Okay, this list is as much for me, later, if and when I hit a wall with my own fiction writing, as it is for any fellow writers out there reading this.
But I’m coming off two very productive, satisfying, and FUN days of working on my new novel (finished chapter one in two days! Holy crap!), so I wanted to make note of what’s helped me the most:
- Turn off the Internet for your entire writing session. No distractions, please. Do your writing first, then surf. If you need to look up something, make a note of it and keep on writing. The only app you should have open during your writing time is your word processing program, and maybe some tunes.
- Set a goal for each session. Just a rough goal, something to get you focused. That way when you hit it for the day, you have a nice buzz of accomplishment. And when you go beyond that goal, you’ll feel like the king or queen of the world. For a few minutes, at least.
- Set a time limit for each sessions. That way you’re not tempted to do anything else but write — the clock is always ticking. Deadlines are huge motivators for writers.
- Don’t get caught up in reading what you’ve already written so far on your novel or story. Skim over it, maybe, but if you catch yourself starting to make tweaks or rearrange words or sentences, STOP. The goal here is to get the words out, not fiddle with what’s already on the page. That can be done later, if needed.
- Put it all in the first draft. If you go into the drafting process thinking like an oral storyteller — you, in front of an audience, with no chance to go back and change something for fear your listeners will start throwing rotten fruit — you’ll pack all the details, descriptions, and tension into your first draft. Don’t say “I’ll add it later.” Put it in now.
- Tell your loved ones your goals. Let the people in your life know when your writing time is, what you’re trying to accomplish, and by when. Then, if you try slacking, they’ll call you on it: “Why aren’t you writing?” They’ll also understand if you ask for an hour to finish up something, especially if your mood improves 100-fold when you’re done (um, speaking from experience here!).
- Have an outline if you must, but be prepared to diverge down side roads at times. Sometimes the best plot twists or character insights come when you are in the flow of writing and you go off on a tangent. Trust yourself and go with it. You’ll get back to the main road eventually.
- Enjoy it! Have fun with the whole process. It shouldn’t feel like work. If it does, maybe you’re not doing it right. Maybe you’re being too critical of yourself in the middle of the creative process. Just jam out the words and see where they lead you.
- [Added later – thanks, Sarah!] Reward yourself when you hit your marks! Whether it’s a daily word or page count, a weekly goal, a finished book, or whatever. Be good to yourself, and enjoy every step along the way of this marathon.
I’m sure more tips will hit me as I continue work on my current novel-in-progress. Until then, feel free to add your own tips. Thanks!