Productive Writing Habits
Kalpanna Writes commented on my last IWSG Wednesday, “I got a surge of writing energy reading about how productive you are every day, despite the holidays. I would love to know more about your process since I struggle with discipline in my writing.”
I am inspired by others. You might even know who you are!
This post is a glimpse into my daily writing habits and November writing project.
Writing each day is all about planning on what you will write and then doing it. I know it's not that simplistic, but it kind of is. Do it once, adjust as needed, then plan and practice a writing habit (or anything you wish to accomplish) each day. I tell the students I work with (and myself) that you have to practice a habit to make it real and a part of your life, good or bad. Choose a good habit and watch your life improve. I could write this paragraph and stop. You could take this nugget and run, but hey, I like to write so here's more if you wish to read it.
1. When should I write? Years ago, I had to figure out a time of day when I could write without interruption and when my brain was at its best. Early mornings were best for me, back when my children were living at home, and this block of time is still good. This became my writing habit. I typically write for one and a half hours each weekday. Weekends, I write more like two hours each day. Summer break, same thing.
2. Plan. You've heard that you shouldn't go to the grocery store without a list or you won't buy what you need? Finding a block of time to write (or insert your goal topic) is a huge challenge, but what do you do with this block of time?
Last October, my plan included creating a simple outline that I could follow, at a glance, for the NaNoWriMo. First, I wrote small paragraphs for the beginning, middle and end. I chose setting and characters. I write a page for each of the main characters only, since my characters evolve as I write the story. Later, I will fill in the blanks. Then, and this was huge, I wrote an outline by scene paragraphs. They weren't necessarily in order, however, I did number them before I wrote the first draft. My scene outline was a guide. During the outlining phase, three characters fought to be the bad guy in the end. Who does that? Bad guys, that's who! I wrote them all down, gave them scenarios for the end. It didn't take long to realize who had to be the killer.
November 1st, I wrote from my scenes (outline). The only problem I ran into with my outline was that I didn't have enough scenes to power-write through. During my off time from writing, I thought about new scenes and jotted them down. For me, following a scene plan freed my brain to write the story.
3. Writing. Each morning, I arise between 5 and 6 a.m. depending on whether I’m leaving the house at 7:20 a.m. or not to go to my school social worker job. Your time could be evening or even 30 minutes at lunch. First thing, I get my coffee going, feed Millie and she goes outside to potty. I grab my laptop (make sure it's charged the night before) and sit in my family room in a comfy chair where Millie cannot sit beside me. I know, I know. This sounds harsh, but she gets plenty of pup time. This leads me to mention distractions because I am the queen of following distractions.
4. Chasing Butterflies. DON'T DO IT! If you see a pretty butterfly tempting you to follow, turn away. While you are writing say no to the following butterflies:
- Internet surfing. If it's research then do later.
- Email (But what if Publisher's Clearinghouse is trying to reach me?)
- TV (Don't I need to know Missouri's weather since it changes every fifteen?)
- No Millie playtime (Don't even look at her baby seal eyes or she will win.)
- No editing that manuscript during power writing sessions. (This is no time to play editor.)
- Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, or blogs. They are time suckers and you know it! Use non-writing time for distractions.
About five minutes before I need to stop my writing (use your phone timer), I mark where I will stop with these: XXX. My eyes are now trained to see those big boys five miles away. Typically, before my next writing session I have glanced at my scene outline and then read the paragraph before the X's to get me started.
I learned from my November power-writing month:
- I am detail oriented in my daily life. Details do not belong in a first draft if you're writing fast. I would make a killer wedding planner, but inserting details in November bogged down my writing process. It was suggested to me to keep a separate doc to log details and setting. I jotted down information that would not let write and then went back to writing. This saved.my.life.
- Strangely enough, I did not beat myself up for falling short of word goals. Most days I wrote at around 1700 words.
- I wrote in the evening if I fell short of my word goal, but morning words are flowing words. Evening words are like pulling teeth.
- The more I practiced the fast writing schedule, the easier it was the next time. Mindset and habit.
No matter what it is, if you write, play an instrument, sew, draw or anything else, do it regularly and make it a habit.