7 Practices to Create Your Best Writing Year Yet
I write a lot about motivation here. Yeah, ostensibly I write about writing, and I do, but when I look back over all the articles I've posted, many of them are about techniques for getting words on the page.
That's because I have a cement-firm belief, based on my own habits and years of teaching and coaching writers, that the hardest part of writing is getting your butt in the chair and keeping it there long enough to rack up a word count. You can be the best, most elegant and clever stylist in the world, and if you can't get yourself into a regular writing practice, nobody is going to read those elegant words.
Last year I wrote a lot. I finished a 90,000 word novel, wrote 25,000 words on another fiction project, and completed lord knows how many words total in blog and newsletter articles. At the same time, I worked with writers one-on-one through coaching and teaching and in workshops. So along the way I've figured out a few things about how to write regularly. (Though these are subject to change–after all writing is a process, a vital, fluid process.) So here are my recommendations for best practices to make 2015 your best writing year yet:
1. Plan. I mean this in two ways. There's overall planning for you career. What kinds of books do you want to write–memoir, romance, mystery, fantasy, YA? What book will you commit to write this year? And second, there's planning for individual scenes. I've found that I get way more writing done when I know where I'm going. You may be a pantser, and god bless you if you are, and swear to me that you can just write and see what happens, but I am more productive when I know what's up.
2. Pre-write. Often it is as important to write around your project as it is to write on it. Write in your journal or do Morning Pages. You may resist this, thinking why should you take your precious writing time to work on something other than your WIP? Because you need to get all the distracting crap out of your brain, for one thing. Jettison the carping voice of the inner critic in your journal and you'll be in a much better frame of mind for writing the real stuff. And because you also will be amazed at the ideas and information that will flow through your fingertips, including tons of good stuff for your WIP.
3. Schedule writing time. As I've written a gazillion times, I love to get up and write first thing in the morning. I write Morning Pages and then go right to my WIP. (Lately I've also been scheduling at least one two-hour block of time on an afternoon as well.) My buddy J.D. is a night-time writer. If he tried to rise at 5 as I do and write he'd be miserable. And if I tried to write at night like he does, I'd be asleep at my desk. So figure out what works for you and do it.
4. Separate the writing process from the rewriting/editing/revising process. They are two different stages of writing. Period. You'll make yourself crazy if you try to perfect every word as you go, and you'll lose sight of the bigger picture, too. Later, after you've gotten all your words down into one gloriously messy first draft you can have fun honing and perfecting your scenes and words. But only later.
5. Write fast. This is my single best tip for success, guys. Once you know where you are going and are working in rough draft mode, let it rip. Don't read over what you've written, don't stop, write as fast as you can. I believe that we all know way more about our stories than our conscious minds let on–and if you write fast you're going to get all that good stuff from your unconscious out onto the page. Writing fast is also how you will discover your voice.
6. Find the joy. It's supposed to be fun. Lord knows, most writers don't make enough on their books to quit their day jobs, so enjoy it for goodness sakes. It is easy to get into the grind of a writing practice and see only the daily word count. But pause for a minute in the midst of writing and remember how cool it is that you are a writer. Because it's the coolest thing in the world to be, bar none!
7. Rewrite. I know, duh. But you'd be surprised how many rough drafts I've seen through the years–words on the page obviously written fast (a good thing–see #5) with no attempt to go back and straighten things out. I do see writers getting stuck in the Rewriting Forever Syndrome, loathe to let their babies go out in the world, and that's not good either. But it is the rare piece of work that does not need at least one rewrite.
That's all I've got for you. It really is about sitting down and putting words on the page–that simple and that difficult.
What are your best recommendations for a regular writing practice? Please share!
Image from fotalia.