Tag Archives: write faster

Training Yourself to Be A Prolific Author (In 5 Minutes A Day)

 

 

Wouldn’t it be great if you could program your brain to go into writing mode on command?

You can, actually, If you’re willing to spend five minutes a day for the next three months doing a simple exercise.

You’ve probably heard other writers talk about the importance of a writing habit.

You’ve might have also heard that many successful writers have a writing ritual that helps them maintain their habit.

But if you don’t already have one, you might feel overwhelmed at the idea of starting one.

Write every day?

What if I don’t feel inspired?

What if I’m having an awful day?

What if I don’t have time to write every day?

Won’t staring at a blank page (or screen) every day just train me to have more writer’s block?

I understand why you’d be worried. I used to be afraid of the same things.

Here’s how I got past those fears and developed a writing habit that feels so good, I don’t want to skip a day unless I absolutely have to.

I started with a very simple pre-writing ritual:  Take a few deep breaths, then say out loud, I am writing.

Then, I would set a timer for five minutes and do one of two things:

1. Type a scene from a book by an author I admired.

This caused me to associate my ritual with the act of typing fiction.

It had a secondary benefit of allowing me to look at the author’s work with fresh eyes as I typed.

I started to understand why the author made the storytelling choices they did.

I started to get a better grasp of how the techniques I was studying could actually be applied to my own stories.

2.  Write about something that had happened to me recently, without trying to make it entertaining.

This caused me to associate my ritual with the act of telling stories without the pressure to “get it right.”

I wouldn’t try to embellish what happened or explain anything. I’d just try to put down every detail about the mundane encounter that I could remember.

It had a secondary benefit of making me much more aware of things like body language, the way people really talk, the subtle conflicts that shape a conversation, and all the things that I normally ignored as I went through my day on autopilot.

In other words, it helped me to be more observant and to focus on those telling details that ground a story in reality.

After years of thinking that I…

  • didn’t have time to establish a writing habit
  • wouldn’t be inspired enough to write every day
  • would find the structure of a writing ritual too constrictive

…I discovered that I could train myself to write on command with this simple, 5-minute daily exercise.

My monthly word count tripled. But that wasn’t the best part.

The best part that as writing became a habit for me, I no longer had to talk myself into getting started.

And I suddenly had a ton of mental energy free for actually writing.

What untold stories would you finally write if you gave yourself the gift of a writing habit?

 

How to Squeeze More Writing Into Your Day: A Method for Both Plotters and Pantsers

You’ve probably heard other writers talk about how they eked out writing time when they were first starting out. The new mom who wrote during her baby’s fifteen minute naps. The engineer who skipped coffee and cigarette breaks for the sake of getting a few more paragraphs written. The nurse who wrote an entire novel while waiting for the bus. Jane Austen is said to have written a sentence or two at a time as she paused between carrying out her other responsibilities.

It sounds like such a great idea, doesn’t it? Find all those little dead spaces in your schedule and use them to get more writing done.

That’s exactly what I thought the first time I heard one of those stories. I immediately booted up my computer, set the microwave timer to fifteen minutes, and…nothing.

I sat there for the entire fifteen minutes without adding a single word to my novel.

It wasn’t that I got distracted and started surfing the web or had a sudden, urgent need to reorganize my desk. Even though I had a plot outline, I simply didn’t know what to write next.

Maybe I’m the kind of writer that needs big blocks of time to write, I concluded. Maybe I need more warm-up time than other writers.

But in spite of that first failure, I still loved the idea of being able to turn all that wasted time into writing time. Again and again I attempted the fifteen minute writing exercise, and each time failed miserably.

Until a clever friend made a suggestion. “You’re a plotter,” she pointed out. “Maybe you need more structure to write in short bursts.”

Eureka! I discovered that I could start writing immediately if I gave myself very specific parameters. I decided I would spend ten minutes writing the part of the scene where the bus explodes.

During the next ten minute session, I wrote my protagonist’s reaction to the bus explosion.

In the next one, I wrote the part where the dazed bus driver tries to stop my protagonist from fleeing before the police arrived.

In other words, I broke the scene into beats (meaningful units of action) and focused on writing one beat at a time.

Writing in bursts throughout the day not only gave me an opportunity to make a bit of progress during my less-than-exciting workday, it also kept me in touch with my character’s world during the day.

In the evenings, when I did have a big block of time to write, I was eager to write more because I’d been thinking about my characters all day, and I didn’t need a half hour to get back into my heroine’s point of view. Once I trained myself to focus on a single beat of action rather than the whole scene, I found I could start writing within a couple minutes of opening my draft.

