Elizabeth: What I l Learned about Writing from Joss Whedon and a Kitchen Timer

30 minutes.  You can do it.

30 minutes. You can do it.

Aerogramme Writer’s Studio , one of the writing-related pages in my Facebook feed, has a recurring “Top 10 Writing Tips” segment. This week the tips were from Joss Whedon and, although they were aimed at script-writing, they were relevant for any type of writing. You can read the complete list here.

The number one tip? FINISH IT.

No big surprise there. If you want to write, you need to actually write, and keep writing, until you get to the end. Then apparently you have to go back and revise, revise, revise, but I’m trying not to think about that part yet.

One mouse click led to another and eventually led me to a second Joss Whedon article, this one about how to be prolific. You can read the complete article here. With credits like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse, Firefly, The Avengers, The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and more under his belt, I’m guessing he knows what he’s talking about.

So, what are his keys for getting it done?

Be Specific. Know what you are trying to accomplish. Not, “I’m going to write today” but “I’m going to write this specific scene today.”

Eat dessert first. I’m all over this one. Oh, wait, no actual dessert involved? Never mind. What this really refers to is writing the part you want to write the most first. If you’re excited about it, write it. Keep writing the parts that you’re excited about and build momentum for when you get to the parts you’re less excited about. If you’re excited about what you’re writing, your readers are likely to be excited about reading it. If you’re not excited about what you’re writing, then that very may well be the part you reader skips, and who wants to spend time on that.

Reward yourself early and often. Okay, technically he refers to this one as a vice rather than advice, but it involves cake, so I’m all for it. Basically, the idea is to recognize the progress you make, regardless of how big or small it might be. Figure out how to resolve a scene? Yay you! Figure out all the character names in your story? Yay you again! Success and Positive Reinforcement – two great tastes that taste great together. Great, now I’m craving peanut butter cups.

Fill the tanks. This last one is something we’ve talked about here on the blog before and that’s filling the creative well. Read, watch movies, talk to people, go places, watch the news – you never know what might trigger an idea or give you a new perspective.

So how does a kitchen timer fit into all of this? I’m taking his number one tip – FINISH IT – to heart and using a piece of advice from author Elizabeth Gilbert to help get me there:

“Don’t wait for the world to clear out time and space for your dreams and your art. It doesn’t happen that way. The world rushes in, and always will. Wait for things to be perfect and you’ll die waiting. Push back a bit. You go get yourself a kitchen timer and clear out your own little space. You’ll be amazed what happens. Every single day. 30 minutes. I’m serious.”

Everyday I’m sitting down at the dining room table with my notebook and pen (I’m going old-school these days) and setting the timer for 30 minutes. Yesterday I wrote another hour after the timer went off. Yay me!

I. Will. Finish.

So, what’s your number one writing tip?

8 thoughts on “Elizabeth: What I l Learned about Writing from Joss Whedon and a Kitchen Timer

  1. When I finish for the day, I look over my outline to see what I can fill in, the scenes I need to write. I always plan something to write for the next day, so when I get going, I know where I’m headed. Sometimes when I get going, I see that what I’d planned to do won’t work, or doesn’t make as much sense as it seemed to make the previous day at midnight. But I’m about 200% more productive if I sit down knowing what I’m going to write.

    • I do that too Kay, whenever I can. It makes it much easier to get started the next day when I’ve left some notes about what happens next. When I don’t do that (or don’t know what’s next), then I lose time having to re-read what I’ve written to get my momentum back. Congrats to you on the increased productivity.

  2. “Wait for things to be perfect and you’ll die waiting. Push back a bit.” Love this. I’ve reached a point where I’m pushing a lot, so I’m going to call this my own number one writing tip (to be told to myself daily).

    Congrats on doing your own pushback and getting in extra writing time. Yay you! (And now you get some cake :-)).

    • Nancy – I really liked that quote when I read it too – not just as it applies to my writing life, but too life in general. I’m going my best to push back against the things that don’t really matter, so I can focus on what really does. Hope the tip works out for you too.

      Feel free to have some cake of your own 🙂

  3. I’m a discovery writer, so I’ve been slowly working my way forward on my scifi novel without knowing the ending. Well, Monday, the Muse mugged me. I know how it ends, finally. Now, I just need to keep writing, and not get distracted by the other, newer, unknown adventures of WIPs I already started because I don’t focus or finish.

    Finishing is hard, but it is my goal for the month. It’ll be a very holey, drafty first draft, but it should have a beginning, middle, and end by the first of June.

    • Congratulations on finally being “in the know” for your ending. That’s great progress. Good luck on keeping your blinders on and meeting your June deadline. Typing “the end” is wonderful, even if you know you need to go back and do more work afterward.

  4. Finish it, or move on to something new . . . kind of has been running through my mind this spring. I have a deadline in place, and then I’m going to do something else.

    I mean, it’s still there if I want to finish it . . . .

    • Exactly. Sometimes you just need to call “halt” and move on to the next project if the current one is stalled or dragging on or if you’ve gotten as far as you’re going to get.

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