Writing Around Life: General Tips (Part 2)

Moving along!

(I finally finally finished my draft, squiders! I’m in the process of sending it out to betas. And then it’s on to something else, which in this case, shall be the return of the space dinosaur book. I’m excited. As well as other ongoing projects, of course.)

A couple more general writing tips today, squiders, and we’ll move into more specific tips next week.

Set realistic goals for yourself.

Be realistic with the amount of time you have. It’s all right to know you’ll probably only have 20 minutes a day or an hour a week to dedicate to writing. What’s not great is knowing you’ve got 20 minutes a day and vowing to write 2000 words in those 20 minutes. Can you write 2000 words in 20 minutes? Maybe. Can you consistently write 2000 words in 20 minutes? Probably not. But you can probably get 500 words. If you get more, great. But setting unrealistic goals can actually hurt you in the long run, because if you’re failing your goals on a regular basis, it can make you feel like a failure, which can make it harder to sit down and start writing in the first place.

Realize writing is more than just writing.

You don’t have to be actively getting words on the page to be writing. It sounds a little crazy, but it’s true. Planning out what you’re going to write or thinking through potential plot issues or ways to add more interest/conflict to a scene are all things that can be helpful when you do finally get to sit down with a notebook or laptop. Turns out that having a plan of action, even if it’s just in your head or for one scene, makes the actual writing go a bit easier. And it gives you something to do when stuck in a long line, or taking a shower, or waiting for a friend.

Set deadlines for yourself.

It can be helpful to set a deadline for yourself to get some aspect of a project done. For some of us, this can be the difference between choosing writing over a marathon of the latest television show. When choosing a deadline, make sure you’re giving yourself a reasonable amount of time to get things done. If you blow through too many deadlines, they lose their effectiveness. And if you’re someone who will just ignore a self-imposed deadline, it can be helpful to tell it to a friend, especially if said friend is the type who will check up on how you’re doing on it.

Eliminate distractions.

Have you ever sat down to do something, looked down at your phone, and suddenly it’s twenty minutes later and you’ve beat five levels of Candy Crush, but progress on what you’re supposed to be doing has stalled out? Some people can sit down, put their mind to a task, and focus effectively. But that’s not everybody. (I tend to focus for a while, say I’ll take a 5 or 10-minute break, and find that break tends to grow.) And while regular breaks can be good–medical science says sitting for too long is bad for you–there are things you can do to make sure they are effectively wrangled, such as setting a timer.

Some common distractions include:

  • The Internet
  • Smartphones
  • Television/movies
  • Other people

Different people are affected differently by various distractions. Some people have to disconnect from the Internet in order to get anything done. There are apps you can install on your phone to help you avoid looking at it (my favorite is called Forest and plants a tree in your virtual forest if you leave it alone for a preset amount of time) and plugins you can install on your web browsers to block the most distracting websites. Pay attention to what’s going on when it’s hard to focus, and, when possible, eliminate those things. Choose to write in the dining room instead of the living room. Choose to turn on music instead of the television.

Any thoughts, squiders? If not, have a lovely weekend and I shall see you on Tuesday. Remember to vote in the Readalong poll!

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