We hear it all the time.
BICHOK.Want to be a writer? Write. Writers write every day. And of course, all of that is true. But I've got to confess something. I just finished a first draft of a story. I sat my butt down and put my hands on the keyboard for several hours for 29 days and won NaNoWriMo. For a month, my dogs were neglected. My refrigerator was empty. My nice gel manicure slowly peeled off, leaving me with broken nails. I was exhausted. And people were talking about starting revisions on December 1st. Ha! You know what I said to that?
"Uh, no. Don’t do that." (And not because those overachievers were making me look bad.)
Now, before you read my advice, I’ll give the standard spiel about how what works for one writer (me) may not work for you (hi!), and to always take writing advice with a grain of salt.
The next phase of your noveling process is of course up to you, but here’s my humble yet very strong opinion.
Author Lani Diane Rich, the first previously unpublished author to publish a book written during NaNo, advises waiting six weeks before starting the revision process. She compares those six weeks to letting bread dough rise.
Why? Well, any form of a writing marathon lacks one thing that your stories desperately need.
She's right. Trying to work with dough before it has risen enough is really, really a pain. The final product may be good enough, but probably dense and kind of chewy and just not right. But if you wait, forming a nice, neat loaf (or braid) is much less painful, and the final product is much more pleasant to eat.
The same goes for your stories. When you finish a first draft, give your eyes, your brains, and your bodies a well-deserved break and put those stories away. When you come back to a draft after six weeks (or whenever is good for you), you’ll weave the “dough” you formed into a tight, neat story that’ll be smoother for you and your readers.
That said, if you let your dough rise too long, you can end up with an airy mess that’s almost impossible to work with.
It’s okay to step away from your story. Use the time to think about your novel, make collages, use pictures from IMDB to “cast” your novel, and listen to your playlist. If you miss writing, write something completely different from what you normally write, like an essay or short story.
Feed your muse by reading and watching TV and movies.
Even if you don’t do any writing-related tasks for a while, your story will stay in your brain, taking care of itself. (Think of your story as a stew and your brain as a slow cooker).Meanwhile, see your friends and family. Give your pets some love. Curl up under a blanket. Drink tea. Go out and do things that make you happy. Get that manicure. And get some sleep. Don't feel guilty. Don't compare yourself to other writers who are still at their keyboards. You just wrote a novel. At the moment, you have nothing to prove. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. You know that when you go back to your story, you'll be mentally and physically stronger, ready for an efficient and hopefully quick revision battle.
One more thing. As you face "reentry" into the real world, don't forget about your accomplishments. Use that feeling of pride to fuel everything you've got going on.Enjoy the ride! Melina writes contemporary romance with a pinch of oregano and a dash of chutzpah. She loves to travel, especially to her family’s village in Crete, and turn her adventures into research for her novels. In July of 2012, she moved from New York to Jerusalem with her adorable but sneaky cocker spaniel. Her family now includes an incredibly sweet yet troubled rescue puppy. Melina likes the color pink, baking, daffodils, teaching girls to code, running her small business, learning to use power tools, practicing self-defense, Krav Maga and karate, and breaking cinder blocks with her fist. She has been freakishly dedicated to and enthusiastic about NaNoWriMo for over ten years, and enjoys acting as a Co Municipal Liaison for Jerusalem. You can visit her at http://melinakantor.com.
I was discussing TV shows with my hubby the other night. He wanted me to binge watch a show with him. I told him I did not have time to pick up another show. His response? “You have the time; it’s just not a priority.”
My free time is limited these days, and I’ve cut back on certain things. I went from stay-at-home mom with plenty of time to volunteer at the school and watch TV to a full time writer on deadline while trying to do all the a stay-at-home mom stuff like making dinner (These small humans running around my house require constant feeding!) Things have changed, priorities have shifted, and it’s a work in progress. One thing I’ve had to work hard at not letting fall off my list is my relationship with my hubby. It’s honestly been difficult to find the right balance.
Here are some things I’ve had to cut back on or cut out of my life entirely:
- Morning television. It was nice knowing you, Kelly Ripa. Maybe we’ll catch up over the holidays.
