Most of us suffer with procrastinitis. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that you’re reading this blog for precisely that reason. Maybe you need to trick yourself into writing. Here’s my top tricks :
1. Join a writers group – this might seem counter intuitive – if you’re attending a writer’s group you’re not writing are you? Well , no, but your productivity will increase if you’re in the right group. Your writer pals will cajole and encourage and, possibly, bully you into getting words on paper. I’m in three groups and they work in different ways – Funeverse and YA Critique are both online forums with rules about posting new work and critiquing, Chi SCBWI is a face to face group where we set our own targets and then have to own up to wether we met them or not. It’s a bit like weightwatchers, you know you’re going to have to get on the scales in front of everyone so you better not have been cheating!
2. Set yourself Deadlines – this works in a similar way to your writer’s group but is kind of a step up. Promise your agent you’ll have something done by a certain time. If you don’t have an agent, make it an editor – they don’t have to be your editor, any editor who shows the faintest interest in what you’re doing will do! The fact that they probably won’t be drumming the table waiting for your manuscript is irrelevant – in your head you have a deadline for a professional and you must meet it or you’re going to look like a twit. This takes a bit of courage so be brave, set REASONABLE targets, and go for it.
3. Use a Chicken of Time. I am pretty busy. I work about 60 hours a week on our farm, I still have one child at home and I try and fit in an hour or two of exercise most days and I do a fair bit of voluntary work. I don’t always believe it when people say they don’t have time to write. You may not have much time, but you will have time – you just have to want to do it and then force yourself to compartmentalise. Jackie Morris sent me my first Chicken of Time – she now has an elegant hourglass – but I love my chicken. Set the timer for whatever period you think you can cope with – 20 minutes, an hour, you know how best you work – in short bursts or sustained graft – then write write write until the pinger goes off. Once you get in the habit of sitting down and getting on with it you’ll get to a point when you don’t need the chicken.
4. Read. I don’t hold with the idea that you can’t read if you are writing for fear of being influenced. I love being influenced. Right now I’ve got a sneaky copy of Ellen Renner’s new book Tribute (just about to be published by Hot Key Books.) I’ve read it before, Ellen is in my YA Critique group so I’ve been lucky enough to see this book grow, but I’ve still been totally sucked into the story in its book form . That’s motivation. To get me hooked again, even though I know the story , to write that well, to be that good, to weave twists and turns like Ellen does – well that’s a thing to aspire to isn’t it? Reading a good book inspires me. And so does reading a bad one. Everytime I put down a book thinking, I could have written that better , I get on my butt and try to.
5. Never leave off at a difficult part. It’s really hard to come cold to a blank page when you don’t know where you’re going. I always try and leave off at a the top of the slide, so I can launch straight into the story next session. If you can’t do that, start your writing session with a number Six!
6. Find your gateway place. Learn the best place to think out problems. For me, it’s walking the dog. I pack my story in my head and take all the what ifs for a walk until one of them resolves in to a way ahead. Some people take baths, others sketch, still more scrawl over journals. Once you’ve found what your gateway is, use it and remember that counts as writing time to, you are achieving even if the word count isn’t going up…yet.
7. Find a format that works for you. I’ve taken to using Scrivener – I don’t use it how it’s supposed to be used, I’m too lazy to go through all the tutorials, but basically, I write and write and write and as I realise the plot holes I’ve left I make notes to one side of the chapter to go back and correct it LATER. Get it writ, then get it right. This works for me and stops me getting stuck in a loophole of editing the same piece of writing and never getting anywhere. My first draft will be terrible but that’s okay. Every one has different methods, some plot on cards and post them round their rooms, one writer I know lays her whole script out page by page on the floor!
8. Hang on to the dream. There’s a reason you’re doing this right? You want to win awards; you want to be rich ( erm, you might be on the wrong tack here); you want validation; you want to see your books on book shelves and in book shop windows; you want to prove to your Mother you weren’t wasting your time; you want a book launch party with pictures of your book on cupcakes; you want to make an announcement on facebook and have everyone congratulate you – you want to find the perfect editor and write the perfect book and win the Branford Boase? You want ALL those things? Then write the book.
Trick yourself if you have to , but sit down and write the goddam book.
Pledges may be left below – we’ll come check on you next month. I might even kick you off with mine….