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 writing momentum.

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 here? 

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 re-read. 

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 sacrifices.

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 write.

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 rest.

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 temporary slump. 

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! 

Conclusion

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, write! 


Do you have any additional steps you take to help keep your writing momentum going?  Please share below!

Sandy is the author of fiction and memoirs.  Her latest release is a funny, kid-style memoir called No Thanks, Mommy, I Peed Yesterday.  

Coming Soon!  Don't Mess with Daddy's Girl, Book Two in her police procedural series, is a gripping romantic suspense about a man's love of two things: his girlfriend and the stock market.  Learn more.

Subscribe and get Book One for FREE today!  Click here for details.

To learn more about Sandy, please visit her website by clicking here.  



2 comments:

  1. Good post, Sandy. The only way to be a writer is to write.

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  2. Excellent advice, Sandy. I find it hard not to go back and edit, but I am learning to forge ahead. It does help to make notes. I have started a small notebook for "go back and fix" ideas.
    Elizabeth Hein - Scribbling in the Storage Room

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