Saturday, July 13

5 Ways To Increase Your Productivity

5 Ways To Increase Your Productivity

I've just finished a novella I was working on, one that took about 5 times longer to complete than I thought it would, so today I celebrated by catching up on the wonderfully amazing writing blogs I've subscribed to.

I came across dozens of terrific articles, many of which I'll be tweeting in the next few days and weeks, but this one stood out: 5 Writing Habits That Could Be Destroying Your Creativity (And Income).

Andrea Wren, over at The Renegade Writer, writes:
"... I thought I’d share with you the five bad habits that were obstructing my work and creativity flow."
The points that follow were inspired by Andrea Wren's article.

5 Work Habits To Cultivate

1. Don't edit as you type

When you do your first draft, or zero draft, don't worry about typos or spelling or grammar. Just write.

In On Writing, Stephen King talks about writing a first draft with the door closed--write just for yourself--and writing the second draft with the door open--now you think about how others would think about what you've written.

On the first draft, don't worry about anything except getting the words down, getting the story out. Don't even worry too much about the structure. When you read over what you've written, then you can do an outline.

Or not.

I find, with me, it works differently each time. Sometimes I'll have the outline--or a partial outline--first and then I'll write the first draft. Sometimes I'll have a scene or two or three and I'll write those then I'll have to puzzle out what the story is, how the scenes fit together.

I agree with Chuck Wendig that having an outline from the beginning speeds up the process enormously! (See Chuck Wendig's post (adult language -->) 25 Things You Should Know About Outlining.)

Also, lately, I've been doing more of my stories in Scrivener and I find it helps that the manuscript is broken into scenes and each scene has a brief description that's visible at all times. This exposes the structure of the story and makes finding my way around a longer manuscript much easier.

2. Don't edit your previous days work

This point is intimately related to the last. I used to re-read and edit my previous days work, and it often ended up that that was all I'd get accomplished that day.

A couple of years ago I developed an odd sort of writer's block--I lost the ability to compose on my computer. It's gotten much better over the years, I'm typing this post into my computer, but for my stories I still write my first draft longhand.

One enormous benefit of doing it this way has been that I can't go back and do substantive editing of the previous days work.

3. Don't overplan

I think many writers, new writers especially, tend to overplan.

I used to overplan (and, honestly, I probably still do, but I'm not as bad). I'd need to know everything about all my characters, everything about the fictional world, the politics, etc, etc, etc. In fact, I got so involved in all the research often the story would never get written!

These days I don't need to know everything about the characters, or the plot, before I sit down to do my first draft. I find that much of the actual story development is done on the fly while I write.

This is a tip I picked up from a number of professional writers: I do as little research as possible for the first draft because I don't know what parts of the story are going to survive. Of course, if you have a detailed outline and feel confident about what you'll be including this doesn't apply.

For example, I just finished writing a story that included the use of guns, but when I wrote the first draft I wasn't sure what kind of guns (or ammo) my protagonist would use so, when my protagonist was suiting up for battle I just wrote 'gun' in curly quotes ({gun}) to remind myself on the second draft to do some research and figure out what make and model would be right.

4. Disconnect from the world

When you write, disconnect from the world. I know it's likely impossible to disconnect completely, but--this is true for me--there's nothing that can kill a writing session faster than social media or answering email.

Here's what has been working for me: I get up, make myself a cup of coffee, and start writing. I don't clean the litter box, I don't water the garden, I don't clean the kitchen, I don't check my email, I don't go on Twitter.

I go to my office and I write.

I knock off around noon--I need a break by then--and I do some housework, eat lunch, answer email, and so on. Then I go back into my office and write some more.

I've found that those first few hours of the day are pure gold. I do my best writing then.

5. Take breaks

This is something I learned from reading Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch's blogs: the importance of taking a break. Myself, I try to take a break every hour or so and every two or three hours I'll take about half an hour off to have a snack, take a walk, do some housework, whatever.

Andrea Wren writes:
When you’re desperate to get things finished, you can work until exhaustion – chuffing away like a clapped out stream train on a disused railway.

Being on a deadline can be a creativity crusher. But not taking a break can be more so. Your head and brain need respite to let more ideas in, so give it a chance.

I’m lucky to have dogs that force me on walkies, so I have to leave my desk, and wandering by the river kicking up the earth, that’s when some of my best light bulb moments strike.
Thanks to The Passive Voice Blog for the link.

Photo credit: "glückstadt - das königliche brückenhaus" by fRandi-Shooters under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDervis 2.0.


  1. Hi Karen,
    Good advice there. I like the 'take breaks' part. Sometimes I do my best writing just after I've been out deadheading the roses or writing the shopping list!

    1. Hi Hilary! I've had the same experience, though for me it usually involves taking a walk or having a nice long shower, but I love your idea.

      On a completely unrelated note, I love that description: deadheading the roses. I do it myself, but reading the description ... well, it seems the perfect combination of beauty and brutality.


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