.

    I love your first example by the way. It made me laugh because I could imagine the whole rest of the story.

    • ruthannereid

      Thanks, Roger! I’m really glad this idea is helpful for you. And I’m doubly glad you liked that first example. 😉 I could see the whole ridiculous story in my head; blame it on watching too much BBC!

  • Great advice! Love the example scenes, had me laughing! I’m seriously going to try this.

    • ruthannereid

      That’s fantastic, Cherryl! I’m so glad it helped. 🙂 (And I’m really glad the example made you laugh!)

  • Loved your example and humor. This post is just what I needed after a summer of allowing excuses and interruptions to keep me from writing. Ideally, I like to write when I’m certain I have several hours that I can dedicate to my work in progress. This has become a dehabiltating cruch for me. It’s all in my head, I know it is. On weekends, for example, I will plan to write for five consecutive hours and something comes up that gives me permission to put it off. I know this sounds crazy. But, I’m serious. I can have my day of writing planned and if nothing gets in the way … fabulous. However, if I plan to write from noon to 5 and at 11:30, I learn that I have to do something important from 2:00-3:00, then my mind plays cruel tricks on me and I convince myself that today just isn’t going to work out as a productive writing day. I rationalize and justify: I will only get in maybe an hour and a half before I have to leave and by the time I get back and finally get situated I won’t even have an hour left. Crazy – I know.
    Your article reminded me of how much I use to accomplish in carpool lines and while waiting in a doctor’s office waiting room. I have to return to my former mentality. I’ve been looking for excuses, I suppose. There is never going to be a perfect, uninterrupted writing day and I need to make use of what free time I have.

    I really like your idea of planning the scene in advance. It takes all the pressure off – the 15-30 minutes of – where was? What needs to come next etc.
    Thanks for the wake up call and kick in the butt.

    Melissa Sugar
    @msugar13
    http://melissasugarwrites.com
    Sugarlaw13@live.com

    • Christine

      I’m exactly the same, so make that two crazies. 🙂

      • ruthannereid

        Three crazies. 😉

  • FritziGal

    Most wannabe writers keep looking for that elusive block of time when they can finally knock out 15 or 20 pages in one sitting. Bad plan! Such opportunities rarely exist. Can you write one page a day? Seems like that would be do-able for anyone who considers themselves a serious writer. One page a day works out to well over 300 pages by the end of the year, even if you take all the major holidays off. – FritziGal

    • ruthannereid

      Agreed, FritziGal! I know for me, the challenge is being willing to let the first draft be terrible – because then I can complete a first draft, instead of getting stuck on one chapter. 🙂

      • Lisa Kruger

        For me too!

  • manilamac

    Wow, “marinating scenes” hits home. I spend *a lot* of staring-off-into-space time doing just that…and find it leads not only to better scenes, but to novelistic work that really hangs together. I used to write 1-3,000 words a day…but then I felt I spent my life editing. Now, I become very suspicious of myself once I go over 1,000 words at a sitting, but that’s just me. I support my writing habit by editing books for clients…a process that has made me more careful than most people w/r/t 1st drafts…I’ve become pretty clear about what I definitely *don’t* want in my book. And yes, that slows me down. It just doesn’t slow me down as much as having to decide at some later date to junk 5 or 10 pages here or there. But, starting out, I too encourage people to write & write & write. Well marinated scenes are indeed an important key no matter what. Good call.

    • ruthannereid

      I really hear you! It’s a challenge for me to write anything that IS messy, but at least in my case, I’ve found that editing a messy scene takes a lot less time than writing a perfect one the first time around. Also, I tend to get stuck on that initial chapter. 🙂

      I love that you support your “habit” by editing for others! That’s a terrific solution. Let me know how the marinating goes for you!

  • Ruthanne,

    What a great idea!

    I’m big fan of timed writing, but have never thought to pair it with this concept.

    The most difficult part of this for me is editing. My fingers delete and replace on their own. Sometimes I’m not even aware it’s happening, it’s become so much a part of the writing process/

    • ruthannereid

      Thanks, Carrie!

      I hear you. It’s a hard, HARD habit to train yourself out of – one I’m in the process of breaking myself. But I can promise it’s worth it! I really wish you the best of luck!

