1) Set a DEADLINE
‘I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by,’ said uber-author Douglas Adams, but seriously? If you want to get stuff done – and done FAST – set yourself one. I always advocate looking ahead at the calendar, breaking down what’s possible in what time and having THREE deadlines: one ‘likely finish’; one ‘hopeful finish’ and one ‘unlikely finish’. Try it!
2) Work out your BEST TIME
I work best mid-morning till lunchtime on my own writing. This is because first thing in the morning I’m doing admin and social media stuff. After 1pm, my concentration tends to wane, so I write blog posts, respond to more emails, script read etc. There’s also the school run at 3pm, followed by juggling whiney kids and yet more admin. When’s YOUR best time to get your writing done? Do you know? Find out!
3) Research / prepare FIRST
I always say ‘your best writing is done by thinking’ – if you do you researching and preparation first (whatever that means), then you’re much less likely to end up in The Story Swamp.
4) Find your Magic NUMBER #1
I settled on 500 words a day of my novel. I don’t write every day, so 500 words is a conservative estimate – what is most likely to happen is I write 2-3K in one go, then don’t write for a few days, then write another 2K. So most weeks I’m happy if I’ve hit 4K total (if I’ve written more, even better). Maybe for you it’s 5 pages, or 2K or whatever. Whatever your magic number is, try and stick to it and stay on schedule.
5) Write an OUTLINE
I outline EVERYTHING. And by ‘outline’ I don’t necessarily mean a whole document, but bullet points, plans, lists, notes to self, whatever. It fits in with point 3 on this list and means I can be preparing even when I’m away from the computer and dealing with whiney kids.
6) Hunt down ‘FOR SOME REASON’
Plotting can be a bitch and every often we can let ourselves off the hook when we have a few precious hours in front of the computer. We may have characters doing various contrived actions for the sake of convenience, rather than for a good reason for example, ie. S/he does [whatever] FOR SOME REASON. When you find yourself doing this, STOP.
That’s right. Get off the computer. Do not pass GO. Get a notepad and pen and note down what your character WANTS and WHY. From there, brainstorm all the possible things s/he could do to with that. Don’t let yourself – or your character – off the hook! Then you will be pounding out the words quick as lightning again.
7) Minimise DISTRACTIONS
If you know you get distracted, do whatever it takes to ensure you stay on track. Me, I wear earphones and have loud music. I leave my phone downstairs, so I don’t go on Facebook, except at designated breaks. The first time I did it I thought I would DIE, but it’s surprisingly easy the more you do it. Go for it!
8) Stop in the MIDDLE OF SOMETHING
I always remember this brilliant advice:
“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.” – Ernest Hemingway
I have followed this to the letter since I began writing and can tell you it works a charm, because it means you’re champing at the bit to get back to it. Try it!
9) Find your Magic NUMBER #2
I try to write my own stuff 2 hours a day. This often doesn’t work out because I am a ‘binge writer’; I’m also lucky enough to be freelance, so can take a day out to write non-stop if I want to. If you can’t binge-write either due to necessity and/or day jobs, work out how long you need, per day, and protect those writing hours at all costs.
10) Set a TIMER
I’ve never done this, but plenty of Bang2writers swear by setting timers and ‘writing sprints’. Sometimes they do them together over Twitter and Facebook: Scott Myers’ ZeroDraft30 group have ‘scampers’ where they all write as many words as they can in a designated time. If this appeals, go for it!
11) Get a writing PARTNER
Double the writers, double the amount of writing! Working in a duo can have serious advantages. If that doesn’t appeal, why not have an ‘accountability buddy’ – you tell people what you want to get done and by when, so they can keep you on track (and you return the favour). Feel free to put shout-outs for this in the Bang2writers Facebook group.
12) Use a SIGN
During particularly important times, I have been known to put notices on my door reading stuff like ‘ENTER AND DIE!!!’ You may be more nurturing than me, in which case DO NOT DISTURB may suffice.
13) Compete with YOURSELF
If you did 500 words yesterday, can you do 1K today? If you did 5K last week, can you manage 7.5K this week? Maybe you could combine this one with number 10 on this list. Knock yourself out.
14) Use FILLERS & BLANKS
Sometimes, you come up against minor sticking points as you write, especially when it comes to specific words or phrases, bits of dialogue or something else random. Instead of agonising over them (which slows you down), simply put XXXXX or @@@@ or BLANKETY BLANK. That way you can return to them later with fresh eyes and simply plough on now.
15) Realise you don’t have to write CHRONOLOGICALLY
I’ve written before on this blog that I plan BACKWARDS to save writing hours and ensure my plotting doesn’t start ‘too early’. I think this tip rocks and it’s sped my writing up 435.66666% (actual scientific fact). But even if you don’t fancy that, no one says you HAVE to write in the ‘right’ order. Why not write the middle first? Or miss out a scene or chapter that’s not working and write the next one? Do it whatever way it works. Just make you remember you’ve done this!!
16) Write like CRAP
Give yourself permission to write like crap. It’s a first draft! Fix it later. Get it DONE.