07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Secrets of a Reliable Writer

So, it's time to write my blog piece.  Okey-dokey.  I sit down to write--should be easy.  After all, I'm a writer.  This is what I do, right?  Um...yeah, sure.  But after ten minutes of staring out the window, watching the snow fall and wishing it would stop so I can make my lunch date in an hour, I've got...well, nothing.  Cue crickets echoing in the wasteland of my brain.  Maybe I'll surf the Internet...

 Good news--snow stopped, and I made my lunch date. Now I'm back at this computer with those crickets pestering me and the view out my window is beckoning.  Good thing I'm more focused when I'm writing a book on deadline!

Aha!  That's it, what I'll write about--how do I stay focused and productive when there are so many distractions?  Read on for my tips!

1.  Set a schedule:  
First off, I'm not a fast writer.  Not only am I a bad typist (thank goodness for computers and word processing software, or I would never have completed a manuscript because I would still be typing it), but I'm not the kind of writer who cranks out 20 pages or more a day.  I just can't do that, mentally.  Or physically, thanks to a cranky back that talks mean to me when I sit for too long.  But what I am is a reliable writer.  I write on a regular schedule on weekdays.  That means 5 pages a day Monday thru Friday.  Sure, some days life intrudes, the kids need something, I get sick or I just get busy being a mom, a wife and running household, which is a big job in itself.  Sure, I take time off for holidays and vacations, and the occasional shopping trip or scrapbooking afternoon or...whatever.  But generally, I can count on turning out around 25 pages a week when I'm writing raw.  That adds up fast (100 pages a month=a 300 page book in three months) and I set my deadlines with this writing pace in mind. 

So, set a goal (make it easily accomplished, or you'll fail and get frustrated), and then do everything you can to make that goal on a regular basis.  And then:

2.  Reward yourself for making your goal: 
I do this almost daily.  How?  Here's the scenario.  It's 10:00 a.m., and I'm getting to work (non morning person here J).  I have 5 pages to write.  So, if I can focus and write 3 pages before noon, I can leave, do whatever, and then come home and write 2 pages in the afternoon.  Easy, I think.  I can crank out 2 or 3 pages in an hour.  And if I focus, and I have 5 pages by a reasonable time in the afternoon, I get to do something fun.  Maybe sit down and read.  Or bake something, since I love cooking.  Or I get to watch Friends reruns.  Or...I get to scrapbook, my current obsession.  Whatever floats my boat and makes me want to get my writing done FAST.  The point is, find what it is that makes you want to hone in on the writing so you can be done and on to something fun.

3.  Leave the house: Sure, one of the perks of being a writer is that you get to work at home.  But sometimes home is just one big distraction.  Kids in and out.  Dogs barking.   Laundry.  Food beckoning from the kitchen.  TV.  The Internet.  It's all there, conspiring to keep you from cranking out the pages.  With a deadline, this can be deadly, and I don't function well writing under the gun.  So, sometimes, particularly on school vacations, I leave and go somewhere else to write.  I like Panera, but anyplace would work.  And when I get there, I do not, under any circumstances, connect to the internet UNTIL I FINISH MY PAGES.  Again, the reward thingy comes into play; I tell myself if I finish my pages, I can surf the internet while enjoying a delicious salad and fresh baked bread.  Also, Panera only lets you connect to their network for 30 minutes during lunch hours, so there's an automatic cut off if for some reason I should break my own rule and connect early. 

So, these are my strategies for staying focused so I can be productive.  Basically, I set reasonable goals and then bribe myself with the things I like to do.   Works for me.  What works for you?

Visit my website at:  www.lissamanley.com

February 11, 2012 - I'm participating in "A Moonstruck Romance" at the Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe, Lake Oswego, OR between 7 - 9 p.m. Stop by for great chocolate and my talk about romance and writing.       



Diana Mcc. said...

Hi, Lissa, I like setting goals for my writing. Sometimes it is just having lunch out or getting out of the house for some reason or other. That break usually refreshes me and I can attack my daily goal for pages with more passion. I find I need to get up and move around every hour or my back will scream at me.
Great Post!

