Thursday, March 29, 2012

10 Tips for Productive Writing

1.      Create goals. Decide how many pages or words you can comfortably produce in a day, then mark these potential daily totals on your calendar. Be realistic. Allow for rest days, also days when life may intervene—since it always does.

2.      Set personal deadlines. Example: You have a six-month editorial deadline, but know you will need a major read-through for author revision, plus another for polishing, in order to turn in your best work. Mark your calendar with a two-month deadline for completing the rough draft, and two months each for the author revision and polishing.

3.      Establish a daily routine. Doing the same things in the same order (shower, eat breakfast, exercise, check email, make a cup of tea or coffee) prepares your brain for work in the same way any engrained habit produces mental readiness.

4.      Make certain your writing area is comfortable. Invest in a good office chair and follow ergonomic principles. You need to be relaxed and pain free in order to concentrate.

5.     Put on music. Whether you create a playlist that reflects the theme of your story, opt for classical pieces such as Mozart that’s said to encourage concentration, or choose something that jars every brain cell in your skull, music can tune out distractions and put you in the mood to write.

6.      Read over the last 5-10 pages of work done the day before. This will allow you pick up the threads of the story and/or do minor polishing. Avoid reading back over too many pages as this can eat up working time.

7.      Brainstorm the scene coming up. Jot down four or five points that need to be made at this point in your story, and then arrange them in order of occurrence. These notes will give your brain something to work with as you face the blank computer screen.

8.      Start typing something, anything. Make a diary entry, a grocery list, a collection of things to be thankful for, or just rant about the last idiot who annoyed you. Segue into random thoughts about your characters, their motivations or upcoming actions. Something will usually appear that’s useful for the book. Delete the garbage and go.

9.      Set a cheap, portable kitchen timer. Challenge yourself to do your personal best number of words or pages in an hour. The time ticking away acts as a goad, and speed writing permits you to by-pass your internal editor for better creative flow.

10.      Reward yourself for goals met and/or work completed. The prize can be as minor as a piece of chocolate when you make your daily page total, or as major as a trip to Europe when you finish a multi-book contract. Any incentive for your muse will encourage her to show up and lean over your shoulder, whispering, “You can do this. Yes, you can.”


Since publishing her first book at age 27, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jennifer Blake has gone on to write over 65 historical and contemporary novels in multiple genres. She brings the story-telling power and seductive passion of the South to her stories, reflecting her 8th-generation Louisiana heritage. Jennifer lives with her husband in northern Louisiana.

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