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Author Resource Round Table > Ideas for being more productive.

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message 1: by Alex (new)

Alex South (alexsouth) | 31 comments Hi guys.

I want to become a more productive writer.

There's so much stuff on the internet on improving your word counts, and efficiency - I want to cut through all the crap and find what works, and then share it with you guys.

I had an idea to keep an online record of each day -- what worked, what didn't, ways I f####d up, excuses I gave, etc.

I'm up for trying new software, diet changes, mental techniques, time management techniques, different writing approaches, meditation -- pretty much anything!

So, i'll be posting a small update here each day. Feel free to join in, suggest things to try, say what's currently working for you. I already have a few tricks that really, drastically, help me. And I will share those later. Hopefully this will be useful.

Thanks (mod's, feel free to move if posted in a bad place).


message 2: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Zigler (toriz) | 2812 comments Just bear in mind that what works for one person doesn't always work for others.


message 3: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 361 comments Having a place (blog, FB) to post is good -- the sense that Other People are looking to see if you're keeping up. This is the same force behind NaWrNoMo, for instance.

However, that's not the ONLY thing that works, so you should not be surprised if it has no effect for you whatever.


message 4: by Alex (last edited May 01, 2014 01:10PM) (new)

Alex South (alexsouth) | 31 comments Victoria, that's true. We all have different needs. Do you have anything that works well for you? Or have you tried something that others swear by, but that, for you, had no impact?

Brenda, the 'share your deadlines' method is an interesting one. Have you had any success with it? I tried it once on my blog, but the deadline I set was too over-ambitious, so it wasn't a fair trial.


message 5: by Julia (new)

Julia Bellrock | 12 comments An empty wallet full of dust can work wonders.


message 6: by Rita (new)

Rita Chapman | 480 comments This sounds interesting - like your comment Julia.
Alex, what are you hoping to achieve? Do you want to finish a novel you have already started? When I was pushing to finish my a book, I set myself a one page a day minimum. Some days, that was all I could manage, other days I was on a roll and did far more, but I finished in my timeframe.


message 7: by Alex (last edited May 02, 2014 01:02AM) (new)

Alex South (alexsouth) | 31 comments Morning.

Julia, that also scares me, though. What if I don't know what I'm doing? What if I make nothing from all this hard work? I guess that fear goes away a little bit once you've had some success.

Rita, that's spot on. I'm hoping to finish a book. I have 18,000 (very unpolished) words so far. I would like to have it to my editor before the end of the month. I like your one page minimum. So do you write in chronological order, one page at a time? Or did you have the rough outline, and so focused on polishing one page a day?


message 8: by Victoria (last edited May 02, 2014 09:44AM) (new)

Victoria Zigler (toriz) | 2812 comments Most of the usual tips and tricks don't work for me.

I can't stick to a routine (mostly due to an irregular sleeping schedule, but also partly because I get bored of them and lose interest in the routine quickly). As for having goals of certain numbers of words... Having word goals for each day just makes me obsess about the number of words I'm writing, taking my focus away from the story and making me stress out so much that all I end up with is a headache. I actually don't pay attention to word counts until the story is completely done.

The only tip I've ever actually found works for me - and then not every single time (though it does work most of the time) - is the one I was given about leaving the story at a vital point; a point that would be considered one of those annoying cliffhangers. Then I let my mind mull over the possible options for continuing the scene until I end up creating the next scene in my mind and have to write it down. Usually once I sit down to start writing I'll end up doing a decent amount of writing; unless I'm interupted.

I also have at least two stories in progress at the same time, that way if I'm stuck on the next scene for one, I can - usually - come up with an idea for where to go next with another.


message 9: by Alex (last edited May 02, 2014 10:19AM) (new)

Alex South (alexsouth) | 31 comments Well, today was a good day. I managed 1000 words. One thing that really helped (as it does every day) was my standing desk.

Has anyone tried this? I put a small table on a big table, and do all my work standing up. It stops my getting any pains from sitting too long, and I get to improve my core strength.

Also, I just feel more alive and more awake. It brings an energy to me, and sometimes I even have a little dance as I write, especially if I'm listening to flamenco!


message 10: by Alex (new)

Alex South (alexsouth) | 31 comments Victoria, I have read about the 'cliff hanger' technique.

I glad it works for you. I kind of do it too. I'll wait until I have to mull over a scene, and then go for walk, or take a shower. That way, I can work in my head without it feeling like work. That is, I get to do something productive, whilst also having a break from the computer.


message 11: by Rita (new)

Rita Chapman | 480 comments Alex, I work in chronological order and just wrote a minimum of a page a day to finish the story. The polishing and editing came afterwards!

