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Writing Productivity Tip #5—USE EVERY MINUTE

Published November 30, 2010 in Advice , Blogging , Business , Novels , Process , Writing - 1 Comment

A series of eleven tips to help you get more time for writing, and to produce more writing when you do have time.

If you think you need large blocks of time to accomplish any writing, then you’re kidding yourself.  One sentence at a time, one paragraph at a time, one page at a time.

Sure, we’d all love extended, uninterrupted hours to do nothing but sit and think, to write page after page while immersed in the story and characters without a distraction in the world … but that’s a luxury most of us don’t have. In the real world, the majority of writers—even successful, published writers—still have full-time jobs and need to fit in their writing around other duties. Writers have families, obligations, even—surprise!—personal lives.

I didn’t actually quit my day job until I’d published eleven bestsellers. It was a 40+ hour per week position with heavy responsibilities, involving frequent travel, as well as constant pressures and distractions. Even so, by taking full advantage of snippets of time in the evenings and on weekends, and a spare lunch hour or two, I managed to write two or three novels per year.

If you have only a few minutes here and there, then learn how to do something productive in those brief bursts. You can plot a short story in the shower, develop a character background while waiting in the dentist’s office, map out a scene before drifting off to sleep at night.  Make progress—however small—on your novel during the five or ten minutes of dimness in the theater before the movie starts, while cooking dinner, or while doing tedious household tasks. While riding the bus or vanpool, you can write down notes, scribble outlines, even mark up a printout of an earlier chapter.

Too often I’ve heard the lame excuse, “I don’t have enough time to do a serious amount of writing, so I’ll just [insert procrastinating activity] instead.”  Science fiction writer Roger Zelazny used to advise authors to “write two sentences.”  Not such an insurmountable obstacle.  You may really only have time to write two sentences; in other instances, though, those two sentences will lead to two more, and then two paragraphs; ten minutes later you’ll have a page done.  A free ten minutes is ten minutes you could be writing.  Two sentences will take you two sentences closer to finishing the manuscript.

If you find yourself in a place where you really can’t jot down notes (in the gym, waiting in line at the grocery store, etc.) use every little snatch of time to ponder what you’re going to write the next time you get a few minutes at your keyboard.  Do your mulling ahead of time, so that when you have a few spare moments to sit with your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keys, you can jump right in and get down to actual writing (instead of pondering what you mean to say).

When you have a bit of time to write—a day off, part of an afternoon, an hour, even ten minutes—use it to WRITE!  Get as much written as you can. This takes a lot of discipline, and it’s easy to get distracted, but set your priorities.  Do you want to be a writer, or would you rather complain about not having enough time to write?

Just released in paperback

This blog series is part of a lecture I’ll be presenting at the Superstars Writing Seminar in January 13–15 in Salt Lake City, a three-day intensive workshop focused on business and careers in writing.  Other instructors include Brandon Sanderson, Sherrilyn Kenyon, David Farland, Rebecca Moesta, and Eric Flint.  We hope to see you there.

www.superstarswritingseminars.com

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Writing Productivity Tip #4—DARE TO BE BAD (AT FIRST)…THEN FIX IT

A series of eleven tips to help you get more time for writing, and to produce more writing when you do have time.

This tip comes from prolific and bestselling author Dean Wesley Smith, and the more I’ve pondered it, I’ve come to believe it’s one of the most important pieces of advice any struggling writer can hear.

Repeat after me:  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be finished.

It’s easier to FIX existing prose than it is to write perfect prose in the first place.  The crucial step is to get it down on paper!

Your draft words or descriptions might be redundant.  So what?  They can be fixed later. 

 You might make grammatical mistakes.  So what?  Promise yourself you’ll fix them later—after you’ve got the story written.