Sarah Raplee said...

Hi Lissa,

Like you, I am not a fast writer. I, too, have a schedule where I touch base with my sister, who is also a writer, by 9am through Google Talk, and then we get to work. We report how much we got done to each other when we break for lunch. Meeting another writer online helps me stick to the schedule.

I like the idea of bribery. Think I'll try that. Maybe earn a half hour of guiilt-free reading or tv. Great post!

Lissa Manley said...

Yea,Diane, getting out of our writer's den is so important. I try each day to leave the house on my "lunch hour" to have a change of scenery. Good suggestion.

Sarah--being held accountable to other writers is also a great way to crank out the pages on a reliable schedule. My critique group helps me with that!

Judith Ashley said...

Hi Lissa,

Thanks for guesting with us this today. I think the most important thing is to 'never give up' - it really doesn't matter if you are a fast or slow typist, fast or slow writer...the time will come when discouragement knocks on our door. That is when we keep sitting down at the typewriter, revising our goals,rewarding what we do get done but most of all, keep writing. All published writers have kepts at it and never given up.

Sometimes my goals are rather grandiose and to some extent beyond my control. This past month my goal was to query 5 publishers and 5 agents...when I checked things out, I couldn't find 5 publishers that took unagented submissions that I thought would be interested in my writing. I made the goal without knowing enough.

What's important to me on my journey is to revamp my goals with this information in mind and never give up.

Looking forward to seeing you at A Moonstruck Romance tonight!

Lissa Manley said...

Excellent points, Judith! Goal setting and adjusting is so imoportant. And not giving up is so key, also. I would not be published if I hadn't kept going when things didn't go my way.

Miss Viola said...

I like your suggestions Lissa! I hear tasks and the internet beckon me seductively when I'm trying to write, and I think it would be helpful for me to try a few of your suggestions :)

Therese said...

This is a great example of being consistent and reliable about getting the words on the page.

Do you plot out your stories first before the 5 pages a day? If so, what is your process.
If not, what do you do to begin a story?

Lissa Manley said...

Therese--I am usually working from a loose synopsis, and try to have the scene I'm writing kind of worked out in my head at least a little bit, or else I do a lot of staring into space. Or, worse yet, dinking around on the internet. So it is better for my production if I know what I'm writing to some degree. Sometimes it's vague, but usually after the first few paragraphs, I know where the scene is going.

As for my process, I use the scene and sequal method, i.e. I plot out the POV character's goal for the scene, and then what the obstacles to the goal are, and then the disaster to end the scene on a note that will draw the reader along. Then, the next scene is the POV characrer having a sequel (reaction) to whatever happened in the scene before, and then their planning and goal and obstacle, disaster, etc.

If this is confusing, I highly recommend the book "Scene and Sequal". Blanking on the author right now...will post it in a few minutes.

To begin a story, I ask the question What if? and go from there. Then I try to come up with characters who have good opposing conflicts, and then I come up with scenes that will put those conflicts into full spin. I am a bad plotter, though, so this part isn't as easy for me as it is for some writers.

Thanks for your interest!

Lissa Manley said...

Viola--thanks! I'm glad I can give some tips.

Therese said...

Thanks, the Scene-Sequel process was a good reminder.

Lissa Manley said...

The boo's author is Dwight Swain.

And, I should have written "sequel", not "sequal". I was going too fast!

Lissa Manley said...

Sheesh--my brain is fried. I meant "book" not "boo".

Thanks for your comments, everyone!

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Lissa,
Great blog. You sound very disciplined. I make all these great plans to write then somehow become sidetracked.



Paty Jager said...

Great tips, Lissa. I always set a deadline for my books whether they are contracted or not. The main contract to me is myself. If I can't move on to the next project in a reasonable time I get cranky, so I need to get the one I'm working on done by a certain time.

My rewards come in different ways. It depends on what I want to do on any given.