Have you ever had a few hours of free time that ends up getting wasted because you can’t decide whether to read or write?
You feel guilty if you use the time to write your novel; let’s face it, you probably don’t read as much as you should, but you just cannot focus on someone else’s story when yours needs to be written!
Yeah, I’ve been there too!
A lot of writers, including myself, struggle to balance reading and writing - the two activities that are essential to an author’s success, but it doesn’t have to be a constant battle every time you have some free time.
You can absolutely balance these two activities without neglecting one for the other, and this post will give you 5 solutions to help you to level your time.
Solution 1: Morning and Evening
If you have a traditional 9-5 work schedule, you’ll likely have some free time in the morning and evening; certainly the evening if you always get out of bed at the last minute, like me, but the time you have before and after work could be a great time for you to get some reading and writing into your day.
If you’re a night owl like me, you probably don’t want to be getting up at five in the morning just to write 1,000 words, so why not spend 30 – 60 minutes while you’re still in bed to read a chapter or two of the book you’re reading? That way, you can stay in bed a little longer, catch up on your reading pile and write some more of your novel after work guilt-free.
Alternatively, if you are an early bird, which I’ll never be, you may absolutely love waking up at the crack of dawn. If that’s you, consider using that time to write your manuscript before you have to leave for your 9-5.
It may be tempting to enjoy the early hours scrolling through social media or leisurely getting ready for work with a hot coffee, but if you really want to balance your reading and writing time, something needs to give, especially if you plan to spend some of your evening reading!
Solution 2: Alternate Days
It may be unrealistic for you to have both your mornings and evenings free for reading and writing, so a more practical routine might be to make the most of one period of free time a day.
If you work or have a busy schedule that only leaves you with the mornings or evenings free each day, or even an hour or two in the afternoon, you could use that time to focus on one activity on alternate days of the week.
For example, you could spend your free time writing your manuscript on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, and use the other days – Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for reading, or vice versa, depending on which activity you want to spend more time doing.
Solution 3: A Chapter at a Time
If you’re not up for limiting your reading and writing time to certain days of the week, you could balance your time by reading or writing a chapter at a time.
For example, you can only get back to your book if you’ve written another chapter of your manuscript, and you can only jump back into writing your novel if you’ve read a chapter of your book.
As reading a bloody good book and writing your novel are both incredibly gripping activities, you’ll forever be chasing each one; dying to find out what happens next in your current read, and desperate to write more of your manuscript.
But you can only get back to either of them once you’ve done a chapter of each.
Solution 4: Week to Week
Some writers want to speed through their manuscript and have it finished as soon as possible so they can start querying literary agents or self-publish, but if you’re not in a hurry to finish writing your book, you could balance your time by spending week 1 and 3 reading and week 2 and 4 writing, or vice versa.
Weighing your time in this way wouldn’t be as intense or competitive as doing a chapter at a time, but focusing on one activity per week could motivate you to actually read and write because you only get two weeks a month to do each.
If you do decide to balance your time by focusing on one activity per week, make sure you finish your book or manuscript in the right places to make it easy to jump back into them.
For example, a lot of bookworms always try to stop reading at the end of a chapter – because it’s unspeakable to stop in the middle of one! - so it might be helpful to do the same and made a little note of what’s just happened so you can easily pick up from where you left.
On the contrary, it can actually be easier for writers to get back into their manuscript if they stop writing mid-chapter, mid-scene, or even mid-conversation. You may be tempted to finish writing a chapter by the end of the week so you can start fresh the week after next, but doing that can make it harder to get back into the swing of things.
However, if you stop writing mid-conversation, for example, you’ll know exactly what’s happening and will be able to continue like normal, whereas if you stop writing at the end of a chapter, I guarantee that you’ll spend half the week trying to think of how to start it!
Solution 5: Power!
In contrast, you may be the sort of writer who can easily bang out a novel every month or two, so it may be best for you to power through the writing stage without reading a thing.
Then when you’ve finished writing the manuscript and the first draft is complete, that’s when you can get back to your next read.
It’s always a good idea to leave your manuscript to rest for a few weeks to create some distance, so that period of time could be great for getting some reading done. And after the self-editing stage, you’ll probably have more free time again when your novel is with beta readers, critique partners and professional book editors, giving you more time to focus on your reading pile.
So, there we have it – 5 solutions for effectively balancing your time between reading and writing!
I really hope you’ve found them useful; I’d love to know which one you’ll try, or if you have a completely different way of getting both done equally!
Comment below to let me know!
To your highest success,
Hey! I'm Chelsea and I'm a professional book editor at Stand Corrected Editing, my independent editorial business in the UK. If you would like to have your manuscript thoroughly edited by myself, please get in touch!
With my book editing and proofreading services, I hope to spread my knowledge and expertise on how to make your novel a success, and be a mentor to others who desperately want to pursue a fruitful career as an author!