I keep a journal with story ideas – it has two sentence descriptions for some stories and nine page layouts for others. I have a file of book covers on my computer for books I haven’t written yet. I already have my next five writing projects outlined in my head and yet sitting down to the computer and hammering them out isn’t always easy because there doesn’t seem to be time. Most writers have a backlog of writing that needs to get done, but there are a few who seem to publish a new book every few months.
So how do writers get down to work so they use their time most efficiently? I’ve been experimenting with ways to make my own writing more prolific and here’s what has been working for me:
Disable your internet. I can spend hours popping on and off the ‘net, so I turn off my internet when I’m sitting down to write. There are also programs you can buy that will restrict your access to only certain times. It’s a huge time-suck when you’re checking you various social media sites because there has rarely been a time when I’ve logged onto facebook without finding something interesting that I clicked through to!
Keep an outline running. I write with two documents open on my screen – the manuscript and the outline. The outline is a fluid document that I add to as I work – sometimes the story goes in a direction OTHER than the one I originally envisioned. I revise my outline so I’m not spending precious writing minutes going back through the story to check a detail.
I’m also a huge fan of index cards. I like to write the plot twist on one card and then each character’s role in it on others. It makes it easy to reference those little interlocking pieces that can take hours to add or days to untwist when the story is done.
When I don’t feel like writing – I edit. I edit ruthlessly – but as my writing habits have improved, the process of editing is way different. When I wrote my first book I had to “trim” the manuscript. I found long passages where I was obviously “in the zone” and wrote for hours on end. Those passages needed to be trimmed. Now, when I’m in the zone, I tend to get better flow because I write so consistently. I don’t lose the thread of the story because I work on it every day and I edit the last page or so of the previous day’s work when I sit down to write. That keeps me brushed up on where I was going.
Set a “plot-point goal”. I rarely write without having a point in the story that I’m aiming to reach. I set plot-point goals when I turn on my computer. I want to get to the castle or I want to get to the point where I bring back Coyote. The goal focuses my writing and keeps me thinking ahead for places where I need to add things or connect threads.
Use your research time wisely. Even though I write Urban Fantasy, I do research. I have a spreadsheet that I work from and I copy web addresses of sites that are interesting to me into the spreadsheet. I code by topic, key word, and type of site (description, photo, map, etc.) and when I’m researching I bookmark sites in a separate folder and then add the information to a spreadsheet. I do this because I’ve spent hours trying to find sites that I remembered seeing something interesting on and that’s FRUSTRATING!
So go forth and write – efficiently!