In our Team Up writers’ sessions, we’ve been discussing productivity, and our biggest challenges in writing more.
Productivity is a challenge for most authors. We can be busy, without being productive — we write and write, but we can’t seem to meet our deadlines.
Productivity: focus and write more
The biggest challenge? Distractions. No one in the group found concentration and focus easy. However, without focus, there’s little chance that we’ll write as much as we could.
Of course, some things are more distracting that others. It’s hard to turn off your phone; it’s a little easier to avoid Facebook. Various apps help you to avoid distractions, but goals work better, so that’s our first tip.
1. Set overall goals and daily goals for your project (Scrivener, and other writing apps help)
Scrivener makes it easy to set word count goals for a project, as well as for each writing session. Ulysses offers a similar feature; I know that other apps do too. Check the Help files of your favorite writing app.
When you know that you need to write a certain number of words in your session, you avoid Facebook and similar distractions until you’re done.
2. Sit down in a chair, open the document you need, and write 50 words
The hardest part of writing is getting started. So, as the old saying goes — place your butt in your chair.
Then write 50 words. You can write 50 words even on your worst day, when you have a blinding headache.
Keep up this process until it becomes a habit — it’s easier if you schedule your sessions, and sit down in the same place every day.
3. Handwrite or dictate your first draft (or choose a writing method that’s fun for you)
Few things are scarier than a blank computer screen.
Get some words onto the screen, any way you can. I either handwrite or dictate my first drafts.
On days when I’m feeling resistant to writing, I handwrite several pages. It helps that I have a fountain pen addiction, and enjoy writing with pens. Think about what you enjoy when it comes to getting those initial words.
I know one writer who writes her first drafts on her phone. She’s very productive, writing several books a year. I couldn’t write on my phone, but it works for her.
4. Know what you intend writing each day before you sit down
Not an idea in your head? Yep, this happens to me too.
However, over the years, I’ve learned to avoid this disaster by outlining several scenes ahead. For me, and for other writers too, this scenario, in which you’re trapped like a deer in the headlights, leads to procrastination… and your productivity dies.
By nature I’m a pantser. I’m happy to start writing when I know the basic story question of a novel, and my main characters. Then I create a mind map or two, and a rough outline of the next four or five scenes.
Unfortunately on some days I realize that — oh no… I’ve nothing outlined. My mind maps suddenly seem dreary and uninspiring.
On those days, I drop back two or three chapters. I reread those chapters, and then I’m good to go — I’ve got inspiration for the next several scenes.
If I’m in a panic because I know that I need a major plot twist (if the midpoint’s coming up, for example, and I realize that I haven’t laid the foundation for it); I might go back to the beginning of the novel, and reread until I’m inspired again.
5. Back yourself to success: no one else will, until YOU do
Without a doubt, the biggest productivity killer for authors is a lack of confidence. Sadly, self-confidence ebbs and flows. No matter how many books you’ve written, every book is a new experience.
One way to gain self-confidence (maybe the only way) is to back yourself. After all, no one else will, if you don’t.
Backing yourself is a decision. I’ve no idea how an author gets to the point where he makes the decision: I will succeed.
Whenever I’ve asked an author when he decided that he’d back himself to succeed, he said something like:
- “I don’t know…” (sounding surprised);
- “I decided that I would succeed, no matter what…”
- “I got sick of my doubts — so I decided to ignore them…”
Decide to back yourself. You don’t need anyone’s validation. It’s your decision, and you need to make it for real productivity.
Onward. Happy writing. 🙂
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