- Volunteering. I know the greatest joy we get in life is giving back. And, I’ve done a lot of it over the past few years. From helping to run a local Mom’s Club to organizing our PTA Carnival to corralling eighty kids for an afterschool Lego Club. Someday, I’ll dip my toes into something worthwhile, but right now, I’vebacked off from volunteer commitments to focus on something else that gives me joy. Writing. Do I feel guilty? A little, but I’ll get over it.
- Cleaning. I’m not going to claim to have been a neat freak even before getting the writing bug. But, my family never had to dig through the pile of clean, unfolded laundry on my bedroom floor for a pair of undies. I can say with ~95% confidence you will not leave my house with a food-borne illness. However, if you are allergic to dog or cat hair, you’d better bring a bottle of Benadryl and/or an inhaler.
- Reading. I know this seems counter-intuitive. Most writing advice tells you to read, read, read in order to be a better writer. And, I do agree…to some extent. I AM reading for huge chunks of my day. But, I’m reading/editing my writing or reading/CP’ing for other writers. I’m also hesitant to read in the genre I’m writing, and these days I’m writing both contemporaries and historical romances. I’ve read interviews from Big Time authors who don’t read in their genre either, so I feel justified. I’m mostly afraid I’ll subconsciously transfer something. But, I’m a member of a kick-butt book club, and I always read our selection. Usually something highbrow and literary and depressing☺.
- Exercising. This is one area where I’m searching for balance. Mommy no likey the writer’s muffin-top I’ve cultivated, and as I am over forty now, it’s proving more difficult to control the expansion. But, I have a difficult time leaving my writing for a workout if I haven’t reached my word count goal for the day.
- Socializing. My days of gossiping in the PTA room or grabbing coffee or heading out for girl’s nights are on the wane. Besides my book club ladies and my local writing friends, who I see on a regular basis, there are only a handful of people that I call on a regular basis. I’m still close to a group of college girlfriends, and we get together a couple of weekends a year and email regularly. But, to be brutally honest, I don’t have time to expand my base of friends. Don’t I sound terribly unfriendly?
- Sleep. I think we’re all in this dozy boat, right? I’m either going to bed late to spend time with my hubby and/or getting up early to write before the kids wake up for school. The result is a deficit. Lack of sleep makes me very grumpy. So, back to Number 6…maybe you don’t want to be my friend anyway☺
* What about you guys? Anything you’ve given up to pursue writing or another dream? *
An award-winning author, Laura Trentham was born and raised in a small town in Tennessee. Although she loved English and reading in high school, she was convinced an English degree equated to starvation. She chose the next most logical major—Chemical Engineering—and worked in a hard hat and steel toed boots for several years.
She writes sexy, small town contemporaries and smoking hot Regency historicals. KISS ME THAT WAY, Cottonbloom Book 1, is a finalist for the Stiletto Contest and for the National Readers Choice Award. THEN HE KISSED ME, Cottonbloom Book 2, was named an Amazon Best Romance of 2016 and is a finalist for the National Excellence for Romance Fiction. TILL I KISSED YOU, Cottonbloom Book 3, is a finalist in the Maggie contest. When not lost in a cozy Southern town or Regency England, she’s shuttling kids to soccer, helping with homework, and avoiding the Mt. Everest-sized pile of laundry that is almost as big as the to-be-read pile of books on her nightstand.
What happens when an author’s creativity slows to a tickle or stops altogether? Besides PANIC, Writer’s Block is the most common term for the condition. What are the causes? What’s the cure?
Lots of issues can lead to writer’s block, but one of the most frequent causes is burnout. Authors tend to write every day, usually eight or more hours a day and close to three hundred sixty-five days a year. A few days away can recharge the brain and allow the mind to focus on something else. Writing inspiration often comes from observing—people, nature, etc. Think of the time spent on “vacation” as research.
Stress is another major factor in abandonment by the muse. Unfortunately, it’s often a fact of life—but exercise can combat the effects of stress, leading to a relaxed mind and free-flowing thoughts. Diet, which may be affected by stress, can also affect mood and health, which in turn can cause stress. Break the cycle. Physical wellbeing can improve the state of the mind. Since writers tend to lead sedentary lives, proper diet and exercise can make a substantial difference in reducing writer’s block as well improving stress levels and general health.
