I wrote an article in my last newsletter in which I shared my top 10 tips to help aspiring writers make sure that 2014 is the year they get their book written. I’ve had lots of people ask me to publish this article on my blog so they can access it, so here it is. I’m going to extend this piece into a series about Getting Started on Your Book, which will run for the next 2 weeks. Because I know that making writing a priority in a crazy-busy life is hard. But think of all the things that you do make time for. Why shouldn’t writing be one of those things?
1. Consistency is the most important ingredient in making writing a habit. Find a regular time of day or night and block it out in your diary as writing time. Every day is best, but aiming for 2 or 3 days at first is fine because that’s still better than 0 days. By writing at the same time each session, your brain becomes accustomed to switching in to writing mode at that time; it also makes it easier to schedule all your other tasks around your set writing time.
2. It doesn’t matter if you can only schedule a couple of hours per session. For 7.5 years I’ve operated with just a 2 hour writing session, Mon-Fri, and I’ve published 2 books in that time. So a couple of hours is all you need.
3. What’s more important is aiming for consecutive days. That way, you build momentum. I tend to find on a Monday, after having a 2 day break, I take at least half an hour to warm up, whereas on Tues-Fri, I don’t need warm-up time. So try to schedule your writing sessions on back-to-back days.
4. Set a word count target. I always find if I set a word target, I exceed it. If I don’t set a target, then what am I aiming for? I have nothing to strive for and therefore I tend to write less. Obviously the more you write per session, the quicker your draft gets written. So use a target to keep you motivated.
5. Writing time is for getting the words down on the page, not so much for generating ideas. If you’re in the habit of regular writing time several days per week, you’ll find that your unconscious mind will continually generate plot ideas, or character ideas at random times throughout the day. The trick is to make a note of those ideas when they occur and then use your writing time to turn the idea into a scene.
6. Join a writing group. If you meet with other writers on a regular basis, say monthly, then the pressure is on to produce work to present for critique at the writing group. This also means there is a group of people who will watch your book grow and can provide meaningful feedback at crucial stages.
7. Enrol in a writing course. Writing is a craft; it needs to be learned, just as one learns to play the piano or program software for a computer. Research the presenter and make sure the course is at the right skill level. You’ll find lots of motivation in knowing you now have the tools to add to your ability—watch amazing things start to happen in your writing.
8. Read as much as you can—preferably fiction by Australian authors who write in the same genre as you. This is another sure-fire way to perfect your craft; you’ll see how others structure their plots, or develop their characters, or write dialogue and this will help you improve your skills.
9. At the end of a writing session, make a note of what you want continue working on next time. That way, when you next sit down to write, you can pick straight up where you left off and you don’t need to waste time wondering what you should write about.
10. There will be days when you don’t feel like it. But just like exercise, if you make yourself do it anyway, you’ll feel so much better at the end. Because you’ll be 300 or 500 or 1,000 words closer to finishing, and every word counts on your way to The End.
So, can I encourage you to sit down now, take a look at your diary and plan in some regular writing time. While you’re at it, why not set yourself a word target to aim for? I used to aim for 1,000 words in my 2 hours, but I found that when I got a way into the book, say around the 20,000 word point, I would easily write about 1,500 words a day. So I’m going to aim for 1,500 words a day, 4 days a week this year. In 15 weeks, I could have 90,000 words! Okay, I don’t really expect it to happen like that as the first few weeks will be slow going getting into a new project, but breaking it down like that certainly makes it seem more achievable doesn’t it?
I’d love to know if any of these 10 tips resonate with you. What are your writing plans for the year and what have you done to make sure you follow-through on those plans? Also, look out for my next post later in the week where I follow on from this piece and share with you the 10 things I need to have in front of me before I start writing a new book.