  • Susan Smith-Grier

    Loved the post and it makes a lot of sense. It took me forever to finish it though because I got stuck on Potoo! Weird looking bird, great memes for the images and interesting information about the bird. This is why my writing suffers; I’m so easily distracted!

    • ruthannereid

      Haha! Thanks, Susan! That bird cracks me up so much.

      Have you ever used an app or site for distraction-free writing? There are some that even shut down the internet for you for a set period of time.

  • Katina Vaselopulos

    Wonderful post, Ruthanne!

    When I type, I automatically correct, even though I know it’s not a good idea since it disrupts my thoughts. When, however, I write longhand in my journal or notebook–actually I wrote most of my book by hand–I don’t stop to correct anything. Any mistakes there, are mostly due to the incongruities between my native language and the learned one.

    Right now my crazy schedule keeps on a leash.
    Still, every day, no matter what, I write or edit. Editing one essay from my book, sometimes drastically changing, others not so. When I finish my edits, I am sending the manuscript to an editor. Parallelly, I am working on my memoir.

    Today, a friend wrote a post with the title, “Will your Children Remember?” It triggered memories and also assurance that my children though they might have forgotten some things, they do remember what we did as parents that made a difference in their character and in their life. I wrote a long comment for over forty minutes bringing my grandchildren into it as well. It definitely meets the above three criteria, I want to build it up with memories and wisdom and make a good chapter in my future memoir book for the family, hoping to inspire new and future generations to live such a life so that their children remember, and learn from, the older generations.

    Thanks, again!
    Joy and beauty to you!

    Katina Vaselopulos

    • ruthannereid

      That’s fascinating, Katina! I love the idea you have for inspiring memories. Good luck training yourself to write without correcting! I know how hard that is. 🙂

  • Hello Ruthanne Reid,
    Thank you for your wisdom and humor.I look forward to writing today, for five minutes. I never seem to find the time to write every day. Your suggestion will pull me out of the slush pile.
    xo
    Pamela

    • ruthannereid

      Thanks, Pamela! I’m so glad this is helping you!

  • Kelley madick

    beginning: Jenna walks into barn 6 am feed, horses greet her. feeling of unrest but push it aside work to be done. dogs follow her running playfully.

    middle: new farrier coming. horse hank has been off lame for a while. he was recommeded by friend Karen.text message her he will be there in 30 minutes. late but whatever. black truck pulls up the drive 20 minutes later. she is surprised when he steps out of the truck and walks into her barn. He held out his hand to shake hers. ” I am Bryce. Nice to meet you.”

    End: her heart stopped she couldn’t breathe for a minute. “Jenna, thank you for coming out.”

    5 munites a scene Thank you love this idea

    • ruthannereid

      Kelley, this is great! You’ve definitely got a perfect scene there to work on. Great job!

  • Guessella Daniels

    I came out of my Hotel bedroom and went downstairs. I was looking for the telephone to call my babysitter back in the USA as I had taken a trip overseas. A man approached me who appeared to be a maintenance man and stated what do you need. I told him I was looking for a telephone to call home. He stated come with me, I bet I have more money than you have, As I turned to follow him to the elevator to go downstairs to use the phone, my husband appeared behind us. He went with us downstairs to use the phone.
    The maintenance man took us in a room and picked up a phone that had been hid under plastic material. He plugged the phone into the wall and gave me the phone.and said use this. I took the phone and called back home. When I finished the phone call he did not accept money from us for making the call.
    The next day this man met my husband and I coming out of our room. We were going downstairs for dinner. He stated I want to take you and your husband to my house for dinner tomorrow. At first we were speechless because to us he was a stranger, but reluctantly we said ok. “Lo and behold” he met us the next day going to the restaurant in the Hotel for dinner. He expressed “I will be waiting for you here in the Hotel Lobby at 6:00 pm”, ”Sit in the Lobby and wait for me”. A taxi cab came to pick us up at 6:00 pm to take us to his house. The maintenance man who was an Arab and the other two men in the Taxi cab were speaking in a language neither me nor my husband understood. I felt scared as we got in the cab, and as they continued to speak in a language we did not understand. I thought they were speaking fast as a moving roller coaster as it speeds up and down it’s track. The trip seemed such a long way.
    Finally, the man who invited us to his house asked the taxi driver to stop at a store. I pondered why the maintenance man who had invited us to his house would want the Taxi driver to stop at the store , seeing it was taking a long time to get to his house. Once we reached the store he wanted me as well as my husband to get out of the cab and go inside the store. I felt safe after we stopped at the store. When we went inside the store he asked us what did we want. We told him we did not want anything since we did not know how much money he wanted to spend on us. We went back to the taxi cab and rode probably another 10 minutes before arriving at his house. After arriving at his house he showed us around inside his entire house. He wanted us to see the style of his house and his furniture, He had a beautiful home, and modern design furniture. He asked us to sit in his living room, Very soon after sitting, he beckon to his wife to go prepare food for us. She did and came back with 2 trays of food on two plates.. One thing that stood out in my mind were the watermelon seeds that was part of the meal. We ate, and had an enjoyable time conversing with the Arabs. The husband could speak English but the wife could not, I wish he would have communicated with us in the taxi cab on the way to his house instead of speaking only to the Taxi cab driver and his other friend which would have calm my fears.

