Kevin J. Anderson is an American science-fiction author who’s had over forty books on the New York Times Bestseller list. Needless to say, he loves writing, and he wants to share that love with other writers, of all skill levels.
To celebrate National Novel Writer’s Month (NaNoWriMo), Anderson is reposting to his blog some of the tips and tricks he’s learned over the years to help boost productivity and give waning enthusiasm the swift kick it needs to get back on track.
Whether or not you’re a NaNoWriMo participant yourself, you still may find the following tips helpful in your own writing endeavours:
Productivity Tip #1: Shut up and write!
“Writers are the only people in the world who would rather be cleaning the bathroom than doing their job. When you do get a spare moment to write, whether it be late at night, at lunch, or early in the morning, don’t find excuses and waste time for ‘just one little thing.’”
Productivity Tip #2: Defy the empty page
“Struggling to get your first sentence down can be a silly, but serious, hang-up. The first sentence has to be a hook, the all-important line that captures our reader—BUT worrying overmuch about getting it Just Right can cause creative paralysis to set in. You’ve GOT to start your fingers typing, or your pen writing, or your tape-recorder recording.”
Productivity Tip #3: Work on different projects at the same time
“… if I have several novels or stories at different stages of completion, I can switch from one process to another, while charging along at full-steam. The variety also makes the tedious parts more palatable. I can research a new novel for an hour, then write a draft chapter of a different story, then proofread galleys of another novel, answer questions in an interview for yet another novel, then maybe go back to tweak an outline, or do some more research.”
Productivity Tip #4: Dare to be bad (at first)… then fix it
“Your draft words or descriptions might be redundant. So what? They can be fixed later. You might make grammatical mistakes. So what? Promise yourself you’ll fix them later—after you’ve got the story written.”
Productivity Tip #5: Use every minute
“If you have only a few minutes here and there, then learn how to do something productive in those brief bursts. You can plot a short story in the shower, develop a character background while waiting in the dentist’s office, map out a scene before drifting off to sleep at night. Make progress—however small—on your novel during the five or ten minutes of dimness in the theater before the movie starts, while cooking dinner, or while doing tedious household tasks. While riding the bus or vanpool, you can write down notes, scribble outlines, even mark up a printout of an earlier chapter.”
Productivity Tip #6: Set goals for yourself—and stick to them
“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).”
Productivity Tip #7: Know the difference between writing and editing
“Even though both activities involve a writer sitting at the keyboard staring at the screen, Writing and Editing are two very different processes. Each one requires a separate set of skills and talents; each uses a different part of your brain—the creative part and the analytical part. Learn to recognize the difference, and teach yourself to focus on only one process at a time.”
Productivity Tip #8: Create the best writing environment for yourself
“Just because you’re used to writing in a certain place at a certain time, doesn’t mean that’s the only way you can be productive. As an experiment, try writing under different circumstances, at various times, and in a variety of places, then determine the best environment for you.”
Productivity Tip #9: Think outside the keyboard
“If you can learn different ways to write, with different tools—like a talented musician learning to play several instruments—you can take advantage of nearly any situation in which you find yourself…and get pages done, no matter where you are.”
Productivity Tip #10: Get inspired!
“Go outside your comfort zone. Stock up your mental pantry with ingredients so that you’ll have a lot to cook with. You never know what might spark a story idea or an interesting character, and being inspired will add to the energy you can put into your writing.”
Productivity Tip #11: Know when to STOP
“Are you becoming obsessive about rewriting and polishing? Are you making cosmetic changes and circular edits that no longer improve the story? Is it possible you’re simply looking for excuses to put off finishing it? It’s done! Send the manuscript to an editor and move on to the next story.”