Monday, 15 September 2014

The Write Time: 5 Ways to Find out What Works Best for You

One of the biggest things I see being discussed is setting a daily word count. What does this mean? You set yourself a minimum word count (never a maximum) to meet each day - even weekends and vacation - and that's what you strive to meet. I read an interesting post recently where a man actually rewarded himself for each day that he met his minimum word count by putting a toonie into a jar and saving it. After a few months, you've got a couple hundred dollars, and you spend it on something fun. I repeat, fun. Once more - do not pay a single bill with this money. It is your reward.

So when do you write? Do you know the time that best suites your needs? How? Do you know which way is your road to being as productive as possible? Or do you do it wherever you can, whenever you can? I'm a little bit of both. Working full-time and being a single mother . . . well, if I wasn't prepared to snap up a moment of quiet, I'd have never written a word, never mind a novel and these posts. I would be a pain to be around - I seriously get grumpy when characters start yelling at me to stop ignoring them. So whether you are a busy parent, having to work to pay the bills, or so free you can stare at clouds all day, this is my top five tips for where writing can be successful.

1. Discover when you are most productive. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do you have to have total silence or a little bit of background noise? Moms and dads may not have the luxury of scheduling "the write time" or reducing the noise in their home, and even singles have work schedules that must be adhered to. But no matter what you do or what obligations you have to others, there is more you can do to figure this out so that you see a more productive result for your efforts.

Personally, I love sticking on a disc with my favourite series and writing. This gives me the freedom to avoid distractions (ironic, yes), but still be productive. What do I mean? Well, it starts where I spend two of every five minutes writing, and the other three watching the screen. My mind starts to speed up a bit more, the scenes start to progress i.e. characters begin steering the conversation, and soon all five minutes is writing. It's like the show isn't even there. But - and this is so necessary I can't even begin to say how many times it has saved me from putting the pen and paper down - in the moments of transition, when I don't know where I want to go or how I'm going to get there, I look up. My mind goes blank and I watch the show again. This can be five or ten minutes, or even a full episode. That doesn't matter. What is important is that I stop thinking for a while - I didn't put the writing away - and then suddenly, when I looked back down, it clicked. If that doesn't work, I do something else: write a poem, sketch, or maybe play a game with my daughter. I change gears and come back, which most of the time, is all that is needed to clear the cobwebs. Just stay away from those social media sites and the phone . . . .

There are so many "types" of writers, which is a list too extensive to include within this article; however, Men with Pens provides a great overview.

2. Turn off distractions. When writing, the internet and phone (even the doorbell, if it is in your power) should be off. Feed your children and animals beforehand, especially when you know that you're about to embark on the 'greatest scene you've ever written', and have been dying to write it. The list of pet-peeves one person may have will differ from another, but do what you can to eliminate what you consider to be a distraction prior to beginning. If this is holing up in an office or closet decked out for your personal 'bliss', do it. If it's sitting in a café with an endless supply of caffeine, all the power to you. Just figure out what is detrimental to you, and then get rid of it.

3. What helps? On the opposite end of distractions, are benefits. What gets you 'in the mood'? Coffee? Tea? Soft music singing sweet nothings to you so you can write that special tender moment? Be it posters, flashcards for reference, or a beverage of familiarity, find out what you can surround yourself with to make you more productive. Just be careful not to clutter yourself with unnecessary elements that will lead to distraction when placed together i.e. you really want to write about how x stabs y, but you can't stop thinking about the pile of comfy clothes discarded in the corner from last week's writing sessions (ewe).

4. Find out how. Do you use a notebook and pen? Computer? Dictate it into a voice recorder or app, and then transcribe it later? Again, whichever works, remain consistent. You're much more likely to never miss a scene you thought you had written/dictated when you know exactly where it is that you would have created it.

Personally, I love my notebook. It's old-school and a total you-know-what to type afterwards, but I get to take it anywhere. Every time I get into it, I zone out, which I find difficult on the computer. My thoughts slow down and the scenes are created with much more detail this way, avoiding the over-bloating of going back to read over and over . . . and over again. On top of that, the first time I type it out is like the first round of editing. It isn't perfect, sure, but what I wrote initially might not be what I really want now, or it's what I want but not phrased the way I want (if that makes sense). Using a notebook and pen saves you from the delete button - you can only move forward - which has saved too many scenes than I care to count in my series. You know the ones: where you don't feel like writing, but force yourself to do it anyway. When you're done, you're like, "Whatever." Then you hit delete and it's gone. It's more effort to scribble it all out, and if I wait (a week, maybe two), and then read it over, I realize I like it. It's concise, but descriptive. It gets to the heart of what I want the character to feel or say without overshadowing with purple prose. Nice, right? I know.

5. Always be ready (on the go). If you are a parent or single person with an active life, this will be meaningful. Bring your notebook or computer with you everywhere. If you are a mom or dad, go to the park or indoor play area - somewhere you can easily see your child - and work while they play. Many malls by the food court, or even some restaurants, will have this with tables set up for parents. The park bench is a bit of a balancing act, but it's doable. For parents away from their children, or individuals who aren't parents, use your tools on a break at work or the bus/subway ride to and from a destination (like work). Keep a notebook with tabs - ideas, scenes in a story, little moments within a scene, etc. - or a phone set up with a voice app work wonders during a break at work. You never know when something useful is going to pop into your head, or what you'll encounter to inspire it. If you did, you'd already be rich and famous because you'd be the best psychic in the world.

Now, one more for good karma....

6. Try something new! Have some wine - just enough to loosen up - or write in a coffee shop instead of a closed study void of human interaction. I bet you'll discover things you never would have otherwise. If not . . . well, it might give you a good chuckle if you indulged in more than a glass.

What gets you ready to write? If you know the "write" time and don't see it here, let me know. I love hearing new ideas and tricks - anything that helps save time and increase productivity is a good thing.


Author: Sasha Leigh

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