Lack of sleep and some medications can also affect the ability to focus on a story. Note taking and in-depth plotting can be helpful aids in dealing with medication-related concentration problems. Better sleep habits or daily naps may make a difference with sleep deprivation and/or insomnia-related writing issues.
Possibly the most frustrating of all causes is the story itself. Oftentimes, the author’s subconscious mind notices problems with the story before the author does. Logic lapses, plot issues, and inconsistent characters aren’t always immediately apparent. Does the story start in the right place? Is each scene written in the most effective POV? Setting aside the manuscript for several days reduces familiarity, and mistakes are more easily spotted on a read-through. A critique partner or beta reader can also help in these instances. Fix the issues, and the story will likely begin flowing again.
Lack of confidence is another creativity killer. Some writers need to complete multiple drafts of a single manuscript before it’s ready for editing. Others edit as they go. No matter the process, writing should be as enjoyable as it is hard. Perfection isn’t the immediate goal. A finished manuscript comes first. Edits and feedback follow to improve the story and/or the craft.
Take a deep breath, give the muse a boot in the behind, and WRITE!
* What do you do when writer's block hits? Share your tips in the comments! *
When her fingers aren't attached to her keyboard, Mellanie Szereto enjoys hiking, Pilates, cooking, gardening, and researching for her stories. Many times, the research partners with her other hobbies, taking her from the Hocking Hills region in Ohio to the Colorado Rockies or the Adirondacks of New York. Sometimes, the trip is no farther than her garden for ingredients and her kitchen to test recipes for her latest steamy tale. Mellanie makes her home in rural Indiana with her husband of thirty-one years and their son. She is a 2016 recipient of the RWA Service Award, RWA Chapter Advisor, and a member of Romance Writers of America, Indiana Romance Writers of America, Contemporary Romance Writers, and Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance Writers.
I’m getting a divorce. There, I said it. Out loud. Admission is half the key, right?
Yeah, right, if only.
This is a secret I’ve held close to the chest for quite some time now, only recently finally informing people of my personal plight. It’s embarrassing. Even though I shouldn’t be, I am. So, I’ve kept quiet and tried to go about my daily life. Try, being the key word.
I haven’t gone into explicit details about my pending divorce, only placing a vague post on social media. My closest friends and coworkers know the insane details and it’ll remain that way. Really, it’s no one’s business and who really cares? I am not one of those people who posts her dirty laundry all over social media for people to weigh in. But when I did make the announcement, something unexpected happened. Well, unexpected to me. Because I had no idea what to expect when I just tossed out there the big D-word.
First, I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of support I received. I had no idea how many people would reach out privately to send me messages of support. I was honestly amazed.
Second, I was saddened at how many authors are also going through what I am. Now, maybe they don’t have the Jerry Springer episode background as part of their plot, like I do. (Trust me, be glad you don’t.) But that doesn’t make their situation any less writer-life-soul-sucking than mine. Which begs the question:
How the hell do we get through this while writing a story?
Good question. I don’t know if I have the answers but here’s what I’ve found that’s semi-working, so far.
1. I just can’t…and I must accept it.
I wish I could say, “Just do this or do that,” and the words will come, but that’s not realistic. They don’t come. Characters don’t speak to you clearly or cleverly when your mind is worried about what is to come next in your personal life. I would love tosay that I’m able to lose myself in the manuscript but that’s far from the truth. I can barely concentrate on the page in front of me. I wish there was a turn on/off switch and I could flip it as needed. If only.
I had planned a trilogy release for October. Not going to happen. Only 1 out of the 3 books is written and after giving it to my awesome beta readers, the novel needs a lot of work. This had upset me immensely. I’m not used to my betas ripping apart my novels. (Which, I’m not going to complain about. Their brutal honesty I value greatly.) When expressing my frustration to my author friend, she brought up a good point. “Casey, you’re lucky you wrote a book. Give yourself a break.”
It was then I realized that my determination and drive got me to write a novel but the same persistence wasn’t allowing me to accept that novel was lacking. Which, of course it would be. How on earth could anyone write a good novel when your life is nothing but one big Maury Povich show, waiting for the next bomb to be dropped from a cue card? It was those truthful words from a good friend that gave me some relief. I’ve pushed back the release date until 2018 and can now concentrate on editing and writing books 2 and 3.
