I love to look up and read articles about how to do something. Something like: “How to start a blog in 7 steps” or “How to start a novel in 5 steps” or even “How to choose a characters name in 21 steps”. I have done this for years and only recently realized that none of those articles EVER work for me. So I have decided to stop reading them and focus more internally to figure out the answers I was seeking.
That being said, the one I struggle with the most is knowing what my writing process is. I have always been the person that struggled knowing how best to organize her space. Am I a binder person? Do all my notes go in one notebook or do I have multiple? Do I handwrite or type? Where do I write that list or this idea?
This is my biggest struggle, but one that I am now confident in solving. If you struggle with a similar issue, I would encourage you to keep reading. I am outlining some ideas and tricks I have used to figure out this process for myself. This is not a “how to” article and your results will differ because you and I differ. What my goal is, is to help you create a routine that works for you and allows you to maximize your writing life!
Establish your work time. We all function best at different parts of the day. My first challenge for you is to try and think about when your brain fires the quickest and when you feel most energized. If you do not have all day to write, it is important that you find a time when you are not too tired and when you can commit to sitting down and working on your projects.
Personally, I am a mid morning person. Between the hours of 8-10 is when I am the most productive at work, on my weekends, on vacation. I am just awake enough to have had breakfast and coffee and I can calmly approach my writing desk. My other productive time is after dinner from about 6-9pm. The only issue with that time, is that it is easy for me to say that I am too tired or that I would rather watch a movie, which brings me to my next point.
Commit to yourself.
“I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.” ~ Steve Martin (comedian)
Lots of famous writers have talked about how it does not matter how many pages or words you are able to write in a day, but that you write every day. If you want to write that novel, start a blog, write short stories, or do any sort of project, it is important that you dedicate yourself to accomplishing that task. You will feel an overwhelming sense of pride when you see progress being made and even more when you finish it.
Spend time thinking about your project. I think it is important to properly think through a project. I do not necessarily mean that you should plot out every twist and turn of a novel. Instead, think about the characters, how they act and why they are the way they are. Let them become real in your mind. Let their world manifest itself and think about the ways in which things fit together and fall apart.
By having this story in your head, or written out and mapped through, you are more likely to feel connected to this story. You are the creator and no one else can write the same story.
Read, read, read. Stephen King says it best.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” ~ Stephen King (author)
When I began reading from a writer’s perspective (which is not all the time, mind you) I started to notice things about the way a book was written that I either liked or didn’t like. Reading directly impacted the way my own stories were developing. I could mimic a certain style or punctuation method and notice when I did something I had seen as a reader that didn’t sit well. I was gaining tools from my favorite books and authors by just enjoying the past time. I learned new vocabulary and saw descriptions that were short and sweet while others were long and drawn out.
My reading has been invaluable to my writing.
Write, write, write.
“You can sit there, tense and worried, freezing the creative energies, or you can start writing something. It doesn’t matter what. In five or ten minutes, the imagination will heat, the tightness will fade, and a certain spirit and rhythm will take over.” ~ Leonard Bernstein (composer)
If you want to be a writer in any capacity, you must write. There is simply no other way to hone your craft and get your thoughts and ideas out into the world. I have noticed that when I write every day, whether it is 6 pages or 6 words, and I have spent the time thinking about my story, my writing soars. My mind becomes alive with the book and a million other stories start to emerge for future projects.
The more you write and edit your writing will also give you the opportunity to grow and evolve. By the time you finish a 3rd draft, or the 1st draft of a new tale, you might have read a handful of new books that have sparked ideas for your own. Or you heard something in a conversation that brought forth a folly in your dialogue. Any number of things can happen but unless you are constantly writing, you will not be able to move forward.
Learn from the masters. There are so many wonderful authors out there who have mastered their craft and have shared their experiences. They talk about their own writing process and the things that work from them.
I encourage you to read about them, look them up, study what they write, and figure out how they wrote it. Do not take theirs words and styles as the golden rule, but as a stepping stone for yourself. Try out something new or tweak your own writing to find out what will work best for you.
More than anything, I want you to write and figure out what works best for you. I hope you can find ways to establish your own writing routine. Let me know if any of these tips worked for you or if you have any you would like to share with me!
p.s. Look for my “Learn from the Masters” series that will be coming soon! I will highlight authors and their writing processes and tips.