    • ruthannereid

      Wow, Guessella, what a wild tale! Did this really happen? It’s fairly intense!

      • Guessella Daniels

        Yes, this is true. It actually happened In Israel.

        • ruthannereid

          Oh, gosh. I’m glad you’re all right!

          • Guessella Daniels

            Thank you for your concern, but we enjoyed the trip and in this home

  • Cynthia Frazier Buck

    Thanks for this post, Ruthanne! It was helpful! I’m a pantser, so this exercise was new for me. This is what I came up with:

    “Daddy, where did mommy go?”

    It was the question I’d been dreading. It’s a valid question from a four-year-old whose mother is suddenly gone. The problem is, I don’t have an answer. Not one that would make sense.

    I know what happened to her, how she died. But where she us now, I have no idea. I never concerned myself with Heaven, Hell, or even whether or not there is an afterlife.

    “Sweetie, I just don’t know.” It was the truth. “But wherever Mommy is, I know she is missing you right now.” I’m sure that’s true too. “Come on, sweetie, let’s get you back to bed. You need your rest.”

    I’m on the verge of spilling the tears I’ve been trying so hard to hold back. In my mind, I have to be strong. I don’t want to upset my daughter any more than she already is. Besides, I feel like if I start crying, I won’t be able to stop. Not anytime soon, anyway.

    I tucked my little girl into bed once again. She’s been having trouble sleeping the last couple of nights, since it happened. So have I, which is why I’m up at thus ridiculously late hour. “Goodnight, sweetie.” I kiss her on the cheek and pull the covers up to her chin.

    “Goodnight, Daddy.”

    Goodnight. Will I ever have a good night again? It’s looking and feeling doubtful right now. I know this kind of thing happens every day. What I don’t know is how the hell people move on.

    It wasn’t supposed to be thus way. She was supposed to here, with me. We were going to raise Reese together. Maybe have another child or two. We were supposed to grow old and gray together. Maybe travel the country in a tricked out RV after we retired.

    The funeral is tomorrow. There will be more questions asked that I don’t have the answers to. Maybe the answers will come to me in time. Maybe they won’t.
    I know that I don’t know what to do without her. I know that I don’t know who I am without her.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7dde9da23431b71f4d6142cea65e11c2ff70d2423208236444de984add098f2d.jpg

    • ruthannereid

      This. Is. Perfect. WOW. I absolutely love it, Cynthia – and it really wrenched my heart, too.

      How did you like the mini-scene plotting? I’m a pantser, too, so it was a new experience for me!

      • Cynthia Frazier Buck

        Thanks so much, Ruthanne! I really appreciate it! I did like the mini-plotting. I think it did make the actual writing easier. I felt like the words flowed once I started!
        It killed me to not edit as I went along, which I usually do, although I know that can interrupt the writing.

    • Posting that really solidified everything I read in the post. Thankyou!