2. Continue to work on the novel.
I am continuing to try to work on the novel. I open it every day and even if it’s 1 line of edits, it’s something. Because I know, at some point, my muse will return, roaring to release all the pent up creativity she’s collecting. It’s only a matter of time. But, that won’t happen if I don’t keep opening the manuscript. Plus, I don’t want to get rusty. Who knows if that’s an actual thing with writers but I’m not willing to find out.3. Lean on your writing friends.
There is absolutely nothing better to get your mind off all the drama than going to a chapter meeting, attending that conference, going to a book signing. Or any of the many other things that have to do with writing but not necessarily the actual writing part. Being able to escape reality for writers/authors in these situations is as precious as readers being able to escape in our novels. Bonus, your writer friends will give you various ways of how to turn your own drama into a book.
In all seriousness, I don’t know what I would do without my writer friends. There is zero judgement. Only concern and infallible support. Lean on them. Tell them what’s happening. Be truthful. It’s such a chore to keep all you’re going through inside. After all, we’re writers. We’re used to expressing ourselves on paper, telling our stories to the world. When we keep our own drama inside, it eats away at our souls.4. Lean on your friends.
Just like #3, this one is just as invaluable. When I finally made my general announcement on Facebook about my divorce, the responses were overwhelming. My messenger box blew up with readers, authors, and friends contacting me with love and support. I hadn’t expected that. I made a generalized statement and in that short, one paragraph post, the goodness in people came through. That has been one of the better moments of this process.
*Side note: If you’re going to post something on social media, don’t blast the ex. It’s not worth it. Just a vague statement is good enough. Don’t be that drama llama that airs the dirty secrets to the masses. We’re authors of fiction not tabloid writers using our own lives as fodder.
The price of this writer’s divorce? My creativity.
It sucks and not every author/writer will have the same problem. But I know that I can’t be the only one to have their world turned upside down and the muse decides to go on hiatus at the same time. It’s okay. She’ll come back and when she does, she’ll return on fire.
And to those who are going through the same, awful life situation. I feel your pain. I wish you all the best. I hope your words come back soon, too. Dig your heels in and protect your words, your mind, your soul, and yourself.
If you’ve gone through a divorce or are going through one, what are your suggestions in getting through with your creativity intact?
Contemporary Romantic Suspense Author Casey Clipper is from Pittsburgh, PA. She's a noted sports fanatic, chocolate addict, and has a slight obsession with penguins. She's an avid romance reader and loves to lose herself in a good book, like we all do, right? Casey currently serves as president of the Contemporary Romance Writers of America. Casey is an active member of the Romance Writers of America, Three Rivers Romance Writers, Kiss of Death, North Eastern Ohio Romance Writers of America, and ASMSG. Casey is the recipient of the 2016 JABBIC HBARWA Short Contemporary Romance Readers’ Choice Award.
Follow Casey on the following platforms:
Want to know how to approach writing non-fiction when you’re most used to romantic stories? Don’t ask me; I didn’t do it.
But you’ve published that lovely romance that’s set in a really exotic place called…
Jerusalem. You’re right. My romance, Neither Here Nor There was published in 2014 and my new non-fiction book, Social Anxiety Revealed, is out on August 22.
There you are, then.
There I’m not. You see, I wrote the first draft of Social Anxiety Revealed back in 2004. I was still working as a technical writer then and was used to organising stuff under headings and sub-headings. I also created lots of different styles for the book to show up the different sorts of writing in it: text, quotes, tables, jokes. I was used to all this from creating technical documents. My publisher has now had the nightmare of converting all that from a Word document to a book.
Wait a minute. You said “jokes” right? You have jokes in a book about social anxiety?
Absolutely. Even people who suffer from social anxiety know how to laugh – although they probably don’t laugh too loudly. And their low self-esteem makes it easy for them (us) to laugh at themselves. Besides, this book isn’t intended solely for people who have social anxiety. It’s just as relevant for anyone who knows someone who might have it. It’s not a self-help book, although it does contain a few tips. It simply explains what social anxiety is – all aspects of it.
