Struggling to write? Tips for writing productivity

 

Don’t start watching Netflix before a writing session or during writing breaks

I am the worst for doing this. As soon as I settle in front of my laptop and Netflix, that’s my productivity done for the day. As I work part-time, I try to write for at least an hour when I get home, but like to have a cup of tea as soon as I’m through the door. If I pair that cup of tea with Netflix or television, I quickly lose all writing motivation, and instead start binge-watching.

It’s too late for me, but if you are debating getting Netflix but actually want to finish your novel, don’t buy it! It’s lethal for productivity.

If you tire mid writing session, go for a walk

And I don’t necessarily mean the outside kind. Sitting still for a long period of time is likely to make you feel lethargic or restless, so moving, even if it’s just a short walk to the loo or around your house for five minutes, will wake you up, thus improve concentration.

I will illustrate my point with an experience of mine from a couple of days ago. I made the mistake of cosying up in my new fleece blanket. See fleece blanket:

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It’s the warmest, softest fleece in the history of fleeces. Not only did I waste the next 15 minutes sending smug photos of me in the fleece to my sister who was at work (see fleece collage):

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I was so comfy and sleepy that I ended up wrapped up like a burrito lying horizontally, eyes closed and listening to music. Eventually, I forced myself to walk to the kitchen for a glass of water and was able to re-locate my concentration and launch straight back into writing!

Get any important activities out of the way before you settle down in front of your computer

I get home from work at 2pm, but like to write between the hours of 3:30 and 5pm. I therefore give myself an hour to unwind after work, prepare and eat a late lunch and treat myself to a cup of tea. Making sure you are well fed and watered before sitting down to write will aid concentration, and will ensure that you don’t get up every 15 minutes to get a drink or a snack (plus you won’t be spending the whole time thinking about how hungry/thirsty you are). As well as eating and drinking, go to the loo, get your laptop charger or collect up any equipment or books that you might need as you write. Basically, get anything that might distract from your writing out of the way beforehand! Although it may sound counter-productive to almost ‘procrastinate’ before writing, you will find concentrating easier, as there are less things distracting or interrupting your writing ‘flow’.

Put your phone on charge in another room

This one is self-explanatory. No phones=no distractions. Unless you are awaiting important news or awaiting a phone call, you can be away from your phone for an hour or two. If, like me, you are constantly touching and playing with your phone, putting it out of reach somewhere where you can’t hear it will improve your concentration ten-fold. You can even treat yourself to an Instagram binge afterward, as a reward for upping your word count.

And that’s all for today, although there are countless other ways to improve your writing productivity. Share your favourite tips with me in the comments!

 

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Adding conflict into your novel: list post

As we all know, introducing varying levels of conflict throughout your novel is important, and to help you all out, I’ve written a quick list post detailing ways to add it into your novel. Although not all of the below will be relevant to your own writing, hopefully the list will help to highlight the many ways you can ramp up the tension in your novel, and will help you to come up with your own.

As you can see, conflict doesn’t have to come from a catastrophic event, and can be as seemingly insignificant as a stomach virus – perhaps your protagonist passed the virus onto her crush, who in turn, missed the prom.

A secret kiss

A fight

A lost object

An argument

An enemy

A death

A natural disaster

Self doubt

A specific rule or regulation

An injury

A rivalry

Rallying against those in charge

Head vs Heart

An illness

A fire

A bad omen

A breakdown (physical or mental)

A breakdown in communication

An animal attack

An obstacle

A revenge attack

A trip or a fall

A car accident

A robbery

A marriage

A divorce

A parent enforcing the rules

Morality vs desire

A secret

A gunshot

A power cut

A broken down vehicle

An ex-boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/friend

A broken object

A missed train or bus

Feel free to add your own ideas into the comments!

 

 


How to fit writing into your life

Hi guys,

Just a quick list post detailing several different ways of sneaking that little extra bit of writing time into your life! It’s a bit hypocritical of me as I’ve chosen to write this as opposed to actually getting on with my novel or short stories but oh well…here goes!

1. Try to write 500 words a day

Exactly as it sounds, try and write a minimum of 500 words per day. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it works! My sister, Becca, has written 70,000 words of her first draft this way. It needn’t be 500 words exactly, just choose a goal that you believe to be attainable and get cracking!