    • I’m determined

      Wow – where’s the tissues. You’ve got it just right, the pathos, so realistic. How do you tell little ones. Mummy’s in Heaven. Right. Where is Heaven. What is she doing now? You can imagine these thoughts coming though that child’s head. and dad’s not a child psychologist. Just a loving, grieving father.

    • Lisa Kruger

      Wow.

  • Kristen Browning

    Hi Ruthanne,
    When I am writing beginning, middle, end, are we supposed to write individual scenes for each beginning, middle and end? Or tid bits of the scene in each to create one big scene? Lol sorry I sound so confused lol!!!

    • ruthannereid

      Hi, Kristen! You’ve got it – each scene requires a beginning, a middle, and an end. Obviously, each scene won’t be a complete story. 🙂 However, every scene DOES have a start, something in the middle, and a place where (if it were filmed) the camera would fade to black and go on to the next scene.

      Think of it like this, in a really simplified way:

      SCENE
      Beginning: Tommy enters the room.
      Middle: Tommy picks up a banana.
      End: Tommy leaves the room.

      Now, the “guts” happen mostly in the middle. Tommy might be thinking about something, or talking to someone. There has to be a purpose – significance for picking up the banana. But this is just a scene, not the entire story, so it can be a small significance. Does that make sense?

      Don’t apologize! This concept took me a while to figure out. 🙂 Once I did, though, it became an enormously helpful tool.

      I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

      • Kristen Browning

        Wow, yes that does help me. Thank you!! I blog about 2-3 times a week and most of my blog posts are under 500 words. I love incorporating story telling in my blog posts. Do you think I could utilize this method discussed in this post and apply it to my own blog post writings? Or is this concept mainly for those who write short stories and novels?

        • ruthannereid

          Absolutely! Every blog post, after all, has a beginning (an intro), a middle (the main point), and an end (the conclusion). 😀

  • Loving this Ruthanne. Our lives have been super busy. These tips were very helpful and I can’t wait to try them tomorrow!

    • ruthannereid

      I’m so glad, Garrhet! Let me know how it goes!

  • Christine

    Christine, world-famous best selling author — okay then, wannabe — sits down at her computer and click on the Write Practise

    “Wait a minute…” internal editor bursts in. “You forgot the s on clicks…you better go back and fix that or I’ll nag you. And did you check the spelling of Practise. You really do need to know how to spell that word. Stop now and write it out correctly 100 times.”

    “Hush it,” says Christine to that constantly nagging voice. “It says here in the rules that you are NOT to correct typos. Just go at it for at least five straight minutes.”

    “But you don’t function that way,” insists the pesky internal editor. “You NEVER write without correcting typos. Mind you, if you’d actually learn to type once…”

    “Just this once. Now laet me get at it, eh!”

    “A scene. My kingdom for a scene!” And the perfect ‘scene’ pops into her head. A scene within a scene really, a scene as seen by an acquaintance–Betty, let’s name her.

    Betty leaned over the hedge when she heard the door of the ctrailer next door close with a resounding…

    “This is your internal editor… Yoou spelled trailer wrong. And you messed up this line. And when are you ghoing to ad the s to that first mistake. You simple HAVE to stop and go back.”

    “Never! Shut up.” Gasp from Internal Editor. Silence of deep offence. (offense?)

    “anyway, this door slamming” …with a resounding bang. Betty watched as the young wife next door stomped down the stairs and marched out toward the parked car. Her husband also exited the trailor, closing the dooor with less of a bang.

    Sensing his eyes on her, the young wife turned around and fixed him with a trying-to-be-lamentable glare. “I’m LEAVING!” She turned around and headed down the sidewalk.

    Betty’s eyebrows arched. What an actress! This girl could be in hollywood.

    Right then the young woman turned back, at least half way, and flung over her shoulder in a low, meaningful tone, the melodramatic pronouncement, “And I may not be back.”

    Betty tried not to giggle. Husband tryed not to look to anything. Right now, according to most movie scripts, he would come dashing out, throw his arms around her, beg her to stay. Maybe even get down on his knee and plead, “Don’t leave me — I can’t live without you!”

    Alas for this poor dense man, he hadn’t read the same books or watched the same movies. At any rate, he completely missed his cue and stood their mumbling or whatever while she turned and stomped to the car, unpled with, unprevented from departing.

