Are you struggling with your productivity as a writer? Do you sit down to write and find yourself frustrated, your pages empty, your word count floundering, and your will to keep writing slowly drifting out the window?
It's okay. We've been there!
Did you know our Happy Writer in Chief, Dionne Abouelela, wrote eleven books in 2017? So far, in 2018, she's finished two – and it's only March 5! Dionne decided she wanted to see just how much she could get done if she sat down every single day to write. She set daily goals, often finding herself blowing through those goals in less time than previous years. Now, she's in the editing cycle on these manuscripts and ready to set her querying and publishing schedules!
Yes, that was quite a feat, and yes, we know that is not an expectation every writer should set for themselves. But, Dionne has given us her ten top tips as a goal achievement coach for increasing productivity as a writer.
Are you ready?
Ten Productivity Tips for Writers
1. Turn off the internet
We often fall into using the internet as a crutch when we write. We tell ourselves that we need to have the web available to research settings, scenes, names, clothing, grammar rules, etc.
You don't, though. Having the internet on while you write only offers you a justifiable distraction. Either turn off your internet connectivity or go somewhere without available internet.
2. Do your research before you sit down to write
Here you go, sitting down to write and suddenly, that pesky internet is in your way again! You realize you don't know how to describe your characters outfit or the color of their hair. How would you say a specific phrase in Old English, Korean, or Spanish?
We've all been there. You go to research one phrase and the next thing you know, you've been on Facebook for thirty minutes, played on Twitter, uploaded two new photos to Instagram, bought 25 pounds of dog food on Amazon, and shopped mansions on Zillow for inspiration when you're a best seller.
In addition to turning off the internet, do your research before you sit down. Dedicate a set amount of time to write, and a set time to research every day. If you're writing, and you're not sure how to describe a certain item or a certain phrase, tag that area of your manuscript with XXX and make yourself a research note. Once your research is completed, do a search for XXX, and correct the proper marking to the new information.
You will have continued on your word building, made progress in your WIP, and given yourself markers to return to when you're not in your writing time.
At first, Dionne was a hard core pantser. She was notorious for saying outlines killed the creativity process and stifled her writing. Now, she swears by outlines, even if it's a simple one sentence representation of each chapter, a slightly more focused beat sheet or Save the Cat outline, or a full service in depth must follow linear flow chart.
Outlines do not have to stifle your progress and can greatly contribute to keeping you on track!
We could go on and on about outlines, but we'll wait for April. Our featured guest interview is the amazing Megg Geri, who will be sharing her outlining process and talking about her mini-course and new book, Write a Novel in Thirty Days: An interactive writer's guide to finishing your novel in thirty days.
4. Set aside dedicated writing times
This seems easy enough, right? We also know most of our Happy Writers do set aside dedicated writing times - but they have trouble sticking with them. Pick up an inexpensive egg timer, set the kitchen stove's alarm, buy an ap, or check out different integrations to software that you use for daily tasks.
Even if you only find ten free minutes in your day, give yourself ten minutes. You'd be surprised with what you can do in a short amount of time when you really put your mind to a goal!
5. Clear distractions
Another easier said than done tip, but another that is crucial. Who distracts you from your writing? What distracts you from your writing? Do you think you need pieces to be successful but in reality, you probably don't?
Tell your spouse that you need uninterrupted time, find a babysitter, drop the kids off at practice and write in the car, close the bedroom or office door and lock it. Take the dog out to pee before you sit down, disconnect your phone, etc.
You have power over your distractions and to be successful with your goals, you need to stop giving your distractions power over your goals.
6. Set a word count goal
What is your rough estimate for how many words your novel will need? 60k? 80k? 120k? Break your final tally down into daily snippets that meet your "to be finished by" date and assign the daily word count to your writing times or writing days.
When you smash that daily target, you're going to be thrilled and feel better about your progress than if you write the same amount of words but don't see how these words impact your overall progress.
Small chunks of attainable goals add up to one larger goal. These smaller chunks also give you reason to celebrate every single writing period.
7. Give your body nourishment
Make sure you have water, coffee, tea, and snacks in your writing cave. Don't go in to a writing spring hungry. Have you ever sat down to write an epic fight scene and instead came out writing, Pizza, pizza, pizza, pizza...pizza fights pizza...pepperoni fights sausage...pizza?
Your brain doesn't work very well when it's starved. Hydrate your body, fill your stomach, and sit down with some muniches if you need them. Even if you don't, having some healthy snacks off to the side will help keep you focused!
8. Make your writing competitive
Find a group of writers and set aside times for sprints or start a contest for daily words. Healthy competition works for many people and having an accountability partner is further encouragement.
Surrounding yourself with fellow writers who understand the pressure of creation, the sheer bliss of falling in love with your characters and work, or the need to stay on task and just keep writing even when it's panful will be a huge lift to your writing
9. Clear your mind
Internal distractions are often as challenging as external distractions. Even though we fully control our inner dialogue, this is often one of the most difficult pieces for an author to manage.
Before you write, tell yourself what you want to achieve, how you're going to achieve this, and give yourself permission to work on these goals without influence from any outside tasks.
Need to pick up the laundry? That's fine. The laundry will still be there when you're finished. Not sure if you want to cook chicken or lasagna for dinner? That's okay. Your characters don't want either and you can decide after you hit your goal count.
When you enter your writing space, sit down, take one minute to close your eyes, focus on your goals and clearing your mind. Deep breath, clarify your mission, and allow your attention to settle on what you need to write that day.
10. Have fun
Writing isn't always fun, and many people underestimate just how hard writing a book can be. Regardless, the trope of the miserable author slaving away at typewriter keys and moaning about how no one will understand their art are gone and overplayed.
If you don't enjoy writing, why are you writing?
As writers, we often take ourselves way too seriously. Lighten up a little and learn how to love your work again. If the process makes you miserable, step away, take some time for yourself, and reassess why you decided to sit down and write in the first place.
Make your environment upbeat, full of encouragement, and centered on your goals. Dionne puts her weekly word count goal on a large sheet of paper taped behind her computer screen along with a funny quote. This reminds her of her weekly goal while also being lighthearted.