It’s been a while since I’ve thrown up a Writing Tip!
Today’s tip will be a personal observation I made after much trial and error on my part. See, my house is a busy one. We have three dogs (two still in their puppy stages) and a cat, and both of my children are home all day because we homeschool. In other words – it’s NEVER quiet here. In the past, I’ve drowned out the noise by wearing my headphones, leaving the TV on, etc…so there was constant background noise that would drown out everything else while writing, but that doesn’t seem to work long term. I know because I’ve been doing things this way for two years.
With all the distractions from television, music, family, cell phones, social pages online – you know…life – we are constantly inundated with SOUND. Surely this has an impact on our writing. So how about simplifying. To simplify means ‘to make easy’, to ‘cut down’, to ‘reduce’, to put something in ‘order’. And what better thing to do for yourself, and your writing??
So here are my tips on how to ‘simplify’ your writing time:
- Write on a schedule, if at all possible. Yeah I know, some are saying ‘I can’t do that, I never know when I’ll have time to write,’ or ‘But my creativity isn’t on a schedule, so how can my writing be?’ Honestly, it is TOTALLY possible to create time in your day when your younger kids will be resting, or asleep, or when the older kids are at school. Or during soccer practice, or lunch, etc… There IS time. And if you schedule that hour or two every single day when things are at their calmest around you, you’ll find more time to sneak in quality writing time. And even if you don’t think your muse will show up at 1pm every day, if you get in the habit of showing up yourself, the story will follow.
- Write an outline, even a basic one. Some of us write by the seat of our pants, with no regard to outlines. This might work on the first book, but it won’t work as well on the third of a series. ‘Did Jade have green eyes, or blue?’ ‘Did that guy in the market steal the wallet, or was it that guy standing on the corner?’ If you confuse facts from your story because you didn’t jot down the basics on an outline, not only can you piss off readers that might actually remember the color of Jade’s eyes, but you leave out the potential for great plot twists, or forget to tie up loose ends. I hate outlines, but I do them now – even if it’s only one page about the beginning, the middle and the end. And maybe one more page that lists the descriptions of the characters. It could take you five minutes or five weeks to work on an outline – but either way is going to make things easier down the road. And remember, a story is organic and quite possibly will change as you write it, so adjust that outline here and there, too.
- Write now, edit later. I used to edit each prior chapter before starting on the next and even though I do find it helpful to read what I’ve previously written, editing takes up a lot and eats into writing time if you try to do both together. Write the story, fix only what must be fixed as you go along, and then edit the heck out of it later. It keeps your brain in writing mode longer and when you only have short bursts of time during the day available for writing, this is a much easier way to go.
- Write everything down. You’re at lunch with friends and the couple next to you is having a heated discussion, one of which you don’t mean to be privy to, but you can’t help overhearing them and it sparks a story idea. You tell yourself to remember it later, and of course, you’ll forget it. Or a powerful dream wakes you in the middle of the night. You’re covered in sweat, trembling, thinking to yourself, ‘Wow, that was crazy/scary/intense,’…but you roll over and tell yourself you will jot it down in the morning. When the suns rises, that dream has nicely implanted itself in the dark corners of your subconscious, no longer dancing through the forefront of your thoughts. The mistake is telling yourself that you will remember those random thoughts, dreams or ideas, and NOT writing it down. It doesn’t matter if it’s a few sentences or keywords on a napkin or a half-awake email you send yourself from your cell phone in the middle of the night – the point is, if you write it down somewhere, you can organize it later. One day you might write a story from those ideas that becomes your best book.
- Write comfortably. By this I don’t necessarily mean lavishly strewn about the bed with dozens of pillows…though that doesn’t sound too bad. ;) What I mean, is make sure your writing area is comfortable and accessible to your needs – a chair that won’t hurt your back, a desk at the right height, something to put your feet up on if you need it, a stash of chocolate or a mug of coffee within arm’s reach, the phone, a notebook, etc…you get the point. If you have to stop writing to organize your space, or search for something, that scattered state might follow you into the story.
- Writing must be backed up. Either use a flash drive, or an online back up like Google Docs, but make sure to do this not just often, but seriously, all the time. It will simplify your life if you have back ups when you NEED them. If you have your work saved in one location and something happens to that lap top, computer or notebook – then what? Yeah, you’re screwed.
- Writing takes time, have fun with it. Some people write to hit a certain word count goal for the day – others take their time. Regardless of how you write, have fun with it. If you don’t like the story your readers sure won’t be all that interested. Writing what you know is great, but research can be fun too.
Obviously, to each their own. No two writers are alike, but if you find yourself overwhelmed or struggling to get your writing time in, hopefully something on this list will help you!