I recently finished the first draft of my next novel (more news to be unveiled on that score very soooooon). A lot of people* ask me what my process is. I always look very, very intelligent when I respond whilst simultaneously panicking that my approach to writing probably cannot be defined as a process. Sooooo here are some hints and tips that I use that help me get words on the page:
*one person like three years ago
– Set yourself a time. Stop fretting about word count but set yourself a time to write. Half an hour, twenty minutes, an hour. Whatever it is writing is ALL YOU ARE ALLOWED TO DO IN THAT TIME. Even if you sit staring blankly at the screen you are NOT ALLOWED TO DO ANYTHING ELSE IN THAT TIME. Aggressive enough for you?
– Abandon things in the middle so the next time you return you pick up where you left off. I love this tip. It just means you don’t have to stare at an intimidating blank screen but can re-read the words and pick up where you left off.
– Actively think about your characters and plot when you are not writing. Try to think things through when you take a walk, or a shower or mull things over during a car journey. It is amazing how much can get unstuck when you are just pondering options.
– Reward yourself. If you have a good hour/day/week make sure you celebrate it. Those 90,000 words will come and you need to ensure you keep motivated. Be nice to yourself. Order the cake.
– Talk to other writers, and non-writers too. Yes! Even your average civilian non-writing person can help you! Discuss your plot problem with them, even if they offer up lots of ideas that don’t quite fit chances are they are helping you work it out.
– Ensure there is somewhere in your house that means WHEN I SIT HERE I WRITE. I AM A WORDSMITH. I AM A WARRIOR OF WRITING. You get the idea. I’m lucky enough to escape to a rather lovely garden shed but ensure there is somewhere you go (a desk/sofa/specific corner of the room) that does mean you are writing and not faffing around on social media/sending work emails/taking artful photos of your desk to put on Instagram. I switch off my wifi on my laptop so I can’t even be tempted and I don’t take my phone to the shed anymore. I CAN’T BE TRUSTED.
– Another tip is to surround yourself with other writers where possible. Is there a local festival you can attend? A book group in your area? A local Twitter pal you could write with? The photo of me below (where I look like I own a massive mansion/Earldom) was taken on a Book Camp writing retreat in Somerset where I wrote many, many words in not very many days. It was fantastic because I was surrounded by other writers all working feverishly on their own projects. We talked books in the evenings, swapped tips about structure and plot and pacing. We also drank tea and laughed together. There is nothing more inspiring than being part of a gang like that. Also you feel terrible when you are sitting around a table with people bashing out words and you are opening up Twitter for the 64th time that day.
I hope some of these tips and tricks help and do get in touch if you want to know more. I do love a good writerly chin wag.