This isn’t about me telling you how I do it, oh no, I am a terrible example of being productive as a writer. Also, this isn’t about how to write, as in style etc, it’s about getting that damned book on the page. This post is me pulling together lots of golden pieces of advice that I have come across recently and putting them in one helpful list, in the hope that I too will take the advice given and become super-duper productive, as you will too.
- Just write the first draft and don’t worry too much about the results. I actually firmly believe in this and will tell people this myself. I heavily edit once I’m finished and you’ll have to edit more than once, so be prepared for that. No one gets it right first time. In fact, I got my first book so wrong I’m currently re-writing it from scratch. But, my issue is still being able just to get it on the page; I rarely care how the first draft will turn out, so long as it turns out.
- Don’t allow any distractions around you. I can see the appeal of a hipster typewriter or the trusty pen to ensure this one.
- Have a writing ‘zone’. Currently not feasible for me but I’m working on creating one in our new flat.
- Stephen Pressfield renames procrastination RESISTANCE (coincidentally, the title for Rebellion #2, which is yet to be written, hence this list) so that it becomes an obstacle we have to overcome rather than a failing in our genetic make-up. I got this gem of information from the excellent Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley.
- Create a schedule – write every day in short 10 minute bursts and then gradually build up to more. I’ve seen this piece of advice everywhere and it varies slightly. I recently read an article about Robert Boice’s teachings on the matter and I immediately took interest because his surname is almost the same as mine. Apparently, thanks to a helpful reviewer of his book, the key is to write during BRIEF (can you tell I like that part?) daily sessions, keep to a schedule, don’t binge write (which is the only way I ever get anything done). Apparently Boice tries to cultivate patience – if he was a true Boyce, he’d know we don’t go for such nonsense. FYI, don’t buy his book unless you’re a gazillionaire, which, if you’re a writer, I very much doubt.
- Reward yourself – I just found this one and I like it! Although, I generally feel guilty when it comes to my lack of writing and so until I am an effective, routine driven and efficient writer, I don’t think I’ll be allowing myself a pack of Oreos a day.
- If it’s boring don’t write it. This is my own advice to you – if I’m struggling to write something because I’m bored by it then I stop, delete and re-think. For me it’s often where I find the most resistance (see, I remembered) in my work. And, it’s pretty fair to assume that if you’re bored writing it, your readers are bored too.
- Listen to music or sit in complete silence. In other words, find the environment that best suits you. I prefer headphones in and loud music on, most of the time. Also, I find after a while that if I listen to a certain song it can act like a writing trigger.
- Let the characters take over. This is something I do when I am struggling with moving the story from A to B, I just write the character thinking out the problem and I find that the answer comes naturally and through their voice. You can go back and edit it later, when you’ve finished, the main thing is that you got to point B.
- Don’t compare your speed to others. I compare myself to other authors all the time and I constantly feel inadequate and it stalls me rather than spurs me on. Everyone is different, everyone works at different speeds, at different times of the day and in different environments. Just focus on yourself and the wonderful process that writing can be, sometimes.
- RELAX. Feeling stressed about the process and staring at a blank screen, terrified, isn’t going to get you anywhere. To calm anxiety some may drink whiskey, some may have a cup of tea, some may drape their cat over their shoulder, personally, I like to have an array of snacks to ease me in.
- Shut your inner doubts up. A writer’s worst enemy is themselves. Don’t allow yourself to put you down, okay, so a friend of your friend wrote a book on a whim, in a week, and got published and is now on a world book tour whilst breastfeeding their 6th child and running a multi-national corporation. So what, you’re writing a fantastic romantic romp set in Croydon and it’s going to blow people’s pants off. Yes, you may not sell millions but you WILL sell and you WILL make someone’s day/week/year by your imaginings and that is what writing is about. Don’t worry about all the exceptions to the rule, those people who strike it big and fast, writing is about the enjoyment of being able to create worlds and fill them with people you find so fascinating you want everyone to hear what they are doing and what they have to say.
As for writing tips, I always turn to Orwell because my English teacher, the great Mr. Cole, taught me to always keep him in mind when writing. You’ll notice, if you read Rebellion, that I like to keep things simple and straight-forward.
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Go forth and conquer thy books.