I'm not good at standing for any length of time - I wouldn't be able to concentrate on writing!


message 12: by Stan (new)

Stan Morris (morriss003) | 362 comments The thing that makes me most productive is the anticipation of posting my work somewhere. I find that this is great way to begin a novel, or to get into the mood for the next novel. At this time, I have stories posted in different groups at Goodreads, Readwave.com, writerscafe.org, science fiction forums, and a post apocalypse forum.

Readwave is annoying in that they want stories less than 800 words, so I am usually forced to edit my story. On the other hand, that often helps me find unnecessary words. Writerscafe.org is probably the easiest place to manage the stories I post, but the formatting can be difficult

When I am ready to publish the novel, I return to the sites and delete my posts. I usually give advanced notice of this in one of the last stories. Hopefully, those who have become interested will search for the book.


message 13: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Zigler (toriz) | 2812 comments Yeah, exactly... A break from being in front of the computer while you do other things, but your mind will automatically want to continue, and if you let it then your imagination will give you a great scene to write down next time you're in a position to do so.

I couldn't stand up for long periods to write. For a few moments to make a note of something, sure, but more than that wouldn't work.


message 14: by Alex (new)

Alex South (alexsouth) | 31 comments Stan, in what context do you post your work online.

Do you do it asking for feedback? Or for the thrill of entertaining others?


message 15: by Pamela (new)

Pamela (PamelaStAbbs) | 25 comments I enjoyed blogging but it can be a distraction. Sometimes it helps to limber up ready for writing, but time is precious.


message 16: by Martyn (new)

Martyn Halm (amsterdamassassinseries) | 916 comments Alex wrote: "Hi guys.

I want to become a more productive writer.

There's so much stuff on the internet on improving your word counts, and efficiency - I want to cut through all the crap and find what works, ..."


I've written a couple of blog posts on how to write without getting distracted by your inner editor. You can find articles on my writing process here:

https://amsterdamassassin.wordpress.c...

https://amsterdamassassin.wordpress.c...

I hope they can inspire new solutions for you.


message 17: by Stan (new)

Stan Morris (morriss003) | 362 comments Alex wrote: "Stan, in what context do you post your work online.

Do you do it asking for feedback? Or for the thrill of entertaining others?"


I get some feedback and the thrill of seeing my work, but maybe the most important reason is that I can catch errors before the stories go into the book. It's amazing how much more focused I am on the quality of my work when I know that other people are reading it.


message 18: by Alex (new)

Alex South (alexsouth) | 31 comments Thanks for that Martyn. :)

So here's something I wanted to talk about, do any of you have any pre-writing rituals. A cup of coffee? Reading an inspirational quote?

I like to take five minutes at the start of each day to sit in silence and ask myself what I want to achieve with my time.


message 19: by Victoria (last edited May 06, 2014 02:06PM) (new)

Victoria Zigler (toriz) | 2812 comments I'll get more writing done if I'm not disturbed by the dog wanting out, one of the degus having a tantrum, the phone ringing, etc, but there's not really much I can do to stop those things from happening (taking the dog in the yard before I sit down to write doesn't mean he won't want to go out there again in a bit, for example).

I'll also get more writing done if I'm not hungry or thirsty, but I don't immediately think "I'm about to write, so I better grab a drink and snack" (though I probably should, so I can avoid the need to stop writing to find something to eat or drink). I keep meaning to make this a ritual, since I struggle to focus on writing if I'm hungry or thirsty, but - as I already mentioned - I don't do well with any sort of routine, so I never end up doing it.


message 20: by Martyn (new)

Martyn Halm (amsterdamassassinseries) | 916 comments Alex wrote: "So here's something I wanted to talk about, do any of you have any pre-writing rituals. A cup of coffee? Reading an inspirational quote?

I like to take five minutes at the start of each day to sit in silence and ask myself what I want to achieve with my time."


I write in bursts and make sure I stop and do something that doesn't require thinking or sitting at my laptop, so that goes something like this:

I make a cappuccino, put an egg timer on thirty minutes, go into the living room, start up the laptop while I drink my cappuccino, and write until the timer goes off. Then I take a ten minute break during which I put the laundry in the washing machine while I can think about what I want to write next, put the timer on another thirty minutes and write until the timer goes off. Then I wash the dishes while I think about my writing, put the timer on another thirty minutes, and start writing again.


message 21: by Stan (new)

Stan Morris (morriss003) | 362 comments Martyn (a.k.a. M'sieur Sang Froid) wrote: "Alex wrote: "So here's something I wanted to talk about, do any of you have any pre-writing rituals. A cup of coffee? Reading an inspirational quote?

I like to take five minutes at the start of ea..."


Wow!


message 22: by Alex (new)

Alex South (alexsouth) | 31 comments Martyn, that sounds like a good technique. I also liked what you put in you blog post about not being an editor and a writer at the same time. That's probably the one thing that has most improved my productivity.

