I have several “tricks” that allow me to write consistently and productively. They come from self-observing what hasn’t worked for me. Maybe some of these things will help you out too.
- Remove distractions – there are several things that pull me away from writing effectively. Television is a BIG one. I’ve tried many times to write while watching TV. In every case I’ve never managed any kind of quantity or quality of words. The same is true, to a much lesser extent, with music. In both cases (and with other more minor distractions), the best thing to do is get away from them. Turn off the television or your music. Give your mind the opportunity to only focus on the story at hand and the words will almost certainly flow. (*Note: I didn’t specifically mention Internet although that can be an enormous distraction. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes need to quickly look up some fact for a story. That means, for me at least, I need the Internet available – I have to work to avoid any other distractions where it is concerned).
- Don’t know where the story is going – there are a few things I do to overcome this problem. The first, and probably best, for me is, I go for a walk and think of nothing but the story. Where I’ve already been, who the characters are, etc. Without fail, I get new ideas that I can’t wait to write. When I can’t go for a walk, I sit down and brainstorm (usually after rereading the previous chapter). The notes I take go down in point form and are pretty disorganized. Invariably, they trigger the writing I need to do.
- A chapter simply isn’t working – this definitely happens to me, mostly at the beginning of the book. I can’t seem to write a hook that works, or the story seems to be starting in the wrong place and I’m not sure what to do about it. When this happens, I go back to brainstorming and writing my thoughts down in point form. Who is in the scene? What do I want for action? Where do I need the scene to take me? (many other questions can be answered this way, but essentially, you want to setup the next chapter). When I have created the chapter in point form, I move on to the next chapter. If I’ve done enough points, I usually can start writing again on the new chapter. I eventually go back and have enough of the story that the point form chapter is much easier to write.
- I’m seeing too much of a given character; can’t or don’t want to write more with them – this definitely happens to me, especially when I’m writing a more straightforward story. It is also a sign to me that I need to add some sub-plots or change my POV. That’s when I introduce a scene break and bring in either a new POV or work on another sub-plot. There’s always more than one thing going on in the world. Why shouldn’t your story reflect that?
- You’ve hit the point where you’re tired of the story – we all get there. Around the 60% complete mark is when it kicks in for me. Your results may vary. When this happens, I can do a couple things. The first is to revisit my plot outline (if I have one). Tweak it or add more details to it if it exists. Rekindle the interest. If it doesn’t exist, build the outline forward from where you are. Again, the idea is to rekindle your interest in the story. If neither of those things work, write something silly using your story characters in a situation after the completion of your book. That might be enough to get you going again. What you don’t want to do is shelve your book and start a new project. That is a sure way to have a collection of unfinished writing.
- Set a deadline and force yourself to stick to it. The deadline can (and maybe should be) time related and number of words written. Then, go to town. Write whatever comes to mind. Most of it will likely be junk, but junk can (and should be) edited. Blank pages cannot.
I know that every writer is different. That means you likely have figured out some of your own tricks. It also means, what works for me may not work for you.
Do you have any tips of your own that you would like to share?