Writing 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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…)