Another advantage of writing like this is that I no longer waste as much time getting stuck in the middle of a scene. I might not know everything that has to happen in a scene, but I can figure out the key events that have to happen at this point of the story, and I can write those in short bursts. Then later, I can go back and stitch those key events together by adding transitions and filling in the holes.

You don’t need a plot outline to do this, either. (Remember, my plot outline didn’t help me at all when it came to writing like this.) As long as you can figure out what the next beat in the story should be, you can set a timer and just write that beat of action.

I’m not suggesting that you stop setting aside big blocks of time to write. There’s nothing like the high that comes from having written an entire chapter and knowing that you’ve gotten significantly closer to finishing the story. Short bursts of timed writing are a way to boost your productivity outside of your regularly scheduled writing sessions.

Sometimes I use the timer technique even when I do have a big block of time, because it helps me build momentum. I make a list of all the beats in a scene, and then I go down the list, setting a timer for each one. As my momentum builds, the scene will take shape in my mind, and eventually I’ll realize that the timer went off forty minutes ago and I was so engrossed in writing that I didn’t notice. Focusing on one beat at a time can help you get more done during longer writing sessions as well.

Don’t write in beats? Do you think better in layers? No problem. Set your timer for fifteen minutes and write just the dialogue for a scene. Next time you have a fifteen minute block, add in all the physical action. Third fifteen minute block, add interior monologue. Fourth block, add setting descriptions. Fifth block, add body language. Keep layering scene elements in until the scene is fully fleshed out.

Again, take a moment before each writing session to identify specific parameters. Before you write the dialogue layer, ask yourself: “What is the main topic the characters will discuss?”

Before writing the physical action layer, ask yourself: “What will the characters be doing while they have this conversation?”

Before writing the setting layer, ask yourself, “Where are the characters and what objects will they interact with?”

Writing like this probably won’t feel natural to you immediately. It took me about three weeks of training myself to write by focusing on single beats of action, and for most of those three weeks I wondered if I was wasting my time. Like any new writing method, this takes practice to master.

Set aside a fifteen minute block every day, separate from your usual writing time, and if it helps take the pressure off, work on something other than your work-in-progress. Remind yourself that this is merely a new technique that you’re learning. Don’t expect your first attempt to yield 500 words of pure gold—look at this as a training exercise that will increase your productivity over the next few months.

But I don’t want to write in short bursts, you say. I’ll just be getting warmed up when the timer goes off, and when I hear that beep, I’ll feel frustrated.

That will happen. Let me suggest that it isn’t a bad thing.

What’s being frustrated here? Your desire to write. When you feel that little surge of frustration because you want to write more, recognize that what you’re feeling is your creative drive.

Embrace that drive! It’s the source of motivation. You know, that thing that keeps you from procrastinating? A couple fifteen-minute writing sessions during the day can keep your motivation stoked, so that by the time you’re finished with dinner, you’re chomping at the bit to write the scene that you started on your lunch break.

When you feel that frustration, promise yourself that you’re going to sit down and write more that evening (or whenever your next writing session falls), and keep that promise, even if all you can manage is another fifteen minutes before bed.

The more you practice, the easier it gets to write in short bursts. You’ll train your brain to enter the flow state more quickly and easily, so you’ll waste less time getting into the story even when you’ve got lots of time to write. Even better, you’ll start looking forward to those fifteen-minute breaks in your day because the next two or three paragraphs are practically boiling over in your brain and you can’t wait to get them down.

Write Faster, Write Better with Acupressure

You’ve probably heard of people using acupressure to numb themselves for surgery instead of anesthetic, or heal sprained muscles faster, or relieve hay fever symptoms.

And yes, being healthy does make it easier to write in general.

But can acupressure really help you write faster and better?

There’s a subset of acupressure which uses the mind-body connection to change a person’s psychological state. It’s called meridian therapy, and it’s been used to successfully treat depression, addiction, childhood traumas like physical or sexual abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

But you don’t have to have a big psychological trauma in your past to benefit from meridian therapy. It’s also possible to manage your mental state with acupressure for greater creativity and productivity.

Of all the systems of meridian therapy out there, one of my favorites is Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT), invented by Tapas Fleming (www.tatlife.com).

TAT is extremely simple to use, it’s highly effective, and you can do it to yourself, no equipment needed.

There are many protocols for applying TAT, but the most basic version is to hold four acupressure points on your head while thinking about the issue that’s throwing you mentally out-of-whack.

To assume the TAT pose:

  1. Place one hand on the back of your head, so that the center of your palm is resting on the bump at the back of your skull.
  2. Take your other hand and gently pinch the corners of your eyebrows (at the top of the bridge of your nose) with your thumb and your ring finger.
  3. Place your middle finger over your third eye point.

You can close your eyes if you like, or look at something that’s symbolic of the issue at hand.

