When will you turn your corner? Perhaps, you consider yourself a writer most of the time, and one of your main goals is to complete one or multiple books. You've read hundreds of articles on writing craft, routines, productivity, etc. But when will you stop reading and start writing?
I've been writing on this blog for more than five years. At first, I wanted to get as many readers as possible so I could get advertising clicks and make a reliable second income. My goal over the last year or so has changed. I want prospective writers to read something on my site and never have to come back again. I want you to learn some of the "secrets" here and on the other blogs you frequent. I want you to take that information and never have to take our writing advice again.
On one level, this post is about increasing your writing productivity. On another, it's about finding something you can do every day, as many days as you can, to establish your writing career. Recently, I've gotten to the point where I can see my way to a full-time writing career. I don't have the book sales yet to support it, but I'm learning what I need to make it happen. I can tell you with certainty that the most important first step in becoming a writer is to establish reliable productivity. The five tips in this article can help you with that.
Vince Gilligan, the creator of the show Breaking Bad, shares my distaste for technology when it comes to creating content. When he's writing, Gilligan uses an old laptop that is unable to access the internet. It's a glorified typewriter and it's slow, but he doesn't have to worry about the million and a half distractions that come with being connected.
Personally, I use a Neo2 electronic keyboard. It has no internet capability and while it contains a few different text-based programs, all I know how to do on it is type and save. When nothing can get in the way of my writing, my productivity shoots through the roof. The number of words I can write per hour is way higher on my Neo2, and when I couple it with several of the other items on this list, I can be a writing powerhouse in a limited number of hours per week.
Find a device that lets you type without adding any kind of distraction. You may have to reach back technologically, but it will allow you to go way further on your future writing goals. And don't forget, a pencil and a sheet of paper still can't access the internet, no matter how hard you might try.
I've resisted planning my books. A lot of disorganized writers like myself probably dread creating a schedule for similar reasons. It's hard work. You force yourself to be accountable for your writing. And there's a chance you might fail.
Writers require a fair amount of toughness. If you want to be successful, there are some things you'll have to do that you may not be comfortable with. For me, it was putting together a plan and schedule with calendars, deadlines and common sense. When working on the plan for my Ted Saves the World serialized novel series, I sat down with a pencil and paper to determine how long the outlining, rough drafting, editing and promoting would take. Setting these milestones can be intimidating, but taking the time to create a schedule keeps your next book from being a five- to 10-year project.
To help with the planning process, I purchased a one-page yearly calendar that lets me see the rest of 2014 in a single glance. Writing a novel is not a short process, and seeing what's going on in the next eight months has been a huge help to me. If you're as planning-phobic as me, a notebook and a year at a glance calendar may be just what you need to plan out your project.
I bet that of all the five tips here, this will be the one writers have heard and tried the most. It also may be the most difficult to achieve. I find that I need about two to two-and-a-half hours to complete my daily word count goal. Finding that kind of time every day, five to seven days a week, is a challenge for most wannabe writers. It's an obstacle you need to overcome.
I recently started a new writing routine in which I leave the house from 6:55 a.m. to around 9:30 a.m. every weekday. I catch the same bus out and the same bus back home. Even when I'm out of town, I follow the exact same schedule and block off that time for writing and nothing else. I even put my phone on airplane mode during my writing sessions. Blocking out this time has been one of the best decisions of my writing career. I'm focused during those hours. My brain is getting used to being creative during that time. Given the large amount of work I've accomplished in my first month with the new routine, I have a feeling I'll get even more efficient as this time period becomes more habitual.
The trick here is finding a one- to three-hour window in which nothing will get in your way. If 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. works for you only a couple of days per week, I would try to shift your writing session earlier or later to accommodate. If you have children or a full-time job, scheduling a steady writing time will be more of a challenge. Getting up before everybody is awake or after everyone is asleep is an option many writers have taken to finish their books. Writers have to do things their friends and loved ones aren't willing to do. Writing is hard work and hard work isn't for everybody.
Would you use a wrench to hammer in a nail? How about a pair of scissors to open up a can of corn? Tools tend to work best when they're used as intended. If you write in a room located in the middle of your house that is prone to foot traffic, you may not have found the right tool/location for your creative process. If every room in your home has multiple purposes, you may need to find somewhere else to write entirely.
I've talked about the importance of location before. I'm currently renting out a desk at a writer's co-op space to get my morning fiction writing in without distraction. If you can't afford something like that, libraries, restaurants, coffee shops and other spaces work as long as you stick to your guns and refuse to do anything but write there.
When you have a lot of choices during your writing sessions, you may find yourself taking the easy way out more often than you'd like. If you can write a book, check your email, do the laundry, eat a buffet, exercise, sing, dance and more in your writing location, you're likely to distract yourself on a tough day. Some writing days are a cake walk and you can easily stay in the zone. When you strand yourself in a location where writing is the only option, the difficult days are still hard, but you'll probably reach your daily goal by hook or by crook.
Try out different locations. Keep searching until you find one that works. When you do, you'll be surprised by how much your writing productivity may increase.
While the end goal of any writing project is to finish the best book possible, I'd like you to keep a greater goal in mind for your writing productivity. I intend to write every weekday morning for the foreseeable future. In my current streak, I've written 20 connective weekdays. If I continue to write without taking a weekday off between now and the completion of my first three novels, I will have written for around 140 straight weekdays. That's the streak I'm shooting for.
To be more productive as a writer, it's helpful to seek out these kinds of streaks on your own. Decide how many days you intend to write per week, whether it's one or seven (though I recommend at least five), and keep track of how many days in a row you've completed your "intended" writing sessions. I suggest you do this by keeping track on your year at a glance calendar or in a notebook.
Missing a day isn't the end of the world. You just need to try to beat your previous streak over and over again. I once made it over 200 straight days (weekends included) writing 2,500 words or more. I'm not sure if I'll ever attempt a seven-day-per-week streak again, but I'm proud to have that achievement in my personal writing records (PWRs). Go out and set some PWRs for yourself.
All five of these tips represent changes in habit. If you aren't getting as much writing accomplished as you'd like, you need to change your habits. Whether you take these suggestions or different ideas from another author, it's better to try something new than to go with the same old song and dance. Experiment. Let yourself try and fail. Every writer needs to find his or her writing rhythm. Don't give up before you'd found yours.