How Not to Waste Your Writing Time

I am having a difficult day today as far as the writing goes. It’s something that happens fairly often once I’m past the initial excitement of a new story and before I get to the editing stage. My head may be seething with ideas, but getting them down on a blank page isn’t so easy. Once the words start to flow, then it picks up, but getting them to flow can feel damn near impossible at times. So I thought I’d share a few of my tricks and tips to help with this process.

SET A SCHEDULE

I don’t write every day, but I do have specific days when I do write, and I don’t let anything else get in the way of that. By which I mean I don’t drop everything and go out for lunch with a friend on a writing day. Writing is a job, and you have to treat it like one. Refusing to write unless inspiration strikes (or your muse speaks to you, or however you want to describe it) just isn’t going to get you anywhere. Making yourself write when you’re not feeling ‘it’ – whatever ‘it’ is – can be downright painful, but it’s necessary. And make sure family and friends respect the schedule that you set up.

SET A SHORT TERM GOAL

It doesn’t have to be a huge goal. In fact smaller is often better because then you won’t feel overwhelmed. Telling yourself you’ve got to write 10k words probably isn’t realistic; pick a number that you know you can achieve without too much pain. My goal for each writing day is a mere 1k words. I know I can make myself do that even if I’m struggling. And then I reward myself afterwards with something more fun, even if it’s generally writing related. Such as working on cover ideas or my website or my Twitter following. And don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself making endless cups of coffee or emptying the washing machine instead. Just head back to your computer – or pen and paper – every time until your goal is accomplished.

SET A LONG TERM GOAL

This can be anything, big or small. Publication by a set date or the first ten chapters by a set date. Make sure you pick a sensible time frame though. I’m close to finishing my current novel – which is possibly why it’s so painful – and I plan to have it available on Kindle by the end of September. I know I can do that if I stick to my short term goal.

GO OVER WHAT YOU WROTE LAST TIME

You don’t necessarily have to change much, if anything, but I find this is a good way of getting back into the story. I actually enjoy editing much more than writing from scratch; it’s where I refine and polish the basic structure that I’ve set down. But I try to keep the editing to a minimum at this point because I don’t want to get distracted. Editing is a whole different process that I’ll talk about another time.

By Unknown – Open Clipart Library, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74745868

MAKE NOTES

This is a really good habit to get into. My brain is stuffed with stories – most of them unrelated to my current project – and if I didn’t write ideas down when they came to me, I’d forget them. Unfortunately I often have them at night when I’m trying to sleep. So I’ve lost a lot of really good ideas of how to get from A to B over the years.

For me, writing is joining up the dots of a story that otherwise only exists inside my head. I know my characters; I know the big thing that’s going to happen to them; getting them there is the writing process. So if there’s a sudden flash of illumination – oh yeah, THAT’S how that happens – write it down!