Why did you write it?
To raise awareness of social anxiety. That’s my passion. Social anxiety is the most common anxiety disorder there is. It’s the third most common mental health issue. About 12% of people will suffer from it at some time in their lives. And yet most people don’t know what it is.
And what does that have to do with writing romance?
One link is story. Even in non-fiction, you can create a story to illustrate a point. I did this in Social Anxiety Revealed. I made up a fictional character with social anxiety, a guy who lives alone and doesn’t connect with anyone. Then I discussed how his neighbours would regard him.
The ability to create stories has many uses. When I learned (in a Toastmasters club) about giving prepared talks and I had to actually give short talks as practice, my best talk consisted mostly of a story I made up. The talk was more interesting than the others I gave and it was much easier for me to remember a story than a list of points.
Another link is in the contrast. How many romances have you read that include a character with social anxiety? Romance requires two people to approach each other, or at least one to approach the other. And that requires a confidence that social anxiety sufferers usually don’t have. They’re likely to think: she doesn’t like me, or he’ll laugh me off, and so they won’t take the plunge.
The one who is approached also needs confidence to respond positively. If they’re thinking: he only asked me because he has pity on me/has just been stood up/thinks I’m slightly better than having no one to spend the evening with, that positive response is unlikely to materialise.
Is it helpful for a romance writer to publish an unconnected non-fiction work? Does it help with sales of the author’s romances?
Ah, you’ll have to come back to me on that one.*How has reading / writing non-fiction influenced your writing?
Miriam Drori has decided she’s in the fifth and best stage of her life, and she’s hoping it’ll last for ever. It’s the one in which she’s happiest and most settled and finally free to do what she wants.
Miriam lives in a delightful house and garden in Jerusalem with her lovely husband and one of three children. She enjoys frequent trips around the world. She dances, hikes, reads and listens to music. And she’s realised that social anxiety is here to stay, so she might as well make friends with it.
On top of that, she has moved away from computer programming and technical writing (although both of those provided interest in previous stages) and now spends her time editing and writing fiction. NEITHER HERE NOR THERE, a romance with a difference set in Jerusalem, was published in 2014. THE WOMEN FRIENDS, co-written with Emma Rose Millar, is a series of novellas based on the famous painting by Gustav Klimt. Future books will include a sequel to NEITHER HERE NOR THERE.
Vacations. We all love them. Just the sound of the word can bring stress relief. We plan, research, save for and dream about them all year long. And when the time gets near, we go shopping, buy new outfits and struggle to cram them all into our over-stuffed suitcases. No? Just me? Well, moving on, then.
If you’re anything like me, you’re never truly on vacation from writing. I may get away from the norm, but my creative mind is always spinning. Vacations fill me with inspiration for new stories or ideas for my current WIP. More than once, I have come home from a trip with a new story completely plotted from beginning to end, or with a scene written out in beautiful detail that had previously stumped me. One time, I had so many ideas for a new novel I spent the entire three-hour fight home scribbling out plot points and character profiles on a stack of index cards. When we landed, the man next to me commented that he hadn’t seen anyone write that fast or that much in a long time. My cramped hand had to agree.
All those precious vacation moments can affect your writing in two different ways. Itcan affect how you, as the writer, write. Or, you can use those tasty travel tidbits to send your characters on vacay. We’ll explore both ways, but first let’s talk about you, the writer.
Close your eyes for a moment and picture your last vacation. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Can you see yourself there, standing in the middle of a scene worthy of being captured on a picture post card, doing what you love, relaxed and invigorated at the same time? Those are the moments, memories and feelings that can fuel your writing. Here are a few ways you can incorporate them in your writing.
- Seductive Settings. Readers want to be whisked away, and what is a better place to take them than someplace near and dear to your heart? If you don’t want to set your next novel entirely in your last vacation destination, try incorporating elements into whatever setting you do use. A favorite restaurant you tried or a beautiful garden you visited can be great inspirations to add to your settings.
