How to Get More Words on a Page, Quickly #AuthorTips
Writing is hard. Sure, sometimes you get into a scene and words flows like magic onto the page. When that happens, it’s a high like no other. Other times, not so much. Maybe you spend five minutes struggling to find the exact word you want to use to convey your message, or maybe you spend thirty minutes agonizing over whether or not you’re cut out to be a writer in the first place.
The thing is, you’re never going to finish that novel if you don’t get words on the pages. Writing is work. It takes one word after another to end up with a complete manuscript. To quote Neil Gaiman, “Writing may or may not be your salvation; it may or may not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down.”
Here are a few tips to help you let go of anxiety and become more productive in your writing life.
Don’t edit while you write. It’s tempting to read over everything you’ve jotted down so far and make revisions. Revisions will be necessary, certainly, but resist the temptation to get bogged down with editing as you write your first draft. Give yourself permission to write, and to do it badly. In your first draft, you want to get the main ideas and basic dialogue down. You can go back later to refine descriptions and add detail. Just write as much as you can and let go of the need for perfection.
Once your first draft is finished, take some time to step away from your writing. You need to edit with a fresh perspective and a critical eye, so you need some space between writing those last few words and slicing and dicing your manuscript. Pretend it’s the first time you’re seeing the words and be objective. Then, after you’ve polished your manuscript as much as you can, give it to someone else to read—someone who isn’t afraid to give you honest feedback.
Protect your writing time. You’re going to want to build an audience for your book at some point. That’s why social media is important, building relationships with potential readers. Just don’t let your marketing efforts dominate your time to the point you aren’t writing anymore. It’s easy to get distracted, or to justify the time we spend doing things other than writing. If you want to get words on a page, you’ve got to carve out time to write and guard it jealously.
Something that has worked for me is providing structure for the time I spend between networking with readers and writing. To do that, I’ve started using a kitchen timer. How simple is that? It helps though. I’ll set the timer for thirty minutes, giving myself permission to browse feeds on Facebook and Twitter and to check email. Then, once the buzzer rings, it’s go time for writing. I’ll set the clock for sixty minutes, and during that time, my sole task is to write. Not to catch the latest headlines, not to pay bills, not to do laundry. Just to write.
You don’t have to use my method. Use whatever helps you focus. Maybe you like to write with music playing in the background—play an album or a mix and write from the time the first song begins to when the last song ends.
Keep track of progress. Set a goal for yourself. Write 1,000 words a day. Write 2,000 words a day. Write a scene a day. It doesn’t matter what your goal is, write something. I like to keep a sticky note next to my laptop with the date, the amount of words I’ve written for the day, and my overall word count. It’s simple, but I get a thrill from seeing how all those individual words add up. I don’t worry that I only got 500 words one day but I got 2,500 the next. I’m concerned with forward movement and overall progress.
Get unstuck. Can’t find that elusive fact you need or the correct word for describing something? Make a note in your manuscript and move on. There are lots of ways to do that—highlight the trouble area in a different color font or mark it with a hashtag. Maybe the writing software you use has a notes feature. It doesn’t matter how you flag the problem as long as you can find it later, when you’re revising.
Do you have an entire scene that’s giving you writer’s block? Skip it. Make a few notes about your ideas for the scene in the manuscript, highlighting them so you’ll see them later. Then move on to the next scene. Sometimes you’ve got to set a scene on the back burner to simmer so you can keep cooking. That’s okay. I’ve found that if I give myself permission to put a scene aside, eventually I’ll have the answers I need to finish it later. Everything works out in the end.
What methods for increasing productivity work best for you? If you’ve got tips to share, we’d love to hear about them.