Archives

Categories

All posts in "Process"

Writing Productivity Tip #8—CREATE THE BEST WRITING ENVIRONMENT FOR YOURSELF

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

So, you’ve developed a writing routine, set up an office or at least a place where you use your laptop.  It’s the way you’re accustomed to writing.  But habit doesn’t necessarily make your setup the best.  Have you ever stepped back with an objective eye to consider whether it works for you?

Is your “office” (whether it’s a spare bedroom, a corner of the kitchen table, or an old desk in the hall) conducive to productivity?  Don’t just accept your environment as it is.

  Consider other possible rooms, desks, tables in the house.  Try to create a “haven” for yourself, a place you can call a writing office, so that when you’re working there, you—and everyone else—regard it as your real workplace.

Look at where you have your computer or laptop set up.  Is it on a TV tray in the middle of the living room with chaos and clutter all around?  Probably not the best spot.  A corner of the kitchen table with any old chair pulled up?  A place where it’s easy for friends and family to chat with you?  Is the television on and distracting you?

Now, look at your writing surface and your chair.  See that they’re adjusted at the proper height: your bent arms should form a loose “L” to reach the keyboard.  Most regular chairs are much too low for a typical table surface.  If you hunch over or have to reach up for the keyboard or mouse, you could end up with sore arms, wrists, shoulders, and that can lead to serious repetitive-stress injuries such as pinched nerves, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome, or cubital tunnel syndrome, to name a few.  (I know from experience—my wife has had four arm surgeries to correct damage caused by an improper office setup from when she worked a full-time office job.)  Sit on a pillow if you have to, or install a keyboard shelf.

Next, consider your personal habits and schedules.  These will be different for each writer.  Some people write best at home in familiar surroundings, while others find the home environment filled with distractions and numerous little household tasks.  Some find themselves stimulated to write in a coffee shop with constant comings and goings and background chatter, while others prefer to get away from distractions by renting a separate room to be used specifically as an outside office.  I happen to be most productive when writing or editing with loud music playing; my wife works best in total silence (which means we have our offices on opposite ends of the house).

(A side note: For the past year I’ve used a set of noise-cancelling headphones while I travel.  They are remarkably effective at shutting out the background hubbub of airports, train stations, and coffee shops—which lets me concentrate completely, even amidst the chaos.)

What time of day is your peak imagination and energy?  I’m a morning person, and I get the most work done first thing in the day with fresh coffee running through my bloodstream.  Rebecca is a lot slower to get moving and doesn’t do much creative work until later in the day, but then she stays up well beyond the time when my sleepy brain is shutting down.

  If you’re a night person, try to arrange your writing time for late at night; if you’re a morning person, get up a little earlier to do your creative work.

Just because you’re used to writing in a certain place at a certain time, doesn’t mean that’s the only way you can be productive.  As an experiment, try writing under different circumstances, at various times, and in a variety of places, then determine the best environment for you.  Which collection of variables allows you to produce the most pages?  You may be surprised.  Then, once you’ve figured out how and where you can be most productive, arrange your schedule and your office environment to accommodate that.

New 2011 Calendar featuring stories and photos by KJA and T. Duren Jones. Limited quantity available. Order from www.anderzoneshop.com

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

Writing Productivity Tip #7—KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WRITING & EDITING

Published December 2, 2010 in Advice , Blogging , Business , Novels , Process , Publicity , Short Stories , Writing - 0 Comments

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

Write during the writing stage.
Edit during the editing stage.

Even though both activities involve a writer sitting at the keyboard staring at the screen, Writing and Editing are two very different processes.  Each one requires a separate set of skills and talents; each uses a different part of your brain—the creative part and the analytical part. Learn to recognize the difference, and teach yourself to focus on only one process at a time.

Writing is the creative part of the process.  When you’re writing—creating—let yourself be caught up in your story.  (See Tip #4.)  Get swept away by the characters, the situation, the events taking place as the plot unfolds.  Don’t worry about the commas. Write the story first. Tell what happens, where it happens, and who it happens to, without getting hung up on fiddling with the previous paragraph, polishing one bit of dialogue, rearranging the sentences, researching subtle rules of usage, looking up historical dates, or finding the proper punctuation.  No need to get every spelling or grammar guideline correct at this stage. 

 You’ll have ample opportunity later.

Once the creative part is done, when your draft is written and the story told, then activate the more analytical part of your brain.  Change hats and become an Editor instead of a Writer.  Now is your opportunity to look at the sentence structure, cull out the redundant phrases, correct the grammar, add the appropriate punctuation if you didn’t get it right the first time, run your spell check.  As I’ll describe in Tip #9, I have two totally separate methods for writing and editing.  I do my initial drafts by dictation while I hike (thus, it’s not possible for me to worry about, or even see, cosmetic nuances of grammar or punctuation), and after I dictate the first draft, I do my editing on the computer.

You can always go back and make changes—always.  If you allow self-doubt (or the lack of the “perfect” word or phrase) to keep you from moving on to the next sentence, then you’ll never finish that paragraph—which means you’ll never finish that chapter, which means you’ll never finish that novel.

Too many times I’ve seen writers derail their creative process by stopping the action to tweak a word or a sentence.  If you write a few paragraphs, then go back and polish them, you destroy all the forward momentum you had.  It’s like shifting gears again and again, forward, reverse, forward, reverse, and you could burn out your mental transmission.