- Capture the Culture. One thing I love doing on vacation is exploring the culture of the place I’m visiting. I love the little nuances that make every place unique. Recently, I was visiting family in the Florida Keys. I love it down there, everyone is a little more relaxed. They have an unofficial shoes-optional policy. It’s not uncommon to spot locals hanging out in Starbucks or running into the grocery store with bare feet. No one is ever in a hurry, unless the fish are biting. Then they can’t get their boats into the Gulf Stream fast enough. Use these little nuances to create deeper, richer, more interesting characters, or to influence how your characters react in different settings.
- Making Memories. Did you come home from your last trip with a crazy story? Use it! My books are full of slightly altered versions of crazy things that happened on vacation, and they are usually the scenes that readers say they love the most. Which scenes, you ask? Nope, not telling. But if you think ‘that could not happen,’ there’s a good chance it probably did. Sometimes our best inspiration comes from things that happen in real life.
- Enriching Experiences. Experiencing new things expands your world knowledge and broadens your understanding which, in turn, can make you a more interesting writer. Consider every new experience you try to be research for a future novel. Sure, you’re not going to use everything you do in your next manuscript, but add it to your memory bank to use when you need it. Even if all you did on vacation was veg by pool with the intention of keeping your step-count as low as possible, that state of ultimate relaxation can be an experience you might want to pull from someday.
Don’t forget that your characters can benefit from travel, too. Having your characters pack their suitcases, or even their overnight bags, can add an interesting element to your story. Consider how sending your characters on a getaway could affect your story:
- Taking them out of their norm can changes their mindset, shift the relationship dynamics, or help them see things differently.
- New experiences can play an important role in your character’s arc. It can be the spark that prompts change.
- A romantic getaway, or a getaway that turns romantic, can be just what your characters need to jump into that relationship. I mean, we do write romance, after all.
I’m going to leave you with a few helpful tips to harvest the most benefits from your travels.
- Take pictures. They can help you remember not just the details of the settings, but the feelings that went along with them.
- Keep a journal to jot down your thoughts.
- Enjoy yourself! The more fun you have, the more experience and memories you have to take home.
So, what do you think? Anyone else ready to book their next vacation? It’s all in the name of research, after all. Happy travels!
Rachel wrote her first novel when she was twelve and entered it into a contest for young author/illustrators. Unfortunately, the judges weren’t impressed with her stick figures. So she dropped the dream of becoming a world famous illustrator and stuck to spinning stories. When she’s not busy working on her latest book, she loves to travel with her family and friends. By far, her favorite destination is the beach, which tends to work its way into most of her stories. In fact, her debut novel, Happily Ever Afters, is about strangers who meet and fall in love while on vacation.
Between trips, you can find her at home in The Woodlands, TX with her wonderful husband, their two adventurous kids and a couple of spirited pets, all of whom share Rachel’s love of the ocean. Well, except the cat and dog. They’re both afraid of water. Find out more about what Rachel has been up to at rachelmageebooks.com.
We writers tend to have vivid imaginations… especially when it’s night time and we’re alone in the house. This is a true story from May of 2014. See if you can figure out the actual solution to this mystery. OR… how would you WRITE the solution?
My ears are more finely tuned to spooky unknown sounds at night when my wife is out of town.
I had just gotten into bed, around midnight, when I heard this repeated eerie sound, Tap...clack-click. It seemed to be coming from the bathroom, the door of which I had just closed (as I always do before retiring).
It wasn't King Sipper (our cat), because he was up on the bed beside me.
It was not a distant train.
Turned off my 'white noise' machine and listened closely.
It was definitely coming from the bathroom, and apparently from the other side of the door my face was presently pressed against. I don't know Morse, but I knew this was no S-O-S. But what was it?
Here are some of the suggested solutions to my mystery that I’ve already received. Add yours to the mix and I’ll return later tonight (or tomorrow morning) to tell y’all the REAL solution.
* walls cooling down
* tap dancing cockroach
* dripping faucet
* battery operated grandkid’s toy
* branch tapping against a window
* Poe’s story, "The Tell-Tale Heart," come to life
* And my favorite of the suggested solutions: attempted communication from aliens who use the old-fashioned “tap....clack-click” language.
Add your possible solution in the comments section and I’ll return later tonight (or tomorrow morning) to tell y’all the REAL solution.