Why this will work:

In his eBook Mastering creativity, James Clear explores the importance of having a schedule and sticking to it – to him, consistency and routine is the difference between being a professional, and being an amateur. 

He says

if you’re serious about creating something compelling, you need to stop waiting for motivation and inspiration to strike you and simply set a schedule for doing work on a consistent basis. Of course, that’s easy to say, but much harder to do in practice…..If you don’t have a time block to write every week, then you’ll find yourself saying things like, “I just need to find the willpower to do it.” Stop waiting for motivation or inspiration to strike you and set a schedule for your habits’.

The entire publication is well worth a read. Find it here. Bottom line is, if you set yourself a schedule and stick to it, it will soon become a habit – as integral to your daily routine as brushing your teeth in the morning.

2. Set a timer for 15 minutes each day and write

Very similar to the above point, but you set a timer instead. This may work better if you have less time, as you know exactly how long you will need so will be easier to stick to and schedule in. Just promise yourself you will write AT LEAST until the timer finishes, and more if you fancy it. You could end up writing for hours. OR you could end up writing for 15 minutes. But hey, at least you’re making progress! I’m very tempted to give this method a go, as I’ve been slacking BIG TIME on my writing recently.

3. Devote one day a week to writing

It doesn’t have to be a whole day, but choose a day where you are free of other commitments and spend a few hours writing. This is what I (try to) do. I’m busy the rest of the week with work (now part-time, woohoo) and then freelancing afterward, so I tend to write on weekends. Sundays generally work for me, so I’ll try and sit down and crack out 3 or 4 hours of writing. Although this can work out really well (I once wrote 10,000 words in a day…) it can also be harder to keep to. Life happens, and sometimes your writing days will end up being filled with other commitments. It’s definitely worth giving it a go though, especially if you’re like me, and like to write in big chunks.

4. Download Evernote and write on the train/in lunch breaks/whilst waiting to pick up the kids etc 

I love Evernote! I downloaded it over a year ago when I first started writing, and I used this method when I was writing my first draft. I was commuting into London every day and would try to add a little bit to my draft every morning (assuming I got a seat on the train). It worked great and, even though the writing was appalling (I absolutely hate typing on phones), I succeeded in outlining the main story-line this way. Evernote also allows you to access all your notes on any computer/iPad with an internet connection, so you can get home and pick up where you left off on your laptop. It is also a good source for note taking. 

Top tip: Split your writing into chapters, or scenes, and have each one in a different ‘note’, otherwise you will find yourself having to scroll for ten minutes just to find the bit of writing you’re looking for. Not ideal. Remember, you can finalise chapter breaks properly once you are in the editing stage – you don’t need to commit to these specific breaks permanently, it is just easier from a usability perspective whilst you are at the drafting stage.  

5. Ignore how bad your writing is

So you’ve found the time to write, which is great, but sometimes the quality of our writing can stop us in our tracks! Don’t sweat it. Sometimes our brains just don’t work (example, I just wrote ‘sometims our bains don’t work’…) but don’t let this put you off. If you’re having one of those days, just dump as much as you can on the page (no actual dumping please…). You never know, 10% of it could be salvageable and at least you’ve made progress. Moral of the story: any writing is better than no writing. Again, James Clear advocates the idea that you should give yourself permission to create junk:

Creative work is no different than training in the gym. You can’t selectively choose your best moments and only work on the days when you have great ideas. The only way to unveil the great ideas inside of you is to go through a volume of work, put in your repetitions, and show up over and over again. Obviously, doing something below average is never the goal. But you have to give yourself permission to grind through the occasional days of below average work because it’s the price you have to pay to get to excellent work.

That’s all for now!


Where to find ideas for your creative writing

Hi guys, just a quick list post today. I’m aware that there are many awesome similar blog posts detailing how to get ideas for your writing, but I figured I would write one anyway. When I first started trying to come up with ideas, I struggled, probably because I would sit for hours going over things in my head, trying to ‘force’ an idea to come. This is not the way forward. True inspiration is easy to come by; all you need to do is be mindful of your environment and let it come to you. Trust me, once you start doing this, you will have more ideas and inspiration than you actually have time to write about!
So here goes….