    Somebody needs to clue him in Betty thought at that moment. somebody could clue her in, too.

    But we’ll leave that scene now, as my time is stretching out to fourteen minutes and my internal editor is in about the same frame of mind as she was. I must not muss (whoops!) my cue. I’ll have to correst these mistakes because I just can’t think straight with that sullen little huffy reminding me of the untidy mess I’m leaving behind.

    And that’s fifteen minutes worth. Diid it make sence? (Whoops again!)

    • ruthannereid

      Oh my gosh, I LOVE THIS! This is exactly it! You did it! (GREAT job shouting down your inner editor! Man, that guy’s a bully!)

      This is fantastic. I am so glad to see this. You did it – you wrote a scene (two, really, since it’s you AND Betty). How do you feel? 😀

      • Christine

        As I said, when I write and leave typos behind it’s like slivers in my finger tips. I HAVE to correct them! I really have to force myself to NOT do something about them. Now, if I were a good typist, how much simpler my life would be! But it is refreshing just to go at it; I’ll try this more often.

        I’m a closet neat-freak. You’d never guess this if you could peek through my monitor into this room. The house may be a mess and I may get depressed because it’s NOT neat like it should be, but in my writing the neat-freak side of me rules with a rod of iron. I can’t even leave a comment without editing it half a dozen times. Clarity, concision, changes of mind; I’m incurable. 🙂

    • Lisa Kruger

      Brilliant! I also have an annoying internal editor. In fact I just went back to change a anoying to an anoying! I really enjoyed your piece!!!!

      • Christine

        Thank you. I will confess that I did correct a few typos where the meaning would not have been very clear had I left them.

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  • LilianGardner

    Thanks, Ruthanne, this is fabulous advice. Five minutes? Wow! I’m going to try it today and stick to writing on my free five minutes. No editing meanwhile? Even better!

    I’m busy, busy, busy until the end of the month, and can’t dedicate time to post on The Write Practice, but I can still type bits of the story running around in my mind; five minutes at a time, as you say.

    • ruthannereid

      Good luck, Lilian! In my experience, not editing is the hardest part, but also the most powerful. If you’re willing to just keep going and ignore typos or wrong words, you’ll be able to get so much more written. I look forward to what you can do!

  • I’m determined

    Intended to write for 10 mins. Okay, 25 mins, then I edited. Here goes –

    Chapter 2 –

    ‘Hey, Mum. You home?’ The back door slams behind Joe.

    ‘Just now.’ His Mum stretches her back. ‘Did you see those
    photos in the paper? All of the oldies couldn’t stop talking about that fish.
    Honestly.’ She puts the kettle on, and sets out the teapot and mugs. ‘Your dad
    used to try catching the Big One. All those Murray Cods did was nibble at his
    bait. Feeding the fish, are you, mate? That’s what the guy would say when Kevin
    went back for more bait.’ She pulls on her apron. Hell’s Bells, he got me to
    come along on his fishing trips. You can
    have a quiet sit down with your book, he’d say. He conned me, of course, I
    knew it by his grin.’

    ‘But you went.’ Joe grins at his Mum. ‘While we were at
    school.’

    ‘You couldn’t spend all your time breathing dust while
    dealing with the sheep.’

    ‘A man has to have a break, now and then.’

    ‘And woman. Don’t you forget that. Still.’ She spoons tea
    leaves into the pot, and pours boiling water over them. ‘Wash your hands. Cuppa’s
    about ready.’ She gets out some shortbreads. ‘Those were the days. He’d have me
    at work with the folding spade. Digging up worms, just to save face!’

    Yeah, those were the days.

    ‘Those days, son, you were as mad as your old man. It was a
    relief for me when you were big enough, could swim well enough that I could relax,
    and send the pair of you off so I could catch up with my chores. Honestly, the
    mending got so behind, with you and Petey skinning holes quicker that I could
    patch the garments!’

    Cut to the chase, Mum! ‘The paper. Where is it?’

    ‘On the counter. Here, I’ve got it.’

    Joe tweeks the paper out of his Mum’s hands. He studies the
    photo of Aaron holding up the Grandfather Murray cod that Joe had caught. ‘You’d
    think he caught that blasted fish himself!

