Usually I find that any writing is better than no writing. I like to edit, so I’m fine to rework something until I’m happy with it. Nora Roberts has famously said that the key to her success is putting her butt in the chair. And she’s right—if you don’t sit down and write your book, it won’t get written. There’s no substitute for hard work. You have to get in front of your screen and focus—on your scene, your characters, the plot, and what you want to get done in the time you have today, right now.
Keeping that focus is difficult—the internet is distracting, we need more coffee, the kids are screaming, the dog wants to go out. And if you’re in a slump, everything you write sounds stupid, and you can’t see how to make it better.
But if you keep at it, your book will get better, and it will get finished. Back in February, I found some research that showed that people who worked longer trying to solve a problem found more creative solutions. This has been my plan for the last few months—if I just keep working at it, if I just put my butt in the chair every day, eventually the book won’t sound stupid. And I’ll finish it.
How can I make sure that I progress every day? Here’s my plan:
- Write for three hours every day, or until I have 500 new words, whichever comes first. (Three hours seems like a long time, but that manuscript is a hot mess. It needs cutting, it needs rearranging, and it needs gaps to be filled and scenes to be written. Getting 500 new words in there in a way that makes sense takes three hours, believe me.)
- Limit distractions. I won’t turn on the internet until my word count is reached.
- Use time wisely. If I turn on the internet during my writing time, the time must be spent productively: in fact checking or looking for and reading material that’s necessary for the book.
- Establish a routine. Right now I’m writing first thing in the morning, and that’s been working. I’m sticking with it.
- Have fun. I want to replenish the creative well, which has been a bit dry lately. This week, I have a museum visit, a massage, a play, and a boat ride planned. Even if I don’t do that much every week, getting out there and stocking up experiences will boost creativity.
What do you do to stay on track?