Victoria, you bring up an interesting topic: noise! Here's an interesting article about how ambient noise(like the general chatter of a coffee shop) can help you be creative: http://99u.com/articles/16711/turn-it...

I'd like to know what you guys think.

And what about music? For me, music has become essential. It's the bribe that I use when I don't feel like writing, and also it helps me feel more creative, I'm not sure why.


message 23: by Stan (new)

Stan Morris (morriss003) | 362 comments Instrumental music is okay. I listen to this sometimes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FexMw...


message 24: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Zigler (toriz) | 2812 comments Noise doesn't stop me writing (though if there's too much of it then hearing my screen reader can get tricky). It's more the fact I sometimes take a while to get back to the writing if I get pulled away from it, and things like the dog needing out, a degu needing to be calmed down, or the doorbell or phone ringing, tend to mean I'm going to be away from the writing for at least several minutes. This means I have to spend some time thinking about the scene I was about to write so I can shape it in my mind again before I sit down to write it, wasting time that - if I hadn't been disturbed - would have been spent on writing, but instead was spent getting back in the zone, if you know what I mean.


message 25: by Steven (new)

Steven Malone | 43 comments Victoria wrote: "Most of the usual tips and tricks don't work for me.

I can't stick to a routine (mostly due to an irregular sleeping schedule, but also partly because I get bored of them and lose interest in the ..."


Great post. I use both of these myself. The unfinished sentence gets me into things more quickly. And, having more than one thing percolating allows me to shift toward something stimulating if something else becomes stale.


message 26: by Michael (new)

Michael | 29 comments I need coffee and quiet. And I do try to stop for the day mid-chapter so I have a train of thought to return to next morning.


message 27: by Steven (new)

Steven Malone | 43 comments Michael wrote: "I need coffee and quiet. And I do try to stop for the day mid-chapter so I have a train of thought to return to next morning."

Coffee helps.


message 28: by Stan (new)

Stan Morris (morriss003) | 362 comments Must have coffee. Decaf at night.


message 29: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Zigler (toriz) | 2812 comments I don't drink coffee; tastes disgusting!


message 30: by Steven (new)

Steven Malone | 43 comments Victoria wrote: "I don't drink coffee; tastes disgusting!"

Tea works as good. Ginseng and green tea even better.


message 31: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Zigler (toriz) | 2812 comments Steven wrote: "Victoria wrote: "Most of the usual tips and tricks don't work for me.

I can't stick to a routine (mostly due to an irregular sleeping schedule, but also partly because I get bored of them and lose..."


Exactly, Stephen!


message 32: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Zigler (toriz) | 2812 comments Steven wrote: "Victoria wrote: "I don't drink coffee; tastes disgusting!"

Tea works as good. Ginseng and green tea even better."


Yes, it does... I drink tea; sometimes regular, sometimes herbal, depending on my mood and if I want the tea to do something (like wake me up a bit) or just want a drink.


message 33: by Martyn (new)

Martyn Halm (amsterdamassassinseries) | 916 comments Alex wrote: "Martyn, that sounds like a good technique. I also liked what you put in you blog post about not being an editor and a writer at the same time. That's probably the one thing that has most improved my productivity."

I'm glad it helped you. What works for me doesn't necessarily work for other writers, but timing your writing can work very well. There are even productivity apps like Pomodoro, where you get 25 minutes where the app is the only functional thing and you can't do anything else.

As to the Writer/Editor mindset: I have the same problem while drafting that I want to edit what I just wrote, and it slows down your process because you take one step back with every two steps forward, instead of just walking and leaving the mess for cleanup some other time.

Things that help enormously with writing:
- I always know what I want to write. That doesn't mean that I'm not surprised what my subconscious pushes to the surface, but when I set out to write a scene, most of the time I know what I want to happen.
- I believe in one answer is worth two new questions. That means that every time I answer a question, I create two more questions. That keeps readers both satisfied that the question is answered, and curious about the answers to the new questions.
- I don't believe in spoonfeeding information. I will hint and suggest and provide the salient details, but the rest becomes either unimportant or something for the reader to fill in.

re: music
I listen to music on my headphones while I work. Mostly jazz, but also other music I'm familiar with, so I have a soundtrack while I write. I also reference a lot of music in my Amsterdam Assassin Series and quite a few readers have given me feedback that they like the music choices in the books and are looking them up in real life.

re: coffee and tea
Cappuccino and Lapsang tea for me.


message 34: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Zigler (toriz) | 2812 comments I agree about keeping being a writer and an editor separate. I never worry about editing when I'm writing a story, only getting it written. Once it's written, then I start to tidy up sentence structure, tweak descriptions so they sound better or are more detailed, fix spelling and grammatical errors, fix typos, etc. But the first draft is to get the story written down, and editing doesn't even enter my mind.


