Perfect Your System

Whether you’re a reader interested in the writing process, or someone exploring NaNoWriMo for the first time, or a seasoned writer looking to speed up your process, you’ll find something to love about Becky Clark’s “Eight Weeks to a Complete Novel.” This short blog series will get you started.

The more you follow and quantify a system (mine or any other), the better you’ll know exactly where your sweet spot is.

But you won’t know your sweet spot without some experimentation. You’ll want to figure out how and where and when you work the best.

Do you work better when you focus for an hour, or when you use three 20-minute writing sprints with a 2-minute break between each?

Did your 2-minute breaks stretch into 5 or 10, or were you disciplined enough to just drink a glass of water, or hula hoop for one song, or give the dog a cookie and do a couple of stretches?

Writing sprints are exactly what they sound like. Set your timer and write without breathing the entire time. Okay, maybe go ahead and take time to breathe, but nothing else. Not even a sip of water. Just writing.

Sprinting might be for you if you can’t shut up your inner editor or ignore distractions. Sometimes it’s also what your family and friends need. “I’m getting ready to sprint. Talk to you in twenty.”

Sprinting can be a great training ground to get you—and them—to hour-long uninterrupted writing sessions.

Some practiced sprinters get 1,000 words in a twenty-minute sprint. Some sprinters find sprinting with a group of good sprinters energizing and motivational. Some people (waves hand wildly in air) find it a tad demoralizing to be the slowest in the group.

But you’ll never know until you try! You might have an epiphany and sing praises to the writing gods when you smoke those other sprinters.

Only you can know if it will give you friendly competition or paralyzing defeat. Facebook has some sprint groups, or you might try sprinting with friends BUT STAY OFF FACEBOOK.

If you want to find some sprinters to sprint with, post a comment in the “8 Weeks to a Complete Novel” Facebook group.

This is the kind of stuff I set it up for … finding like-minded folks who can help you, and who you, in turn, can help. One thing about the writer’s journey … no matter where you are, there are always people ahead of you and behind you. Reach one hand forward and one hand back and magic can happen for you.

Try both sprinting and focusing for an hour for a couple of writing sessions and see which feels more natural and which delivers more words. Don’t think it has to be one way or another, though. You can mix-and-match your process. If you have an hour to write, write for an hour. If you have twenty minutes, sprint.

Your process never has to be either-or. It can always be both-and. Remember that.

If you don’t know when your most productive times are, experiment. You may just think you’re more productive when you write late at night. Have you tried recently to write in the wee hours before work or before the kids get up? You may simply be in the habit of writing at a certain time, but if you’ve been writing for any length of time, you’re a different writer now. If you’re new to this writing thing, you won’t know when you’re most productive. So find out!

Take a few weeks and try different writing schedules. Late at night? Early in the morning? Twenty-minute sprints throughout the day? You may be surprised.

I’m an early bird, up every day at 5 a.m. But when I tried to write then, it was a fiasco. That was not efficient writing time for me, which surprised me.

And what about where you write? Take a stab at writing in a different place for a while—coffee shop, kitchen table, lounging on the couch, library, your desk, grocery store produce department. Again, keep an open mind and you may be surprised at your results. But you’ll never know until you try. Be sure to keep meticulous notes of your experiment, you scientist, you.

When you’re able to set aside those times and places when you’re consistently more productive and the writing comes easier, your process will be a dream.

Next article … Find the Fun

The Writer’s Iceberg
The Beauty of Calendars
• I Hate Revision with the White-Hot Intensity of Ten Thousand Suns

The Writer’s Mobius Strip
Perfect Your System
Find the Fun

“A lot of practical advice, a few chuckles, and much motivation to help authors on their journey.”

“This is the one guide you should have on your reference shelf.”

“Step by step, no boxing in of your creative style or creativity, and full of years of experience, the author knows what she’s talking about.”

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