Kevin J. Anderson has more than 140 published books, 56 of which have been national or international bestsellers. He has written numerous novels in the Star Wars, X-Files, and Dune universes, as well as steampunk fantasy novels Clockwork Angels and Clockwork Lives, written with legendary rock drummer Neil Peart, based on the concept album by the band Rush. His original works include the Saga of Seven Suns series, the Terra Incognita fantasy trilogy, the Saga of Shadows trilogy, and his humorous horror series featuring Dan Shamble, Zombie PI. He has edited numerous anthologies, written comics and games, and penned the lyrics to two rock CDs. Anderson and his wife Rebecca Moesta are the publishers of WordFire Press.
i write. i make up stuff. i adventure hard, so you don’t have to.
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.