How I Write: Distractions, Muffins, & Deadlines

tumblr_mfrxkgmIuy1rc2405o1_500Writing is hard. Not because of the whole come up with an idea and make it interesting thing – though that isn’t exactly easy, either. What makes writing “hard,” at least in my books, is just how easy it is to NOT do it.

Case in point: my latest book. I have a deadline, and not just one I’ve set, but one from my editor. I’m excited about the story. I like where things are going. I have a loose, chapter-by-chapter plot in place to follow like glow-in-the-dark breadcrumbs when I write at 5am. And still…wait, was that a text alert ding I heard? Of course we need three-dozen banana muffins for this week’s school lunches. I’m just going to pop onto the Internet to research for five minutes, and because I’m already there I’ll check my email, update Facebook and Instagram, and retweet no fewer than a dozen writing articles, all while ordering a swimsuit for the child for next summer…

Distraction is my greatest nemesis when it comes to my writing. After running out of coffee, it’s probably the thing I fear the most (okay, this is overly dramatic — I’m afraid of so many other things, like spiders, and plane crashes, and wiggly teeth…gah, wiggly teeth…).

And so before I go off on a useless gif-hunting mission, creating yet another distraction, here are the 3 things I do to help keep the words flowing:

  1. Use Scrivener. I have a deep affection for this writing software—it’s one of the greatest tools in my writer’s toolbox. Along with the most excellent virtual corkboard so you can see your story all in one place, there’s a handy-dandy progress box I leave up so I can make sure I’m on track to hit my daily word count goal.
  2. Set a deadline. Sure, it helps to have a deadline from your editor, or agent, or even a critique partner, but I find self-imposed deadlines work as well. I’m fairly self-motivated, and armed with a to-do list — or word count goal —  and some caffeine and determination, I generally can get a lot of sh*t done. I also find that sharing the deadline helps — it gives others a chance to support me when I need it, or give me a kick in my distracted a** if that’s what’s called for.
  3. Be a Plantser. Some are plotters, meaning they don’t write a single word of their stories until all plot points are meticulously sorted, written across colorful post its stuck to an office wall or in a detailed spreadsheet (these strategies scare me, but I’m also insanely jealous of anyone who can create a color-coded-by-character plot map). Others are pantsers, meaning quite literally they write by the seat of their pants – no map, no outline, maybe a great scene or a fantastic character flaw, but definitely no spreadsheet or post its required. The writer I call a ‘plantser’ (me) lives somewhere in the middle – a little plot, some structure and perhaps a rough outline, and then plenty of freedom for how the story plays out. I’ve tried being a pantser, and it stressed me out. And plot spreadsheets give me hives. So plantser it is. Ultimately the trick is figuring out which you are, and tattooing it across your arm … kidding, just figure it out and get writing.

So come on, tell me — what are your tricks to keep the words flowing? For holding the distractions at bay? (I need all the help I can get…off to bake some chocolate chip cookies because, Wednesday…)



Author: Karma Brown

Karma Brown is the author of COME AWAY WITH ME (MIRA/Harlequin, September 2015), an emotional story of one woman’s discovery that life is still worth living, even if it’s not the life you planned. Karma is also a National Magazine award-winning journalist, and lives outside Toronto, Canada, with her family and their mischievous labradoodle puppy, Fred.

11 Replies to “How I Write: Distractions, Muffins, & Deadlines”

  1. “Plantser.” I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to use that (because it sounds goofy, like a spork), but that’s pretty much where I am, too. My second novel was completely pantsed, and it ended up being 170,000+ words. I’m not going to do _that_ again (for one thing, I’m not as young as I used to be 🙂 ).

    These days, I usually have some idea where I’m going — in fact, I often write the final scene pretty early on. I find that’s helpful, even if the story ends up going somewhere else entirely.

    1. You could use ‘planter’ if that feels less goofy 🙂 Also, I agree with the right the last scene as early as you can — I try to do that as well, and find it provides a great anchor for the story!

  2. Wiggly teeth! You and I are soul sisters. I’ve already told Fred that when the kiddos’ teeth start coming out, it’s all on him. I can’t deal. And is the Pantser, Plantser, Plotter on a continuum? Because I’m somewhere between a Pantser and Plantser. 🙂

    1. Yes, I have made her daddy responsible for all wiggly teeth — but she still likes to show me just how wiggly they are. I swear, it practically brings me to my knees. And I do believe in the continuum — go with that 🙂

  3. I love this, your humor probably keeps you somewhat sane. 😉 I didn’t attempt to write until our youngest left for college, too many activities, too little time. I don’t know how you women doe it with young children! (Well, I do, you get up at 5. YUCK!)

    I have a thousand little pieces of paper with random thoughts I get during the day and when I get home at night, frantically try to place them in my WIP on the computer before I forget. I’ve heard so much about Scrivener, makes me think I should just take the leap and use it!

    1. Sometimes I dream of what it might be like to write without the little one keeping me company, but hey, she’s cute 🙂 And I think you should go for it with Scrivener! Just a word of advice — if you get it, WATCH the demo (even though it’s long) — you’ll save yourself some headaches early on trying to get the hang of it.

  4. Ditto on wiggly teeth, though I’m responsable for all four little mouths here. I turn my phone to “do not disturb” (school and the DH can get through) and then I unplug the Internet. I set a time for this, like and hour, and make myself jot down things to research for later. Feels so nice when i get my word goal in and can flip wifi. If I didn’t make goal, well. Wifi feels like satan.

    1. I think I’d have to outsource the teeth thing if I had four kids! Great idea to block everything out — I do that as well, though sometimes have to physically restrain myself from 😉

  5. Scrivener is my love. I don’t think I could write without it. Whenever I need a feature, like flagging sections I need to go back to, they have already put it in the programming.

Comments are closed.