After years of not writing creatively, last year I made a New Years’ resolution to get back into the novel I started in 2014.
I shared my resolution with two of my partner’s friends in early 2019 and we ended up starting a writing group between the four of us.
We’ve successfully met every fortnight for over a year now, giving each other feedback and discussing our thoughts on the latest developments in our books.
Before this, I found it really hard to set aside time to write but now I’ve got into a much better routine & I’ve rediscovered my love for writing again.
Here are five tips for writing productively:
Set yourself an achievable target
Life is so busy and it can be easy to push writing to the bottom of your to-do list.
For some people, setting aside time every morning or evening to write can help to fix this – even if it’s just for 15 mins.
I’m quite different – I like to have a chunk of time (an hour or more) dedicated to writing because once I get started, I really get into it.
Last year, I set myself a target of getting a new chapter finished every week but between working a full time job, seeing friends and family, reading, doing online courses, trying to eat well, exercising and sorting out general life admin, I was really struggling to keep up with that & beating myself up for missing targets that I had imposed on myself.
I was feeling so overwhelmed with all the things I was trying to juggle that I decided to cross out all of the things I had planned for myself and instead, take each week as it comes, giving myself days off to do absolutely nothing after work.
Now, at the start of each month, I set myself a target of the amount of chapters I’d like to finish (making sure to keep it 100% achievable) and then week by week, I work out when I can set aside time to hit that target. For example, I know that Sundays are probably the best day to sit down for a few hours whereas by Wednesday, I’m going to be hitting that mid-week slump and will probably fall asleep mid-sentence.
Right now, I’m about a third of the way through the book and in that time, I’ve managed to write a couple of short stories too. I’m proud of how much I’ve done in the last year but I’m also very aware that it’s only a first draft that will need a lot of revision. However, since I’ve taken the pressure off a bit, I’ve found that I’m loving writing again. It’s all about finding the balance and seeing what works best for you.
Join a writing group
Reading your work to other people can be the scariest thing in the world, especially if you haven’t done it before.
But joining a writing group can help you in so many ways.
Firstly, it keeps you on track. Our group meets every other Tuesday and I know I have to have something together by that time to read to the guys.
More importantly, it gives you an insight into what others might think of your work and gives them a chance to tell you what’s working and what isn’t.
Within our group, all of us are writing very different stories but we can all appreciate each other’s work and give constructive feedback to each other.
Ask your friends or family if any one of them is considering writing a book (you’d be surprised how many people are thinking about it!) and organise a get together to discuss ideas. Or look for one in your local community.
We make ours a bit of a social gathering too by taking turns to host and ordering in a takeaway for the occasion.
Without our writing group, I don’t think I would have written as much as I have so far and I have them to thank for it.
Visualise your book
It might sound a bit strange but whether you’re working towards getting your book eventually published or writing for the hell of it, helping to visualise what your end goal is can push you to be productive.
It’s my absolute dream to get my book published one day so before I sit down to write, I think about holding the book in my hands and what it would be like. What would the cover look like, for example, and what would the blurb say? How heavy would the book feel?
If you really wanted to be a successful author, you could think about reading a glowing review of your book or giving an interview at a literary festival.
Or if you’re just writing for fun, you could think about the personal accomplishment of just finishing the damn thing.
Whatever floats your boat, think about where you want to be and it’ll push you on to do better.
Get into a routine
Routine might not work for everyone but it most certainly works for me.
Before I sit down to write, I make sure I’ve:
- Settled myself into a comfy seat in bed or on the sofa
- Read the previous chapter so I know where to pick up from
- Made a hot cup of tea in a big mug
- Tied my hair back (I honestly don’t know why)
- Put on some relaxing music or nature sounds (more on that later)
- Put my phone and iPad out of sight (more on this later too)
Find a routine that works for you & you’ll know you won’t be tempted to procrastinate. Speaking of…
I don’t know about you but I can be distracted by anything. A car beeping outside, a notification on my phone that I don’t even care about, literally anything.
I’ve found that I can’t write while I have the TV on or any music that contains lyrics (as much as I really tried to multitask in the past) so now I’ll usually find some relaxing music on the Calm app or I’ll find something on YouTube.
Putting my iPhone and iPad out of my sight is also really beneficial. If I come to a bit of a block with writing, I’ll easily distract myself by going on my phone and 15 minutes later, all I’ve done is scroll through Facebook & Instagram without adding anything to my life.
Now, I’ll make sure they’re hidden and won’t let myself even look in their direction until I’m done.
Another thing that can cause you to lose quite a bit of time when you’re writing is having to go back over your notes to find out where you are and what you’re meant to be writing about.
I tend to write all the things I’m going to need in bullet points at the beginning of the chapter so I can sit down and get started right away. That includes research, my ideas for where the chapter is heading and any other little details I want to include.
Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Leave me a comment below.