5 tricks to productive writing for busy schedules

I’m back from Realm Makers, and wow! What a great time! There’s too much to share and too many exciting things happening to fit into one blog post, so that’s something I’ll tackle in the coming weeks.

important_noteOne goal I’m working toward is a bit of reorganization and prioritizing of my commitments. I’m busy. Really busy. And now I’m busier than I’ve been before, and I have more to do. So I’m going to have to buckle down and get a lot of things done in a short amount of time.

I got to thinking that maybe other people would like to know how I get anything written when I’m running around like a crazy person all the time. So here’s a short list of tricks for productive writing habits that I’ve made based on my own experiences. No empirical evidence, of course, but it’s worked for me over the last 20 years or so.

My 5 tricks for productive writing

1. Plan your story.

Liam Neeson as Col. Hannibal Smith in The A-Team
Liam Neeson as Col. Hannibal Smith in The A-Team

I’ve earned the nickname “Hannibal” among the editors at Crosshair Press, in reference to Colonel Hannibal Smith from the A-Team, because I plan everything. But having a plan makes life easier all the way around. Write your chapter outline out. It doesn’t have to be complex. Just put enough down so that you know what happens next. That way you can stop anytime and pick it up again. Granted, it’s better if you don’t have to stop. If you can knock out a complete chapter in every sitting, your story will have better flow. But that’s also the difference between a first draft and a second draft.

2. Know your characters.

Johnny Depp had to know Captain Jack Sparrow very well to pull him off correctly
Johnny Depp had to know Captain Jack Sparrow very well to pull him off correctly

If you’re writing about your friends, you don’t have to struggle with what they’re going to say or do. You know them already. The better you know them and the more you enjoy spending time with them, the more you’ll love writing about them. It’ll be like you have a story to tell about them that you can’t wait for people to hear. And generally speaking, when I get that way, I can’t type fast enough I’m so excited for others to experience their story too. That’s how well you need to know your characters.

3. Do your research.

researchKnow the setting, the weather, the buildings, the streets, etc. before you start writing so you have an idea of what the place looks like. Otherwise you’ll have to stop and do your research in the middle of writing, and that will slow you down. If you don’t have the chance to research thoroughly, just get a basic idea and then make a note to yourself when you’re writing to come back and flesh out the details later.

4. Ignore the word count.

Write what feels natural. There’s more chance that your actual voice will come out if you don’t worry about sounding like someone else. Some chapters will be longer. Some will be shorter. That’s okay. Some hours feel like they take seconds; other hours feel like they take 12. Variety is good. It keeps your readers on their toes. But do make sure that each chapter contains a beginning, a middle and an end.

5. Have fun.

Pacific Rim--an example of a hugely fun movie without a lot of story
Pacific Rim–an example of a hugely fun movie without a lot of story

The world you’re writing is your own. The characters are your own creation. Enjoy adventuring with them, whether it’s a fantasy or a space opera or an expedition in the jungle. Real life has enough trouble without carrying it over into your writing. Don’t stress out about punctuation and spelling or whatever your weak point in grammar is. Writers have so much to juggle in their minds while they’re crafting a story, some things have to drop, and when it comes to storytelling, the mechanics of a first draft are the least important. Get the story on paper. Have fun with it. The more you enjoy writing it, the more people will enjoy reading it.

A.C. Williams

Amy Williams left a lucrative career in marketing to write novels about space cowboys, clumsy church secretaries, American samurai, and alternate dimensions. Along the way, she also discovered a passion for teaching other creative professionals how to use technology to make life easier. Through video instruction or one-on-one coaching, she teaches software, blogging, basic graphic design, and many other useful skills that help creative entrepreneurs get stuff done minus the frustration.

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