Want to be a more productive writer? The last thing you want to do it be constantly working and not really making any progress.
It’s so easy to get into Busy Work, but what you need is actual productivity, not just activity. Check out these ideas for boosting that productivity.
Plan your writing
Try to come to your desk (or wherever you do your writing) with a plan. If you have an outline go through and decide what part of your novel you want to write that day (don’t feel you have to go chronologically either).
I always find that if I chew over a scene idea for a day, that when I finally sit down to write, I know exactly what I am writing. It might be a 200-word scene or a 2000 word scene.
The quantity is not important, having a specific idea of what to write when you sit down, will help. It is certainly better than wasting 2 hours staring at the ceiling trying to come up with something.
Block your time
This works especially if you have an idea of what you want to write. Set yourself a time, 15mins, 40mins. Whatever you think you need to complete that scene you have been brain-chewing.
Just block out some time and then get the idea down, don’t worry about making it clean and neat, just get it down.
Often just the act of writing will trigger ideas. So, get it all down within the allotted time.
When the alarm goes off you have a choice, keep going or stop (only if you have reached your designated target).
But that way, by completing what you need in that time-frame, you will have a sense of positive achievement. This is a big key to being productive.
Find your perfect writing mojo time
Struggling to write? It might be that you are coming to your desk at a time when your brain and body are just not up to it.
Often we get into routines and patterns (which is usually good…routine=good) but sometimes things change and you have to roll with it.
Maybe you found mornings were the best time to write for you. However, you now have kids and they get you up at the crack of dawn.
That doesn’t mean you should get up an hour earlier to remain an Early Bird writer. Maybe now your best writing time would be in the evening, kids are in bed and it’s all quiet.
Try out different writing times and don’t feel that you need to stick so rigidly to routines if they are no longer working for you. Read more on this in my Best Time of Day To Write blog post.
Take regular breaks
Burnout is pretty common in writers. We live pretty highly-strung, often caffeine-addicted lives. We push past our limits and lie awake at night listening to the voices as they run through their plots.
Throughout the writing day, throughout the week, make sure you take breaks from your writing. You need some personal time away from your writing. But during the writing day, you need time away from the computer and the character chatter.
Step away, take a breath, get a drink, stare out the window, ring a friend, play with the dog, just do something.
Not only is this good for mind and body, it gives your brain some away time. When you are actively writing, your brain is pretty much on Speed.
Think about it, it is pouring out numerous dialogues, painting imagery of the room, building sensory reactions and drawing up suspense….all on a diet of chocolate and caffeine!
(Be honest, that is totally what you consume while writing..it’s not like you’re eating salad and drinking mineral water!)
So be nice to your brain, give it a little time off. Give it time to mull and contemplate over plot holes and story conflicts at its own pace. It needs this time of passivity. Otherwise… burnout.
Come to your writing, excited
I covered some of this in my Be Excited to Write article, but let’s just cover some of the basics. You need to bring your positivity and enjoyment for writing to your writing space.
As writers we already have doubt and insecurities, those of the creative arts always do. All it takes is one misplaced, but well-meaning comment by some friend, family or colleague and wham, we are wallowing in our own misery.
Now while a good wallow is okay every now and then, you do need to shake that nasty crap off and bring all that awesomeness you have for writing, that passion and drive and enthusiasm for telling your story, to your writing space.
Don’t get me wrong, intense emotions sometimes need to be worked through in your writing.
If you’re angry at someone or grieving or stressed… they can colour your work with a powerful flavour… (though may need editing when you are a little clearer-headed)
However, negativity about your writing, about your talent and your ability… that can just make you worse and if you then sit down and struggle to get anything out. It can have a seriously negative impact. So leave those hang-ups at the door.
Keep your ideas close
Maybe you haven’t been chewing on some specific plot or scene, maybe you don’t know what to write but you want to write. To stay productive and get something done keep your idea notes close.
All writers have them, maybe they are on your phone, maybe in a notebook, maybe scribbled on the back of a Taco Bell receipt.. wherever you have been jotting down those ideas as they bubble up. Bring it with you to your writing space.
Pick one and write about it. Maybe it will only be 5 lines but that is 5 lines more than you had when you sat down.
Writing begets writing, one little spark of an idea that’s all you need. One to ignite another and another. You might end up writing a completely different idea than what you started but that’s okay.
Yes, we are all children craving the “Good Job” sticker or the smiley face or the huge bar of chocolate.
Create a reward for completing a goal. Maybe it was to write every day for a month. Maybe it was to write 5,000 words in 2 weeks.
Maybe it was to complete your outline. Incentivise yourself, people!
Look back over your work
I am a sucker for this. I love reading my older scenes or things I’ve just written. It’s probably been advised somewhere not to do that… but I love it.
It totally pumps me to write. I get sunk into my worlds and sometimes these works can develop into new or more complex ideas.
The only issue is, don’t get caught ONLY reading through your work over and over.
If it doesn’t encourage you to write something new, then stop yourself from losing too much time on older scenes.
Other articles that may help increase productivity
- Dealing with Distraction Syndrome
- Beating Procrastination
- Creative Constipation (otherwise known as Writers Block)
In the end, you are looking to use your time wisely, spend more time writing and less time staring aimlessly into space. Hopefully some of the above will help.
Do you have any tips on being productive?