I write memoirs and fiction in all genres. My characters have secrets, tell lies and find themselves in trouble all the time. The challenge is figuring out how to rescue them. Best of all, they live much more interesting lives than I do, so I live vicariously.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
What is the Key to Writing Successfully?
One of the most important things to have as a writer, more
important than knowledge, experience or a great writer’s platform; is momentum.
Momentum is the key to writing successfully, and it is what
you get when you’re on a roll, when you’ve got your story in mind or already
started, and you have the drive to continue working on it until it’s finished,
regardless of whatever else you are doing.
So how do you get it?
Here are the ten practices I use to maintain constant
1. Write every day.
Make it a habit. Find
what time of day best suits you and set aside that time to write. Think of it as your ‘me’ time and it helps to
minimize the feeling of selfishness that authors can sometimes get. Consider writing a favour you do for yourself
each day; like exercising your brain.
2. Write at least
1000 words per day.
1000 words is basically 2.5 pages single-spaced. Not a lot.
But it’s the regularly doing that many words a day that’s going to get
that book finished. Even if the words
suck, at least you’re writing down something.
It’s like primer; you can’t do a good job painting a wall if you don’t
prime first. You can always go back and
make changes when the book is complete.
The key here is setting a goal. Every time you set a goal and meet or exceed
it, it makes you feel good and gives you more motivation. It becomes a cycle and, more importantly, it
becomes a habit. A good habit.
3. Make notes after
you’ve finished your writing session.
We can’t always finish a scene or chapter before we get
interrupted or run out of time. The best
way to maintain good writing momentum from the last time you wrote is to
remember exactly what you were planning to write next.
It’s also a good idea to make notes for future chapters or
plot ideas, even character lines that can be used later. Don’t always rely on memory because then
you’re sure to forget once ideas pile up, and then you’ll be kicking yourself
for forgetting and worse, for not writing them down.
4. Do not let other
book ideas interrupt you finishing your current project.
You’re right in the middle of writing your latest
manuscript. Suddenly a new book idea
pops into your head. It’s such a
phenomenal story idea that you are so tempted to pause your current project and
start the new one. A month later, the
same thing happens. Do you see a pattern
What ends up happening is that you have five or six current
writing projects on the go, and you’ve lost sense of your original feel and
ideas for most of them.
The way to stop this is to pull over and take a break, for
an hour, from your current writing project.
Write down every possible detail you can about the new project idea that
has come to you. Any detail, down to a
possible line or the thought pattern you had when the storyline arrived inside
your head. Save it to a Word document
and shelve it. You can go back and add
to it if more comes to you, whether it’s more ideas for that current story, or
another book idea.
As a writer, this is bound to happen, and be thankful that
it does. There are lots of writers out
there who would beg and steal to have this kind of flow of inspiration. But don’t let it distract you. Take control of it and unleash it when your
original project is done. Otherwise
you’re risking losing momentum in your projects because you’re constantly
switching from one book idea to the next.
5. Do not go back and
edit until your book is finished.
Small edits are fine.
Or if something in the timeline isn’t working once you’ve reached a
certain point. What I’m referring to is
major plot changes halfway through the book.
What ends up happening is that your original book plan becomes so skewed
from constantly making changes, that you lose momentum and give up.
If you have an idea for a different plot, consider that a
new plot and make notes in the file mentioned in tip#4.
6. Go back and
Sometimes we do have to put our work away for a while. Whether it’s due to illness, personal life
situations or in my case, having your kids home for the summer. I do still try to squeeze in some writing
each day when I can even if it seems impossible. But in the event that you do have to walk
away from it, make sure you come back and simply re-read where you left off or
even the whole manuscript. Don’t just
shelve the book for good and start anew.
7. Make small
Many of us watch what we may think is just a little
television, or spend a perceived small amount of time surfing the internet or
on social media. But if you record the
actual time that you use on each or individually, you’d be surprised how much
it amounts to.
One of the best things I ever did for myself was to turn off
all the notifications I had on my cell phone.
It was such a distraction getting Facebook and Twitter updates
constantly, I barely got any writing done.
The same holds true for the television.
If you cut even one or two shows out per night, you’d be amazed how much
writing you can get done.
8. Get a good laptop,
and a good laptop bag.
When I say this, I mean a laptop that is comfortable to use
under any circumstance. Why? Because if you use little bits of time while
on road trips or when you know you’re going to be waiting (at the doctor’s
office, dentist, etc.), you can use that time to write. A good laptop bag is a huge must for me,
because my last laptop was so damaged from being knocked around inside a
makeshift bag, I nearly lost all my files because it simply gave out on me one
day without notice.
9. Read if you can’t
Every night before bed I read. Sometimes I write, too, but for the most part
I’m too tired to write. Reading good
books is food for a writer’s brain.
Consider that if you don’t read that you’re literally starving your brain
if you want to continue being a writer.
You simply cannot have the tools involved in writing good books if
you’re not reading them too.
10. Get plenty of
This is somewhat self-explanatory. However, one interesting point I will note
here is that for me, sometimes if I’m feeling particularly ‘out of steam’
literary-wise, I take a nap. Somehow,
usually when I awake, an idea has popped out of my head that gets me out of my
Needless to say if you haven’t had a good night’s sleep
there’s no point in trying to hash out your 1000 words. Take a nap or give it a go the next day; or
hey, if you’re feeling brave, give it a shot!
Not everything happens overnight; try to implement one or
two of these practices over a weekly basis.
It took me nine years to grasp all these things, so take your time.
These are all the steps I follow and so far I’ve had really
great momentum with my writing career.
In the nine years that I’ve been writing I have 11 books to my credit (5
self-published, 2 others being released by traditional publishers later this
year, and 4 other manuscripts looking for homes) so what can I tell you? If you want to be successful at writing,
Do you have any additional steps you take to help keep your
writing momentum going? Please share