Friday, February 7, 2014

Writing and Publishing Prolifically, Part 1: Discipline, Dedication, And The Damn Muse

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(Note: This blog post mostly goes out to other writers, specifically those who are trying to learn to write faster for whatever reason. Of course, readers are invited to enjoy too! Sometimes it's fun finding out what goes on in a writer's brain. And on that note, this is merely what works for ME. This is by no means a guarantee that you'll be writing as much as I do - or more - every day. Take from it what you can!)

I often have readers asking how I am able to put so many works out. Besides what you see under my real name, I also write fiction under another name (with far more releases) and do freelance article writing on the side. On an average day I write anywhere between 2-5 thousand words. (Any more than that and my fingers start falling off. Oops.) I rarely take days off from writing. It helps that it's also my biggest hobby and has always been my biggest creative outlet, so the idea of NOT writing for a day is ridiculous for me. The only times I don't write are when I'm ill or have something else major going on, such as traveling.

Trust me when I say it took me many years to reach a point where I can "pound out" 3,000 words of a story in one sitting. It wasn't until 2-3 years ago that I really became dedicated to writing so much and so frequently. Before that, I was lucky if I could finish Nanowrimo without crying. (I average about 70-100k a month now. Not all words get published.)

I firmly believe that you can't have prolific publishing without prolific writing. But since being able to write prolifically is a huge part of publishing at the same rate, it's a good idea to get that chunk down first. The following tips are not exhaustive. They may not even all work for you. You may try some out and quickly discover that they don't jive with your way of thinking. That's okay! For fun I've added some other tips and suggestions that I personally do not follow because they don't work for me, but are certainly sound and may work for you. Let's get down to the dirty.

Tip 1: Dedicate A Time Just For Writing

We're busy people. Unless you're fortunate to write for a living or don't have many responsibilities, finding time for our hobbies and future endeavors can seem futile. But your brain is a muscle. It responds to habit. If you've ever tried to get fit by exercising, then you have often heard the adage that you need make it a habit. The same is true for writing. Set aside a certain amount of time - an hour is good - in which your life revolves around writing, emergencies excluded. I know many writers with kids who do this in the early morning hours. They get up before the rest of their family and write write write. You can do the same after kids or other family go to bed.

Quickly you'll find which times work best for you. For me, personally, I can't get into the groove of writing until the sun goes down. I've always been more creative during the dark AM hours... BEFORE bed. (I have to stress that. I'm a person you don't talk to until three hours after she's gotten up.) I go to bed around sunrise. As you can imagine, I never fared well with "day jobs" and that thing called "school."

Writing is also a part of my sleep ritual. I take my laptop into bed and type about a thousand words or so before nodding off to sleep.

Tip 2: Keep Writing Even When You Don't Want To

Your allotted hour isn't up, but you just don't wanna do it, huh? Tough cookies. Get back to your Word document and start typing, slugger. I don't know how many times I've sneered at my WIP and said "GO AWAY" because there were 38493893 things I would rather be doing than working on that. But I kept writing. And I can hear the replies now. "But Hildred! My muuuuse!" Hey guess what?

Tip 3: Evict Your Muse Into Outer Space

You don't need her. Or him.  Or it. Or whatever your muse is. Seriously. Your muse is what's keeping you from getting work done half the time. How many times have I seen a writer say, "Oh, I just didn't feel like writing today. Guess my muse wasn't with me!" Yeah because you muse was off cavorting with someone else's brain. You don't need her, boo. All she does is give you excuses. I think growing up a lot of us were presented with the idea that "great" writers were these bastions of artistic integrity in which a muse guided their every word. And we hear a lot of chatter about "my muse made me do it." Here's some cold, hard truth: your muse doesn't exist the way you think she does. Everything you've created? Came straight from your brain, your creativity, your life, your experiences, your environment, and most of all, you. This isn't the same as inspiration, which may spur an idea. But you can't wait until your muse shows up, or inspiration strikes you. If you want to be a prolific writer, you have to put your ass in your seat and start typing some damn words. Get the idea that you need some outside force to help you out of your mind. It's only holding you back.

Tip 4: Allow Yourself To Write Crap

"Crap" in this case are those words, sentences, even whole scenes that end up being cut in edits. You probably know it's gonna be cut but write it anyway. Why? Because you were in the mood when you wrote it. That's fine! What they say about most first drafts being  "crap" is true. Part of the point of editing is getting rid of the crap. Don't get hung up in the middle of writing something because you think, "What's the point of writing this? I'm only gonna cut it!" Write it anyway. One of the worst things you can do while writing is sabotaging yourself with those thoughts. Trust me when I say I speak from experience, yikes.

Tip 5: Take Part In Writing Groups That Focus On Encouragement

Nanowrimo is probably the most popular group of this kind. If you have a hard time committing to certain writing projects, then having a group of other writers cheering you on may be just what you need to get your brain into the role of habit and ritual. I don't participate much at all anymore, but when I was getting serious about being a prolific writer, then Nanowrimo and the like were invaluable resources.

Tip 6: Start With Small Goals

If you're struggling to even write 100 words a day, then start there. Don't shoot for 2,000 right off the bat, because you're probably setting yourself up for failure and subsequent discouragement. Once 100 words is comfortable, then shoot for 200. Then 500. THEN 1000!

Other Tips That May Work For You

1: Turn Off All Distractions

Lock yourself in your room. Turn off the music (or on, if it helps.) Turn off your cell phone. Disconnect from the internet. Just type and type until you can't type anymore. Many writers swear by disconnecting from all distractions of modern life. Personally, it makes no difference to me. I actually prefer having internet access while writing so I can look something up on the fly.

2: Write Out Of Order

If you are really hung up on a scene, skip it and write another one. About half the writers I know write out of order anyway. They write whatever scene they are most inspired to write. This helps them stay on schedule and get work done without frying their brain. I'm the type of writer who has to write EVERYTHING in order. From first scene to last scene. That's me though. It's part tick, part knowing if I write something too much later, I'll have to change a bunch more things in editing and I'd rather avoid that.

3: Switch To a Text To Speech Program

If you have a disability that makes typing troublesome or are just a slow typist, then you may want to check out programs that let you do text to speech. This is especially popular in the article writing world, and has gained traction in the fiction world as well.

4. Outline Like Crazy

Many writers swear by outlining. Some of them even have entire scenes written as "bare bones" and then their "first draft" is filling in the details. Outlining can take the form of saying, "Here's how it will start, here's the middle, and here's how it will end." It can also just be general notes you want to make sure you don't forget. I am not much of an outliner. I have a general idea of what I want in my head as I write and let things go from there.

As you can see, there are many ways to become a more prolific writer! If you've been struggling with writing more, then I hope that at least some of these tips will be helpful to you! Remember that every writer is different, and what may work for me may not work for you. But I do believe in "ass in seat, hands on keyboard" above everything else.

Are you a prolific writer? What advice would you have to give to someone wanting to become a prolific writer?

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