    ‘Well, he did, didn’t he? His mum gets the cornbeef out of
    the fridge. ‘Do you want this cold, with a salad, for your dinner?’

    Joe looks up at her. ‘Hot would be better. Mum, you know the
    way you always cooked it for us?’

    She looks across at her son. ‘Are you missing him? We could
    go back, live on ther farm with Petey and his family.’

    ‘But what about your work at the Nursing Home? You know how
    much you love being with your oldies.

    ‘True. They’re more company than sheep ever were. Still.’ His
    mother potters around, peeling spuds and tossing the chopped bits into the
    saucepan. ‘It would be nice to catch up for a spell. I’ve got a long weekend’s break
    coming up.’ Carrots get sectioned, and into their pot. Then peas end up n the
    little saucepan he’d bought her with his first real wage, working at the Inn
    with Mosely. The phone peals whilst Mum carves slices off the corned beef.

    ‘Sergeant MacKellar here. I need to ask some questions. You
    be home in a half hour?’

    ‘Sure. We’ll be eating, though.’

    Mum motions to him. ‘Go on, ask him.’

    ‘Mum wants to know if you’ll eat with us. Come a tad
    earlier.’

    ‘Your mum’s cooking? Just a mo.’ Muffled voices leak from
    the phone. ‘You there? I’ll get to our place in oh about 20 mins?’

    ‘Clint, could you give me an idea want you’re wanting?’

    ‘You had some townies out at the Fisherman’s Inn a day or
    two back?’

    ‘Yees?’

    ‘What were they doing there?’

    Fucking hell! ‘I heard they were there, but were gone when I
    turned up to tend bar.’ Right. Stick to the truth. Don’t get pushed into
    embellishing. Joe could still remember the whacking that came with that advice.
    Thanks Dad.

    ‘Still, you might have caught up with some info.’

    ‘Ask Mosely. Both he and Clara had the floor before my
    shift.’

    ‘I did. They said they were too busy to hear anything. See
    you in a few minutes.’

    Thanks. Joe hangs
    up the phone and looked across at his Mum. ‘We’re having Clint out to eat with
    us, in about 20 minutes. But remember, you really don’t know much about what I’ve
    been doing.’

    ‘Son,’ Mum stands there, and eye levels him. ‘I never know
    what you’re up to. You haven’t got yourself into strife, have you?’

    ‘Really, Mum. Since when do I do that?’

    ‘Ever since you got into your short britches, that’s when.
    Is it your fishing?’

    ‘Mum, if you must know, I’ve been studying the mating habits
    of the local Cod.’

    Mum snorts. ‘And who have you been sniffing around now. Not
    Shirley Wintergreen, her with the long red head from across the lake?’

    ‘Mum, you raised me to be a gentleman. I never kiss and
    tell.’

    ‘Just so long,’ Mum says, and she puts the saucepan down, and
    then comes across to put her arms around her son, ‘as you give me a hug and
    kiss now and then.’

    Joe wraps his arms around her, and bends down to kiss her
    brow. ‘That’s a deal.’ And thank God, Mum, that you’re so easily sidetracked!

    • ruthannereid

      What an interesting slice! This is a great draft. Well-done! Your dialogue is really easy to read.

  • Funny, I had “no time” to read this until this morning. Insightful as always, Ruthanne. Thank you!

    • ruthannereid

      My pleasure, Vincent! I hope it helps. 🙂

  • Kenneth M. Harris

    Ola got off the elevator and stood in the middle of the floor. all of the other people employees walked all around her and sometimes bumping in to her. She might as well had been invisible. She walked two feet, stopped and turned to the right. Mr. Junkle past her and said good morning, Ola. She smiled and slowed down even more. the office was only six feet away. She finally made it to the door, she looked at three girls around her. They were on the phone. Suddenly, she took a deep breath, lifted the typewriter and in a second threw it out of the window. She smiled, looked at the face of the stunned girls and screamed. I’ve been here twenty years and the lord didn’t intend for me to be typing all of these years. she rushed out of the office

    • Christine

      Good start to something — hopefully the point where she effects some positive change in her life. You have me caring about her, willing her to wake up and see that it’s her own doing if she sits there typing for twenty years.