As we authors are composing scenes, let’s not be too quick to end them prematurely. Sometimes the characters can take us in a totally different direction.
Jeff Salter, who has written 12 novels and five novellas, already has 14 fiction titles released with three royalty publishers. His most recent is “The Duchess of Earl” released in mid-July by Clean Reads. Two more titles are due out this year and he has several works in progress.
~ By Tanya Agler
Note: Tanya's companion post, Writing During a Family Crisis, can be found here.
Okay, we’ve all been there. We’re about to start writing and bam! The robocall of congratulations comes as you’ve won a free cruise to Nebraska if you turn over our checking account number now. A knock on the office door precedes your youngest running in with blood gashing out of his forehead and an ER trip is in your immediate future. A pop-up notification alerts you a prince in Nigeria wants to give you a million dollars because you’re a wonderful person. Okay, I’m exaggerating on purpose, but think about it. When you sit down to write, how often do you check your e-mail or your Facebook feed for just a second or tell yourself it will be one game of Solitaire? Even right now, thank you for reading this blog, but were you about to open your manuscript? If so, this might be the article you’ve been waiting for. If, on the other hand, you are rewarding yourself by reading one of your favorite website blogs after a productive day of writing, please come write with me and let your discipline rub off on me!
To Do Lists. Why are they the rage this year? Because they work. One caveat. Make a to-do list on a sheet of paper or in a day planner or in a notebook. Crossing items off with a pen or pencil often helps you feel like you’ve accomplished something. How specific your to-do list is up to you. (My wonderful husband has fun whenever he finds my to-do list. He often writes in watch Doc Martin with WH). If you like crossing off lots of activities, go ahead and include items like brushing your teeth and getting dressed. Often crossing off the little things gives a sense of accomplishment. If, however, you only want to itemize your writing goals to stay on task, do that. These are only suggestions on maximizing your writing productivity. Find what works best for you. When you see positive results, stick with that method.
Priorities. Say you’ve used a to-do list for a week and have discovered you can only get two out of three writing activities done each day. Now you know what you are capable of, and you have the power to decide whether to classify those activities in terms of importance or work a little at a time on all three. One caveat. First and foremost, when you are prioritizing your writing tasks, make sure that number one is writing or editing your work in progress.
Turn off notifications. When you are actually in the chair with your hands on the keyboard, eliminate as many distractions as possible. If you can turn off notifications, do that. You don’t even need an app. Just click on system preferences, click on turn off notifications when you start writing and turn them on again when you’re done for the day. Caveat. I have kids in school, and the nurse calls when there’s a head injury. So I can’t turn off my phone when they’re in school. Do what you can to minimize distractions while taking your personal circumstances into account.
Timers or Sprints. I love my timers. I write for twenty or twenty-five minutes, then I read a book about writing for ten or get up and walk around. If I’m really into a scene, I’ll keep going when the timer goes off, but I’ve discovered I can write for longer periods as a result. Some writers swear by word sprints. If those help you, find friends on FB or go to Twitter and look for a group of writers who will sprint with you.
Spreadsheets. Okay, some of you are now running for the hills. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It can be a notebook where you write the date and your word count. I use an Excel spreadsheet. Why? So I can see at a glance the numbers adding up and know I’m writing daily.
Rewards. Yes, I know some of you read the word bribes. I prefer to call them a reward. There are scenes that will be harder to write than others. On these days, I load a little bag with M&Ms or Hershey Kisses. Every five hundred words or so, I reward myself with a Hershey Kiss. I try not to make this an everyday occurrence but, in a pinch, the small treat helps me keep going.
So those are some tips that might make your BICHOK time more productive.
*If you have any tips you want to share, please leave a comment.
This write-at-home mom lives in Georgia with her husband, four kids, one Basset Hound (Vera) and one rabbit (Gandalf). She writes a mixture of inspirational category and sweet contemporary Southern front porch romances. In 2016, she placed first in the Great Expectations Contest (Contemporary Category) and the Catherine Contest (Contemporary Short) as well as finaled in the Maggies and TARA Contests.
When she’s not writing, chauffeuring her children or folding laundry, Tanya loves classic movies (preferably black and white or anything with Cary Grant) or enjoying a cup of tea alongside a good book.