message 35: by Amber (new)

Amber Foxx (amberfoxx) | 246 comments I have dysgraphia, so if I don't go back and clean things up frequently I might not even know what I meant to write. The severity of my letter-scrambling defeats spell-check. This process of cleaning up makes me stop and rephrase things as well. I've developed a pattern of creative spurt, basic clean-up with minor revisions, and then a more careful revision of each scene before I go on to the next. This seems to be unusual but I'm quite productive. As I review the most recent scenes I can get ideas I want to bring into the next. I need silence--cannot think at all with music. It makes me want to dance.


message 36: by Heather (new)

Heather (clockwork_wings) | 67 comments I have difficulty finishing a story. Something will happen, maybe I'll get inspired by something or maybe I'll decide I don't like my main character as much as I thought I did, or don't like the way the story is headed, or maybe decided too many subplots are dumb and it's just easier to start fresh without them. Music helps, but really, one cannot be creative on command, that's an oxymoron.

*smashes head into keyboard a few times*


message 37: by Heather (last edited May 08, 2014 08:10PM) (new)

Heather (clockwork_wings) | 67 comments Martyn (a.k.a. M'sieur Sang Froid) wrote: "Alex wrote: "Martyn, that sounds like a good technique. I also liked what you put in you blog post about not being an editor and a writer at the same time. That's probably the one thing that has mo..."

A lot of my stories have "soundtracks," music that suits the tone or the characters, or even seems to paraphrase the story. I like "Beautiful Decline" by Abney Park and "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons for post-apocalyptic settings, "The Island of Doctor Moreau" by the Von Hoffman Orchestra (the album on Amazon is "Monster University: Pajama Party") for my Kingdom of Moreau stories, obviously.


message 38: by T.R. (new)

T.R. Winters | 12 comments I like to act out a scene with the voices and movements before I sit down and write. I find out the most interesting things about my characters through this process. Sometimes a character has an accent and I realize what country they want to be from. Unfortunately, these elaborate conversations (all out loud) do sound a little looney. I don't let it worry me though, if normal was my aim in life, I'd have never have become a writer!


message 39: by T.R. (new)

T.R. Winters | 12 comments Stan wrote: "Must have coffee. Decaf at night."

Oh yes, coffee is the essence of art!


message 40: by Victoria (last edited May 09, 2014 12:40AM) (new)

Victoria Zigler (toriz) | 2812 comments Amber: Interesting system; glad you found one that works for you!

T.R.: Hey, if it works for you, go for it, and never mind what anyone else thinks!


message 41: by Stan (new)

Stan Morris (morriss003) | 362 comments T.R. wrote: "I like to act out a scene with the voices and movements before I sit down and write. I find out the most interesting things about my characters through this process. Sometimes a character has an ac..."

Nice idea.


message 42: by Alex (new)

Alex South (alexsouth) | 31 comments T.R. wrote: "I like to act out a scene with the voices and movements before I sit down and write. I find out the most interesting things about my characters through this process. Sometimes a character has an ac..."

Ha ha! I can relate. I had a few characters that I didn't know much about, so I pretended to be each one and made my girlfriend sit down and have a short chat with all eight. It was very helpful.

I have a big problem with talking out loud in general. I find it hard to think sometimes without being able to speak as well. It does lead to me sounding a bit nuts.


message 43: by Alex (new)

Alex South (alexsouth) | 31 comments It would be good if we could make some sort of collaborative writers playlist. Something online that anyone could add to.

I don't know how to do that though.


message 44: by Andrea (new)

Andrea Jackson (paperbackdiva) | 108 comments I like music in the background but creating those playlists is a distraction I don't need. So I like to call up Iheart Radio on the internet and use one of those stations they put under the mood for "chilling out". Sometimes classical, jazz, soundscapes, instrumental.... I've also discovered some new works that I like.


message 45: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 848 comments I'd spend my whole time obsessing about word counts.

Alex - online could either be a shared google drive document or dropbox folder. I do collab stuff all the time.


message 46: by Martyn (new)

Martyn Halm (amsterdamassassinseries) | 916 comments T.R. wrote: "I like to act out a scene with the voices and movements before I sit down and write. I find out the most interesting things about my characters through this process. Sometimes a character has an ac..."

I can't do that. I'd be arrested.


message 47: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Zigler (toriz) | 2812 comments LOL @ Martyn!


message 48: by Martyn (new)

Martyn Halm (amsterdamassassinseries) | 916 comments And not just for killing people, but also breaking and entering, coercion, intimidation, pretending to be a police officer, social engineering, hacking...


message 49: by Heather (new)

Heather (clockwork_wings) | 67 comments Having someone you can detail your story to can be fun. I have one that can notice things in the story as a surrogate reader that I may not as the writer.


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