Save the criticism for the second draft. That way you’ll actually finish writing and have something to polish. As far as I know, no one has ever published a “perfect,” but only half-completed, novel.

Nebula Awards Showcase 2011, to be released in April

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

Writing Productivity Tip #7—KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WRITING & EDITING

Published December 2, 2010 in Advice , Blogging , Business , Novels , Process , Publicity , Short Stories , Writing - 0 Comments

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

Write during the writing stage.
Edit during the editing stage.

Even though both activities involve a writer sitting at the keyboard staring at the screen, Writing and Editing are two very different processes.  Each one requires a separate set of skills and talents; each uses a different part of your brain—the creative part and the analytical part. Learn to recognize the difference, and teach yourself to focus on only one process at a time.

Writing is the creative part of the process.  When you’re writing—creating—let yourself be caught up in your story.  (See Tip #4.)  Get swept away by the characters, the situation, the events taking place as the plot unfolds.  Don’t worry about the commas. Write the story first. Tell what happens, where it happens, and who it happens to, without getting hung up on fiddling with the previous paragraph, polishing one bit of dialogue, rearranging the sentences, researching subtle rules of usage, looking up historical dates, or finding the proper punctuation.  No need to get every spelling or grammar guideline correct at this stage. 

 You’ll have ample opportunity later.

Once the creative part is done, when your draft is written and the story told, then activate the more analytical part of your brain.  Change hats and become an Editor instead of a Writer.  Now is your opportunity to look at the sentence structure, cull out the redundant phrases, correct the grammar, add the appropriate punctuation if you didn’t get it right the first time, run your spell check.  As I’ll describe in Tip #9, I have two totally separate methods for writing and editing.  I do my initial drafts by dictation while I hike (thus, it’s not possible for me to worry about, or even see, cosmetic nuances of grammar or punctuation), and after I dictate the first draft, I do my editing on the computer.

You can always go back and make changes—always.  If you allow self-doubt (or the lack of the “perfect” word or phrase) to keep you from moving on to the next sentence, then you’ll never finish that paragraph—which means you’ll never finish that chapter, which means you’ll never finish that novel.

Too many times I’ve seen writers derail their creative process by stopping the action to tweak a word or a sentence.  If you write a few paragraphs, then go back and polish them, you destroy all the forward momentum you had.  It’s like shifting gears again and again, forward, reverse, forward, reverse, and you could burn out your mental transmission.

Save the criticism for the second draft. That way you’ll actually finish writing and have something to polish. As far as I know, no one has ever published a “perfect,” but only half-completed, novel.

Nebula Awards Showcase 2011, to be released in April

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

Writing Productivity TIP #6—SET GOALS FOR YOURSELF…AND STICK TO THEM

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

I’m a goal-oriented person. Give me a target, or a list, and I’ll set out to accomplish the task, milestone by milestone.  When I moved to Colorado, I got a book listing all 54 mountain peaks in the state higher than 14,000 ft, along with hiking or climbing routes to each summit.  I immediately made up my mind to climb all of them—and I did.

Castle Peak (14,265 ft) near Aspen, CO

Similarly, if you set yourself a writing objective, you have a target to shoot for, and a greater chance of achieving it.  Make up your mind to set aside one hour per day of dedicated writing, or produce four pages a day, or complete a new story each month.

A caution:  Know yourself well enough to set realistic targets, rather than ridiculous ones.  If you repeatedly fail to meet your goals, day after day, you’ll get discouraged.  Once you learn how to meet your goal of 1000 words per day, for example, then up the stakes to 1500 words a day.  Push yourself.

If you find yourself making too many excuses to yourself, try a more clear-cut goal to keep yourself accountable.  A regular writer’s group may provide you with incentive, if you need to finish a story before the next meeting.  Or you can form or join a support/competition group of your own. Groups can set goals for their members (e.g., each member must submit a piece of writing at each meeting for the other group members to critique).

Rather than viewing this as undue pressure, you can see the friendly competition as mutual support among your fellow writers.  The members of a highly successful group in Oregon regularly engage in competitions among themselves.  In “the Race,” they compete with one another, keeping track of who has the most submissions in the mail at any one time.  The reward is a dramatically increased writing output, as a group.  The penalty?  The loser buys the others dinner. But no one is the loser, really, because even the person with the lowest output is more productive than he or she would have been without the inspiration of those fellow writers.

Each November is National Novel Writing Month, where entrants challenge themselves to complete a novel manuscript in 30 days.  In this year’s NanoWriMo, participants produced 2.8 billion words in a single month.

Try entering writing contests, such as those listed in Writers Digest or Writers Market.  All of these contests have deadlines which force you to complete your entry by a certain date. In the science fiction and fantasy field, one particularly successful contest is the Writers of the Future; it’s been around for more than an quarter century, and my wife and I are both judges, along with many of the most respected writers in the genre. We highly recommend it.

There are plenty of contests you can track down on the web, and the prospect of winning, as well as a set deadline for entries, may give you the nudge you need. (Beware:  Avoid contests that claim all publication rights to submissions. You shouldn’t have to give up your story, no matter how good the contest sounds.)

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

>