As a follow-on from my last post, which listed my Top 10 Tips To Help You Get Your Book Written in 2014, this week is all about the things I must have as a writer before I sit down to begin writing a new book. I hope that by sharing the things I need, it might help you to work out your own list of must-haves. If you know what you need to have with you before you start writing, then you won’t waste precious writing time hopping up and down to assemble them. You’ll have everything ready to do, so that every minute of your writing time is devoted to just one thing: Writing.
If my brain is thinking about the fact that I have to plan a new writing course, or that I need to write a blog post, or that I have to send out invoices then I can’t concentrate on my writing. I use a monthly planner to write down a list of all the things I have to do that month. Then I transfer each task onto the calendar section of the planner. That way I know everything I need to do will be done at its allocated time and I can concentrate on writing during my scheduled writing times.
2. SCHEDULED WRITING TIME
As it says in the image at the bottom of this post, if it’s not scheduled, it doesn’t get done. Book writing time into your calendar just as you would any other task or appointment. And stick to it.
3. TURN OFF THE INTERNET
There is nothing more distracting to writing time than having new email messages or new Facebook notifications pop up on the screen when I’m writing. I make sure I have 2 hour blocks of writing time scheduled and that for those 2 hours, my wi-fi is switched off. It helps with tip 1, focus, too. Give it a try and see if it makes you more productive too.
4. ONE STORY IDEA
It only needs to be a germ of an idea. For instance, If I Should Lose You, my second book, started out with me wanting to writing about a nurse who was an organ donor coordinator. I had no plot in mind, just that one small idea. Writing time is all about turning that small idea into paragraphs and pages and chapters.
5. A NEW NOTEBOOK
You need somewhere to collect your scene, plot and character ideas because these will come to you at any time. You want writing time to be about writing, using the ideas from your notebook, rather than using writing time to generate those ideas. Any time you have an idea, jot it down in your notebook. Have a notebook in the car, or use the Notes App on your phone, have one in your bag, have one beside the bed. And transfer all those ideas into the one book on your desk before you start writing. Then you have a list of scene ideas ready for writing.
6. A BRAINSTORM IN SCAPPLE
I never used to brainstorm. I was very much a “pantser”, someone who wrote an idea into a story and who was never quite sure where the story was going until the first draft was finished. But when I wrote my third book, a historical fiction set in 1920s New York, I did a bit of brainstorming of plot ideas before I started writing, and also after I had written a few chapters. I found this so useful; I wrote the book more quickly, I felt more confident because I knew where the story was going and I enjoyed the process much more. In case you haven’t heard of it, Scapple is a brainstorming app from the makers of Scrivener and I blogged about it here.
7. A BOOK OF WRITING EXERCISES
Sometimes in the early stages of writing a book, ideas for plot, scenes and your characters don’t come as quickly and easily as you need them to. You can find yourself sitting down with no idea what to write, which is what we want to avoid. Have a couple of books of writing exercises on your desk. If you don’t know what to write, do a writing exercise to get some words flowing. Next week’s blog is all about how I use writing exercises to generate scenes so keep an eye out for that if you’d like to know more. I’ll also be giving away 2 week’s worth of writing exercises to help you out.
8. A BRAND NEW SCRIVENER PROJECT
I wrote my New York book in Scrivener. It was the first time I had used it and I fell in love with it. I’ve written about why here. So now, when I begin writing a book, one of the first things I do is set up my Scrivener project so I’m ready to go. And I set up a Word Target for the manuscript and a daily word count so I have something to aim for.
9. A NAME FOR MY CHARACTER
I can’t write if my main character doesn’t have a name. I usually find my main character’s name comes to me easily, and when it does, it always allows me to see my character more vividly, and thus to write about them with more certainty.
10. A CUP OF TEA
For me, it’s a cup of tea. Others use different forms of inspiration to get them in the mood: music, chocolate etc, but I need something hot and herbal and I’m ready to go. My other creative prop is a book by another author that resonates with me for the voice or the themes or the characters. I always have this on my desk inspiring me and encouraging me as I write, and I read sections before I begin writing to get me in the right imaginative space.
How about you? Do you have a list of things you need before you begin to write? Are any of yours the same as mine? And have I inspired you to know and understand what your must-haves are, so that you can have them all at the ready the next time you sit down to write?