      • Kenneth M. Harris

        Thank you so very much! It means a lot to me when a writer feels what one of your characters feel. Ken

    • ruthannereid

      Oh my goodness! Haha! I didn’t expect that at all! That’s a terrific twist. Go Ola!

      • Kenneth M. Harris

        Ruthannereid, you have really made my last few days great. Thank you so very, very much because I am having such a difficult time writing for the contest. Actually, what you read is an excerpt from my short contest story. So sorry for being so late getting back with you. In the future, I will try and get back to all of you sooner. THANKS SO MUJCH

  • Sarah Angel

    Yes! I recently started doing this. I got a beat app on my phone called Jotterpad that links to the drop box account I created just for writing and writing productivity is at an all time high! Now whenever I’m bored,have to wait in line, waiting for the boss to come in so he can approve my work, I just take out my phone and type away. It also doesn’t feel like a “real draft” because I’m typing it on my phone so no writer’s anxiety. It’s a very effective way to get me writing. Especially since whenever I take the time to formally sit down and write my mind goes blank.

    • ruthannereid

      That’s a fantastic method, Sarah! I love the method of seeing it’s not a “real draft,” which helps you to write more freely.

  • Lisa Kruger

    Thank you, this was really helpful! I tried it today for 10 minutes instead of 5 and it didn’t just work, I actually enjoyed it a lot!

    • ruthannereid

      You’re welcome, Lisa! I find 5 minutes works best for my brain, for whatever reason. 🙂

  • Guessella Daniels

    My lost treasured watch
    When I was twelve years old I lost my incredible brand new, blue in color, Alice in wonderland watch. I searched in despair for my lost treasured watch as it was my first watch. I thought carefully in my mind where could my my lost treasured watch be found. In my reflection I thought I must have lost my watch at school. After searching thoroughly through-out my house, my lost treasured watch was no where to be found. in my mind I made a conclusion I must pray and ask God to help me find my lost treasured watch. In my amazement a week later my lost treasured, Alice in Wonderland watch turned up in a place that I had looked before.

    • ruthannereid

      Aww! I’m glad you got your watch back. 🙂 That went really well!

      • Guessella Daniels

        Thank you. You are so encouraging.

  • Bridget LaMonica

    Sounds like the NaNoWriMo method of “pantsing” which was actually the best way for me to get down a first draft of anything to begin with. I also find that if I start writing the day I get the initial idea, I’m more likely to follow through with it. For some reason, waiting to write it later when I have more to go on makes it seem less important to get down.

    • ruthannereid

      As long as you’re writing, Bridget! 🙂

  • With me its the opposite, that’s all I have is time, ‘My bills are paid, I live alone, there’s food in the fridge and clean dishes and clothes in their place. I have no friends stopping by at all hours, and I have the equipment to write- yet, I cant find the time, nor am I able to focus on one thing . An old story, a new idea, or a grocery list or a to do list , or even a letter to myself, Anything to get my brain jump started… Where will I find the time….. only time will tell…..” She scratches her forehead turning this way and that.She then heads to the coffee pot and pours another cup After taking a sip she looks at the still sleeping laptop perched on her desk and walks over turning it on. “Today my little friend we are going to create magic- 5 minutes at a time. ” She then sits and opens a new fresh blank page and lets her fingers type without even the slightest idea where they will travel.

    • ruthannereid

      I love this example! A great use of real-life struggles playing out on paper. 🙂 I actually found it very encouraging!

      • Thanks Ruthannereid, hope you the best with your writing.

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  • Anna Teodoro-Suanco

    Sorry for this super late reply, but as I was browsing through the posts, I just knew this was exactly what I needed to know right now. Planning and writing a single scene in 5-15 minutes made terrific sense for me. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? I worked on an outline based on the Snowflake method and it looked great. But when I started writing, I get overwhelmed by the flow of thoughts that come to me as I tend to think of the next scene while still working on a previous one. I’ll practice concentrating on one scene at a time from now on. Thanks, Ruthanne!

    • ruthannereid

      Anna, that really makes my day. I’m so glad this works for you! That’s the best news ever.