Written by guest blogger Peter Mach II.
Roger Zelazny, author of the Amber series, launched his career a day at a time while working fulltime at the Social Security Administration. When I heard him speak, I was still in college, still thinking that I needed big blocks of time to write anything important. But I learned that focus, commitment, and discipline matter more than two weeks in the mountains communing with my Muse.
In fact, I make a point of demonstrating this to my students. My classes typically begin with the students taking 15 timed minutes to write about themselves and why they are taking the class. They typically get 300 words (high 690, low 180 so far). This is without using any of my tips, and I point out that even 200 words a day adds up to 73,000 words a year.
How do they do it? All of them have set aside time, know who they are, understand the context (a class) and have some sense of the audience. In other words, they have committed to the work, know what they want to say, and how they should say it. These are the essential keys to productive writing. Want more detail? Try this:
- Know your stuff – A writer needs to know story structure, grammar, point of view, and dozens of other elements of clear, engaging writing. This doesn’t just happen. It usually requires study and practice. Zelazny honed his craft by writing short stories. After scores of failures, he sold one, analyzed why that one sold and rewrote the more promising stories. Then he moved on to novels.
- Commit – Like my students, you need to set aside the 15 minutes every day, and you need to protect that time from everything else in your life. Write down why you must write, and keep the list in front of you.
- Prepare – Know what you are going to write before you begin your 15 minutes. I recommend choosing the project and thinking about the scene the day before.
- Get away from distractions – Close doors. Turn off email. Abandon spouses and children. Asimov papered over his million-dollar view of Central Park so he could keep his attention on his work.
- Kill your internal editor – You’ll need that fractious fellow later, but not in the drafting stage.
- Go! – Don’t sit and think. Write immediately. This is a sprint! It may help to have a half sentence or an incomplete scene left over from the day before.
- Celebrate – Count your words. Add up the total. Your novel is getting done. This is a lot more fun than wishing you could get some writing done, isn’t it?
Peter Mach II is a productive writer of speeches, articles, scripts, short stories, radio, and books. Teacher, author of How to Write Fast. Website http://howtowritefast.webs.com/ Twitter @howtowritefast Email firstname.lastname@example.org