At LDStorymakers this last May, my favorite workshop I attended was by the woman who actually put on the conference this year—Melanie Jacobsen. She talked all about how she makes herself be productive in her writing no matter how busy she is. It was really great and practical, and I came away ready to apply everything she said.
I didn’t. Part of my problem is I’m not actually in the writing stage I’m in the editing stage. I found myself wanting a follow-up class about how I can make sure I am productive in editing/rewriting, which in some ways is a whole different beast than writing your first draft.
Here are the ways I’ve applied some of her advice and also figured out my own:
1. Have and update your outline. I’m a total pantser. All the way, 100%. But, even the most hard-core pantser needs to create an outline as they are writing the rough draft, and then update that as you edit. Otherwise you get soooo lost. And have no idea what’s going on. And your story will make no sense. Basically, organization has to kick in at some point. It’s still flexible. You can still change things whenever you want. You just need some way to keep track of what you’re doing and what needs to be fixed as you edit.
2. Schedule time to write. This is basic, but I keep forgetting it all the time. I think I’ll just want to write, it will just happen magically because I’ll feel so inspired. But most of the time, I have to schedule it and I have to make an annoying reminder to beep at me in my phone over and over before I’ll actually get myself to write/edit consistently. Because it is a thousand times easier to write today when you’ve already written yesterday. Momentum is a big deal. Plus, I’m so Type A that I’m obsessed with checking things off my list—so if I put writing on my list every single day, I’m more likely to do it so I can check it off. And then I feel so good and productive that I want to do it again tomorrow. It works.
3. Write a blurb of what you’re going to write tomorrow. This is the one thing from Melanie’s presentation that I’ve actually been applying. It’s so helpful. Everyday once I’m done writing, I write a paragraph or so about what I’m going to write about tomorrow. Sometimes dialogue starts coming to me and I write it down. Sometimes I end up writing a whole page. Whatever, that’s great. That means I’ve already got the inspiration going for the next day without putting the pressure on myself for it to be “perfect” like I do when I sit down and write for real. If I’m not totally rewriting a scene but just editing it a little, I write down exactly what I need to go through and edit for. Then the next day I know exactly what I’m doing and how I’m doing it, and that makes it easier to start—especially since sometimes rewriting something can seem more overwhelming that writing it in the first place.
4. Stop worrying about it being perfect. This relates to a point I just brought up in the last one. When you’re on your third or fourth or tenth draft, but you’re writing a whole new scene that you’re adding in or basically completely redoing a scene that was there before, you’re basically back in rough draft land for that scene and that can be frustrating. Because you’ve already gone over this thing how many times now? But it’s OK. It still doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s never going to be perfect. It just needs to be written and then you can look at it later and then show it to your critique group and clean it up. For the millionth time. I used to think that just writing a novel took patience. I’ve realized that’s nothing compared to the patience it takes to edit a novel. And I’m not even close to done. Sigh. Patience.
And all those things have helped me to be much more productive lately, which is great.