I was intending to write on Scene Setting this week but was distracted by a productivity question over the weekend. The question was something to the effect of, “I can’t seem to finish my draft. Can you help me?” This is one of those questions that generate a bazillion How-to posts like you’ve seen everywhere on the web. You know, the 10 Ways to blah, blah, blah. The bare bones of the answer are that you have to sit your butt in the chair and write. There’s NO other way. But for the sake trying not to sound snarky, I’ve put together a brief and hopefully helpful list and a tool to use. If nothing else, snag the tool at the end of the post.
Remember That Your Process is Your Process
No one writes in the same way. How someone else manages their writing practice is irrelevant. Compare yourself to yourself. Do what works for you. You can try out ideas that you hear about from other people if you want to, but if it doesn’t work for you, that is okay. You are you, not them. Do what does work for you.
Create Your Environment
Find a place to write. You can write at your kitchen table or at a coffee shop or sitting on the toilet. Wherever you choose to write, make sure it is a calm, distraction-free, and comfortable. Make this your writing place and use it regularly. If that means that you have to make a special cat bed so your moggie doesn’t sleep on your keyboard, then do that. If you have to lock your kids outside the bathroom door and write while in the tub, then do that. It’s all good. Just find some regular and consistent place to write.
Give Yourself Permission to Write the Crappy Draft
It is okay for this draft to be bad. Really, really bad. Give yourself permission to write horrible sentences and stupid dialogue. Let go of the worry of writing the perfect novel. Allowing yourself to write the crappy draft will let you write faster and get the story on the page. You might actually write several crappy drafts before your novel is ready for editing. It’s okay to stink right now. Really. Write the crappy draft.
Do Not Edit
Writing time is writing time. Writing time is not editing time. Do not stop writing to create a better sentence, change a word, or correct punctuation. Just get your words down (see Write the Crappy Draft above). Worry about the spit and polish later.
Research is not Writing. Don’t do it.
Doing research for your novel is not writing. Writing is writing. Research is a separate process. If you write something that needs research, make a note of it to research at another time. Don’t stop writing. Research can be a distraction to keep you from writing.
Turn off your phone, WiFi, Internet access, TV, or anything that will distract you from writing. Distraction is the foil of many a writer and will eat away at your scheduled writing time.
Use Writer’s Math
Use writer’s math to realistically figure out how long it will take you to write your novel, and then give yourself a deadline. For example, if you are planning to write a 100,000 word novel, divide that number that by 250 (the average number of words per double-spaced page) to know the number of pages you need to write. In this case, you will need to write 400 pages. If you plan to write 4 pages per day (1,000 words) it will take you 100 writing days to complete your draft.
Use Your Calendar
On your calendar plan out your writing schedule including your begin date and your deadline date based upon the number of writing days you need to complete your novel. Be sure to allow for non-writing days (travel, vacation, schedule conflicts, hangovers, whatever). Stick to your writing schedule and by your deadline date you will have a completed manuscript. I know it sounds weird, but it’s true. If you schedule yourself to write one page per day, and you actually do that, at the end of they year you will have written 365 pages.
Schedule Your Writing Time
Writing time will become your daily ritual if you do it consistently. Block out an hour (or whatever amount time you choose) on your calendar and sit down at that time and write. Don’t get out of the chair until your time is up, or your number of written pages is completed. Jack London wrote 1500 words per day. Ernest Hemingway wrote 500. Do what works for you. The key word here is do.
Use a Production Tracker
After you write your pages, use a production tracker to watch your progress. Seeing the pages completed compared to pages remaining can be just the thing to keep you motivated to write and finish your manuscript. Here’s a free one for your use: Production Tracker