A few years ago, I wrote my award-winning, #1 bestselling X-Files novel Ground Zero in six weeks, start-to-finish:  300 published pages, 90,000 words.  The publisher had already scheduled it for a breakneck production pace, and everyone was counting on me to deliver the manuscript.  I could not be late.  I absolutely positively had to turn in an acceptable novel on time.  The only way I could do this was just to tell my story, get it down on the page, and trust my writing skills.

I managed to write 25–30 pages a day on that book, seven days a week, until the draft was finished.  Although this isn’t an exercise I recommend for most writers, the sheer, intense concentration did increase my writing speed and, I believe, my writing quality as well.  By writing straight through, one scene after another after another without wandering back to earlier chapters to tweak the prose, I built up a “story momentum” that propelled the book along at a breakneck pace.

As soon as the first draft was done, I had allocated as much time as possible to polish the words, editing the manuscript again and again until the last second.  (Keep reading—I’ll devote an entire upcoming tip to this subject.)  Surprisingly, when I went back to the initial pages, fully intending to spend weeks on major editing and rewriting, I found that the constant, intense practice had taught me to produce crisp, fast-paced writing as compelling as if I’d spent hours agonizing over each page. 
 Giving yourself permission to be “bad, then fix it” frees your mind just to create.  For the first draft, don’t worry about how good it is or how you can revise it.  Just do the writing.

This blog series is part of a lecture I’ll be presenting at the Superstars Writing Seminar in January 13–15 in Salt Lake City, a three-day intensive workshop focused on business and careers in writing.  Other instructors include Brandon Sanderson, Sherrilyn Kenyon, David Farland, Rebecca Moesta, and Eric Flint.  We hope to see you there.

www.superstarswritingseminars.com

Note that Early Bird pricing goes up on December 1.


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Superstars Writing Seminar: How to BE a Writer

Over the past months I’ve posted a handful of blogs specifically tailored for serious aspiring authors, including this current series on writing productivity.  If you have enjoyed them and are ready for a full-blown “boot camp” of the things you need to know to be a career professional writer, consider attending the second Superstars Writing Seminar, which will be held this January 13–15 in Salt Lake City (Thursday–Saturday, the weekend before the national holiday of Martin Luther King Day).

Three days of intensive instruction taught by six international bestselling authors, Brandon Sanderson, Dave Wolverton, Rebecca Moesta, Eric Flint, and special guest instructor Sherrilyn Kenyon.  In addition to the writing productivity lecture (which this blog series is based on), topics include:

  • Economics of Commercial Publishing
  • How Editors Look at Manuscripts, Novels, and Short Fiction
  • Dissecting a Book Contract
  • How to Read and Understand a Royalty Statement
  • Dirty Secrets: What You Need to Know About Being a Professional Author
  • How to Leverage Your Intellectual Property
  • Balancing Acts: Writing World and Real World
  • Agents
  • Networking and Self-Promotion for Authors
  • Understanding E-Books
  • Pitching the Big Proposal
  • Two Heads Are Better than One: Collaborations
  • How to Get an Edge with New Media
  • Movies, TV, and Authors

—and more, including open Q&A sessions, a special limited-seating VIP banquet to get to know the instructors, and plenty of networking opportunities among the teachers, other writers, and fellow students.

The Superstars Writing Seminar is a practical, no-nonsense course on business topics for the professional writer.  We don’t teach you how to write; we teach you how to be a writer.

Prices increase by $50 on December 1.  For more information and to sign up, go to www.superstarswritingseminars.com.

INSTRUCTORS:

Kevin J. Anderson—award-winning, international bestselling author of the new Dune series (with Brian Herbert), the Terra Incognita and Saga of Seven Suns series, X-Files, Star Wars, and numerous comics; he has published 100 books, with more than 21 million copies in print in 30 languages.

Eric Flint—A master of military science fiction and alternate history, Eric is best known for his 1632 and Belisarius series (with David Drake). An expert in electronic publishing, he was also the founder and editor of Jim Baen’s Universe online magazine.

