As I begin a new college quarter, I've been finding myself thinking a lot about efficiency. How will I find time to write well when I'm stuck trying to study van der Waals interactions while wolfing down lunch between classes? I wasn't sure, so I looked around for the most efficient writers I could think find. Surely, they would have something to share.
And, as it turns out, they did. Grace Crandall and Kyle Robert Shultz are here today to discuss tips for writing efficiently. Crandall manages to pump out a new (and incredible) short story every month on her blog and Shultz publishes approximately 80 million epic books a year, so they know what they're talking about.
Tune in for their top tips for writing efficiently:
1. Keep notes on upcoming scenes. Whether it’s a detailed outline or simply a stack of notecards with ideas for what could happen next, having something to refer back to while you’re writing saves a lot of time that would otherwise be spent in re-reading your own work to remember where the story left off. The ability to quickly skim over your plans for character arcs and upcoming challenges can help kick-start a writing session.
As an added benefit, it’s easy to jot down scene ideas even when there would be no time to write them through. For me, this has cut down on the hazard of daydreaming up an awesome scene only to be unable to remember it once I’ve sat down to flesh it out. Notes and lists are a handy way to keep the story moving forward, even while you’re busy and short on time.
2. No time is too short to get a little something done. Even a few minutes spent on your manuscript can be better than nothing. I used to think that fifteen minutes of spare time wasn’t enough to even bother opening up a notebook or a word processor—and I missed out on a lot of writing time that way. There are more of these little hollows of unused time in a given day than you might think. Making use of them can open up whole new realms of productivity.
3. Take some time after every writing session to appreciate what you’ve accomplished! When the project is long and the time is not, it’s easy for me to slip into the trap of checking my progress against how much I still have to do . No matter how much gets done, it always seems like far too little. This is a vicious cycle that can, and will, come around to sting you. When writing becomes a source of panic and guilt, the desire to do it—and the joy of doing it—can drain away, making it ultimately harder to accomplish your goals.
Always remember: you’re making something! Step back and take some pride in how far you’ve come. Not only is all progress well worth being proud of, but this also helps to make writing something that your mind associates with positive feelings, leading to even more progress in the long run.
1. Have some idea of what you’re writing before you start. I’m not saying that you need to have a detailed outline if that’s not part of your process. However, regardless of whether you’re an outliner or a discovery writer, jumping in with no idea of what you’re going to write is definitely not going to help your efficiency. To minimize the time you spend staring at a blank screen, make sure you have at least a general idea of what you’re going to write before you sit down at the keyboard.
2. Name characters/places/etc. and do research before and after you write, not while you write. Doing these things in the middle of writing is a major time-waster. If you don’t have the time to think of the perfect name, use a place-holder and move on. If your scene depends on vital research, get all of that done in advance, and if you hit a snag while writing because you need more information, try to make a note and move on until your session is done.
3. Take planned, timed breaks. You do need breaks if you’re going to write efficiently, but even these should be focused. Plan a specific thing you’re doing to do to give yourself a break (for example, doing a particular outdoor activity, watching a YouTube video, taking a nap, etc.) and stick to that. Make sure you don’t break your creative flow by letting your break run on too long, unless you’re done for the day.
5. Don’t rule out dictation. Dictation may not be the right method for you, but don’t assume that if you haven’t tried it. Give it a shot with some free text-to-speech system like the one in Google Docs and see if it works for you. You may be surprised. Dictation can help you get the words down faster, keep you focused, and improve your health.
How to Write Even When You Don't Feel Like It
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