1. Pinterest/writing prompt websites

Pinterest has been a lifesaver during my creative writing journey. As well as providing useful articles RE anything novel related, it is also a good place to find novel writing inspiration. Just search ‘writing prompts’ or similar, and away you go!

2. Lines from songs

This idea came to me one day at work. I was listening to one of my Spotify playlists when I heard a song lyric that really resonated. And then it occurred to me – if a single song lyric is strong enough to evoke an emotion from within me, surely a whole novel based around said lyric would result in an engaging and emotionally charged story.

3. News stories

Although the news these days can be pretty depressing, it can also provide inspiration for your creative writing. Every good novel or short story is successful because it manages to evoke feelings and emotions in the reader. News stories can provide this in abundance.
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Source

4. Moral dilemmas and ethical questions

As stated in a previous point, novels are at their best when they result in a strong emotional response from the reader. One of the best ways to do this is by presenting some form of moral dilemma or ethical question. Think Robin Hood or Ian McEwan’s Atonement. Googling ‘moral dilemmas’ is a great place to start with this one.

5. Your personal opinions

Your personal opinions can be useful when you are looking for novel writing inspiration. The whole point of a novel is to tell a story, but this story must have an underlying premise or moral of some form or another. Maybe you feel strongly about animal rights, or you are against capital punishment. How might you tell a story that encompasses these opinions, in a bid to share them with the world? An example of this is Karen Fowler’s We are all Completely Beside Ourselves, which is well worth a read.

6. From your dreams

This is how I came up with the idea for my novel. I woke up one day from a dream, with a vivid (and awesome!) image in my head. Of course, it wasn’t a fully formed novel (and I’m still not quite at that stage yet), but it provided a great starting point. This, combined with a sketch I doodled half-heartedly one day (see point 14), resulted in the creation of my story world.

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7. From your daydreams

Similar to above, but if you’re the sort of person who likes to imagine yourself in various imaginary situations (GUILTY), how about substituting yourself with an interesting made-up character?

8. Netflix/films/TV shows/books

Existing TV shows, films, and books can provide a great starting point for your creative writing. Of course, you don’t want to copy the exact characters, plot, or storyline, but there’s nothing stopping you from taking a minor character and reimagining them (kind of like fan fiction). What might happen if they were the main character? What story would they tell? If this idea doesn’t appeal, perhaps you could look at the central conflict – perhaps the main characters are having an affair? Perhaps the protagonist is trying in vain to get their child back? What might happen if you take these characters and place them in a completely different story world? The sky is the limit! Plus, it’s an excuse to watch Netflix…

9. People watching

People watching is a great way to come up with interesting characters. Perhaps you’ve seen an eccentric lady pushing a doll around in a pram, or a well dressed but sad businessman. What might be happening in their lives? Where might they live? What could their interests and hobbies be?

10. Interesting photos

Websites like Oddee.com and Buzzfeed often publish list posts highlighting interesting places. It could be ’50 creepy abandoned ghost towns’ or even ’25 places you should visit in Scotland.’ These can provide amazing ideas for story settings, worlds, and plotlines. With the former, ask why these places might be abandoned? What were they like in their heyday?
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11. Fairy tales

Perhaps take your favourite fairy tale and place it in a completely different era? Cinderella in the stone age? Rapunzel in the future? You get the idea!

12. Driving/walking around

When you drive and walk around, keep your eyes peeled for interesting scene ideas. Perhaps you drive past an abandoned barn or a towering derelict building. These could both form the basis of a story world or a scene.

13. From personal experiences

I’m personally not an overly interesting person (!!!), but you might be. If you’ve been through something extraordinary, have a super unique hobby, or even just a quirky personality, you could well have a great starting point for a novel or a character!

14. Doodling

I get a lot of my character ideas and setting ideas by doodling things. I don’t set out to look for inspiration this way, but if I’ve done an interesting doodle of a scene or a character, I store these away in hope that one day I’ll get to write about them!

And that’s all for today! I hope you find the above tips helpful, and let me know any of your favourite ways to get inspiration in the comments!