Rebecca Moesta—Award-winning and New York Times bestselling Young Adult author of Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights, Star Challengers, the Crystal Doors series, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Little Things. She also holds a Masters of Science in Business Administration from Boston University and is the CEO and business manager for WordFire, Inc.

Brandon Sanderson—A New York Times bestselling author in his own right for his Mistborn series, Brandon was selected to complete Robert Jordan’s epic Wheel of Time. The first volume, The Gathering Storm, immediately reached #1 on the bestseller lists.  He also writes successful Young Adult fiction and lectures on creative writing for BYU.

Dave Wolverton—Author of 50 novels, Guinness World Record holder for the largest single-author signing, multiple New York Times bestselling author (under the names Dave Wolverton and David Farland).  Dave worked for nearly a decade as coordinating judge for one of the world’s largest writing contests.

Sherrilyn Kenyon—Bestselling author of the Dark Hunter series, The League, and the Chronicles of Nick.  In the past two years, Sherri’s books have hit the #1 New York Times bestseller spot an amazing 14 times.

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Writing Productivity Tip #3—WORK ON DIFFERENT PROJECTS AT THE SAME TIME

Published November 28, 2010 in Advice , Blogging , Business , Dune , Novels , Process , Publicity , Writing - 1 Comment

A series of eleven tips to help you get more time for writing, and to produce more writing when you do have time.

This one works best for people with ADD, or low boredom thresholds!  (And it doesn’t work for everybody.)

Each writing project has many phases: research, plotting, writing the first draft, doing the rough edit, polishing the final edit, copyediting, proofreading, and the marketing and business.  Since some of these tasks are more onerous than others, I keep several different projects on the creative burner at all times at different stages.  Personally, I love the creative explosion of plotting the story from scratch and writing the first draft, but the first major edit or the last proofread both seem like a lot of drudgery to me.

However, if I have several novels or stories at different stages of completion, I can switch from one process to another, while charging along at full-steam.  The variety also makes the tedious parts more palatable. 

 I can research a new novel for an hour, then write a draft chapter of a different story, then proofread galleys of another novel, answer questions in an interview for yet another novel, then maybe go back to tweak an outline, or do some more research.

Okay, I admit I’m a restless Type-A person.  Hopscotching among projects is like a guy with a TV remote bouncing from channel to channel.  But this method keeps me fully productive at all times.  If I chose only one book, devoted my entire creative time to a lockstep start-to-finish march of taking the kernel of an idea through research, writing, editing, and proofreading, I would feel claustrophobic and stifled.

In the past few weeks, I was working my way through the first rough edit of The Sisterhood of Dune, written with Brian Herbert, keying in Rebecca’s detailed copy edits to The Key to Creation, doing the final proofread of the typesetting on Star Challengers #2: Space Station Crisis, plotting and writing a proposal for a new trilogy in my “Seven Suns” universe, reading short story submissions for Blood Lite 3, working out details for promotion and a book-signing tour for Hellhole, with Brian Herbert, which will be published in February/March, writing and posting these blogs, and doing logistical planning for our next Superstars Writing Seminar in Salt Lake City this January.  All of these things get juggled into the daily writing schedule, and I switch from one, to the next, to the next, always keeping the brain moving.

When I grow weary of one type of work (say, proofreading) I can switch to another (outlining, or first-draft writing). I find that after working on the same project for a while, it begins to lose its freshness and becomes more tedious.  And when I’m not enjoying myself, the process of writing becomes a chore instead of a joy. I try not to let that happen, because I love writing.

So far, I haven’t gotten any of my stories mixed up.

Cover for new Italian translation of The Last Days of Krypton

This blog series is part of a lecture I’ll be presenting at the Superstars Writing Seminar in January 13–15 in Salt Lake City, a three-day intensive workshop focused on business and careers in writing.  Other instructors include Brandon Sanderson, Sherrilyn Kenyon, David Farland, Rebecca Moesta, and Eric Flint.  We hope to see you there.  www.superstarswritingseminars.com Note that Early Bird pricing goes up on December 1.


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