A few weeks ago, we talked about about finding more time to write. This week, let’s talk about using that time more efficiently.
Some of these writing process tips I stumbled upon myself and others come from learning about how successful authors use their time. I don’t currently use all of these and I’d been known to balk at one or two of them in the past. (Because I’m stubborn!) But all of these tips have the ability to really speed up your writing process, so consider them all, rather than dismissing any out of hand.
Manage your writing process environment
This isn’t always doable. But as much as you can, create an environment conducive to your style of writing. And, probably more important, create boundaries for those around you who would distract you, even without meaning to.
Turn off the sound and notifications on your phone, or put it in another room.
Disconnect from the Internet.
Close your door.
If you don’t have a door, there are other options. I have a friend who, when her kids were small, wore of a funky unicorn hat when she was writing. They knew that if she had that hat on, not to disturb her unless the house was for real on fire. You don’t have to embrace the silly quite this much if you don’t want to. Anything that you can display on your desk as a communication that you’re writing will work. A snowglobe. A photo turned in the opposite direction that it usually is. A stuffed animal. A baseball. Pretty much anything that will get someone’s attention when they approach will work.
The point is that you want to create an environment for your writing process that allows you mental space and time when you’re writing. Even though we can find time to write in the margins of life, having dedicated time will often be able to used more efficiently.
Know your characters
I always recommend taking a few hours to get to know your main characters. Decide what they look like. Figure out where they grew up, what their childhood was like. Learn about their family and how your character relates to the other members of that family. Discover what big events happened in their lives that brought them to the point where your story begins.
And write this all down. Don’t just keep it in your head. Because you’ll forget. And at the beginning of your story, your character will have grown up outside a Native American reservation in the southwest and by the end, they’ll have grown up on a farm in upstate New York.
Keep track of that stuff! 🙂
Create your writing process plan
As a former hardcore pantser (I’m now a hybrid), I balked at the idea of doing any planning at all. Ever. I believed that my stories should be told exactly as they came to me, whatever that was.
For me, that ended up being super inefficient. More likely than not, I just ended up getting frustrated or, worse, bored with a project and went on to other things. And that led, of course, to never actually getting anything done.
You have to finish things — that’s what you learn from, you learn by finishing things.
~~ Neil Gaiman
Now, you don’t have to go full-fledged outline if that sort of process doesn’t work for you. But my suggestion is to at least have a general structure with these elements:
- Main conflict
- Any sub conflicts
- Character sketches
- Where the story starts
- A bullet point list of each of the pivotal points in the story (and bullet point lists for each of those bullet points, if possible)
- How the story ends
- A paragraph (for yourself) about how the ending of the story resolves the conflict(s) & how the ending affects the character(s)
Having each of these things on the front end will give you clarity about what direction your story (and your writing process) should go at each juncture. Now, none of this is set in stone, of course, because we’re not always 100% in control, we authors. But having a roadmap for your story, just like in real life, will help you when you decide to take the scenic route, rather than the highway.
Leave love notes for yourself and your writing process
Okay, maybe not love notes, though you can definitely do that too!
Have you ever sat down to write, all excited because you’d been on such a roll the last time you wrote, and then discovered that you have no idea what you’d meant to start writing now? And then you had to go back and re-read what you’d written, which read just fine, but the spark that ignited that fire seemed to be gone now. Have you had that experience?
One way to combat this is that when you’re done writing for the day, leave a few lines for yourself describing what you need to write next. It can be two lines, just to jog your memory or it can be a paragraph that includes reminders for emotions to include or twists or turns that are coming up. It’s whatever gets you back to that fire for the story that you had in the previous session.
Talk it out
This is one that I haven’t tried yet, but a number of authors swear by it, including Kevin J Anderson, probably the most prolific living author in the specfic genres.
Dictate your story. You heard correctly. Write your story the way it was meant to be — as a story you tell.
The great thing about modern technology is that you can do this just about anywhere. Download a speech recording app on your phone, get a headset with mic, then go for a walk, or a bike ride. “Write” on your morning commute when you’re stuck in traffic.
Once you’ve got it recorded, you can either transcribe it yourself, use a program like Dragon Naturally Speaking, hire a Virtual Assistant, or pay for a service like Rev.
Now, if we could only figure out how to do edits like that!
Do you have any tricks or tips for making your writing time more efficient? Drop them in the comments below!
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