Writing a novel- whether it takes a month, a year or a decade- is a grueling, daunting task. At times it’s exhilarating! You’re typing at a million words per minute, creating worlds, people, conflicts. But then
you can’t even remember
how to write?
I spend a lot of my free time reading advice to writers and watching authors on YouTube talking about productivity and how they stay focused. At times it can feel as though you’re the only writer who spends all day with their fingers hovering over the keyboard waiting for the words to come. You’re definitely not alone.
I’ll be straight with you- I can be a lazy, easily distracted, procrastinating mess. But, I have written an entire novel, and I’m working on another two, so there is hope for everyone.
There are countless tips and tricks for productivity, but I’m going to share my techniques to try and get myself in the right mindset to write.
- Get dressed: I’d love to spend the entire day in my pj’s, but sadly, it just puts me in full-blown Netflix binge mode. If I go to all the effort of getting dressed to work on my project, then I’m more likely to actually show up to the writing desk.
- Music: I create playlists for each of my stories, and listening to them really puts me in the mood to write. Some songs will be the “soundtrack” for certain scenes, others will be mood-setters for the story as a whole, or anthems for characters and places. Music always gets me pumped to write.
- If sitting at a desk all day is draining, go for a walk: I’d go so far as to say that all my best ideas come to me while I’m walking with my headphones in, blaring out the songs that I’ve come to associate with my story. I don’t know if it’s the blood pumping or just the act of engaging different parts of your brain, but it really works. And it’s good for you! Also (and this is embarrassing to admit) if I’m in a quiet area, I’ll sometimes (I can’t believe I’m typing this) try to walk the way I imagine my protagonist walking, while their “theme song” is playing. It seems to help me get into their heads and see the world through their eyes. (Actually, that was kind of cathartic.)
- Write whatever makes you happy: let me tell you from experience; if you try to appeal to everyone’s tastes you will drive yourself insane, strip all the life out of your novel, get miserable and eat an entire packet of shortbread biscuits. If writing “cheesy” romances makes you happy, then fill your boots. If all your fantasy stories seem to be based in a pseudo-medieval Europe, then have a blast. Writing should be fun for at least 78% of the process… the rest of it will be torture though.
- Find joy in research: This kind of links to the previous point. I love writing stories set in a similar climate to England, because it’s where I lived for the first three decades of my life. It’s home to me. I know how the air feels just before it starts to rain, I know the red streaked sunsets and the seemingly endless, dark, wet winters. I enjoy writing about it and it makes me feel comfortable, but I also adore discovering other climates and Eco-systems. I wish I could travel to them in person, but until that happens, we’re lucky enough to live in an age where we can summon information in moments. Take pleasure in researching new places and people, and it’ll show in the diversity of your written worlds.
- Set manageable goals, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t hit them: unless you’re set a deadline by a publisher or agent, it’s all in your own time, at your own pace. Push yourself, yes, but don’t try to go beyond your limits.
- Set a break time (and stick to it!!) Tell yourself that you will write until, say, lunch time, and then take an hour off to eat, watch something, read, listen to music… whatever you want. You have to switch off sometimes, and allowing your brain to relax will make you less stressed, which equals more productivity. Yay! But at the end of that hour have the discipline to get back to work. Treat your writing like any other job.
- If you absolutely can’t think of anything to write, then read instead: One of the absolute best things about being a writer, is that reading counts as working! I could go on for hours about how reading improves your writing, but you most likely already know it. Just read, analyze, critique and enjoy. See what works and what doesn’t. Look at how you would have done it differently. Look at how they did it in a way you would have never thought. Read.
So there you go. I hope some of this helps!
The main thing is to enjoy yourself, and just keep writing. A crappy first draft is infinitely better than a perfectly blank page.