After a minute or two, you may find your muscles starting to relax (TAT is great for reducing stress levels). If you need to sit in a more comfortable position or even lie down to hold the pose without straining, feel free. If you’re lying down, you can put a pillow under the elbow of the arm that’s touching the face points for support.

You can find a diagram of the points (great for printing out) here:

https://healingheartscentre.com/Using_TAT.html

If you prefer a video, here’s the inventor of TAT, demonstrating how to do the pose:

http://store.tatlife.com/myTAT-do-this-first

So how can you use TAT to be more creative and more prolific?

Clear your mind before you start writing. Just let your mind wander for a few minutes while you hold the pose. When I do this, I find myself thinking about things on my to-do list and life’s little annoyances, whatever is bugging me at the moment. I know I’ve held the pose long enough when I find that the stuff that was bugging me suddenly seems boring, and my writing project seems more interesting. Clearing my mind like this before writing usually makes me harder to distract while working.

This is especially good to do if you’ve got some negative mental associations around your work-in-progress: a cutting critique from a writing partner who wasn’t as gentle as they could have been, doubts about the marketability of the story, frustration that revisions are taking longer than expected. To clear away these negative associations before your writing session, hold the TAT pose and stare at the manuscript (or the open file on your computer screen). If you feel moved to voice some of your negative thoughts about the project, go ahead.

Dissolve writer’s block. Think about the part of the story you’re stuck on while you hold the pose. You might ask yourself a question out loud, to help yourself focus on the real problem:

“Why does this scene feel wrong to me?”

“What’s holding me back from writing the next part of the story?”

“What would I rather be doing?”

“What do I need to figure out before I can continue writing?”

“What am I trying to say here? What’s my point?”

“Is there something else in my life I need to deal with in order to get unblocked?”

After you ask the relevant question, continue to hold the pose and listen for an answer.

Turn off your internal editor while brainstorming new ideas. The fastest way to stifle your creative flow is to be critical of new ideas as your subconscious throws them up to you. Brainstorming while holding the TAT pose can help quiet that inner editor so that the ideas flow more freely.

Start your brainstorming session by asking a specific question:

“How can Kedry get out of the meat locker before she freezes to death?”

“What are the deeper reasons Jill refuses to let herself fall in love with Jack?”

“What am I trying to say with this story?”

“What are the worst things that could happen to Alex in this scene?”

Then listen for the answer. When I do this, I usually go through several iterations, writing down half a dozen answers and then reassuming the pose and asking the same question again, until I’ve generated a long list of options. I’m often amazed at how many different solutions come to me after only a few minutes of brainstorming.

Release emotions that are keeping you from focusing on writing, like jealousy of others’ success or frustration about a rejection. Sometimes it seems easier to bury these unpleasant emotions and pretend they’re not a problem. But suppressing your unhappiness is not only unhealthy; it can also strangle your creativity, leading to burnout or writer’s block in the long run.

TAT is a safe, gentle way to deal with those emotions directly and let them go. All you have to do is hold the pose and allow yourself to focus on your feelings. Don’t try to censor your thoughts—let them bubble up into your conscious mind, no matter how awful or depressing they seem. Feel free to say them out loud if you’re alone. If these voiced emotions turn into a rant, vent away! Follow the flow of emotions wherever it takes you.

“It’s not fair that all my critique partners are getting agents when I’ve been writing longer than they have.”

“I’m so mad that agents keep rejecting me and they aren’t telling me why.”

“I’m never going to get published. I feel like giving up.”

“Revising this draft is driving me crazy. I want to tear it up and start over again with a new story.”

“I hate that reviewer! It doesn’t seem like she even read my book!”

You may discover thoughts and feelings that you weren’t even aware of having. It’s not unusual to cycle through the same thoughts over and over.

As you continue to hold the TAT pose and let the emotions run their course, you’ll start to feel more relaxed and detached. The emotional charge on those negative thoughts will fade, and it will become easier to think about that rejection or the savage review without feeling furious or devastated. You may start to feel lighter or less burdened, or even experience an upswell of positive emotion.

If the emotions around a particular issue or event are particularly intense, you may need to do more than one session in order to completely let them go. You didn’t accumulate all those negative thoughts and feelings at once, and you don’t have to let go of them all at once. Do TAT for them at whatever pace is comfortable.

I’m not claiming that meridian therapy will guarantee you a spot on the bestseller list or turn you into the next Nora Roberts. But it can help you handle the psychological obstacles of the writer’s life more quickly and easily, so you’re free to focus on what you really want to do—write!

Connect with Lynn:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Kaizen-Plan-Take-Control-of-Your-Life-10-Minutes-at-a-Time/128938320505399

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/TheKaizenPlan

The Writer’s Guide to Getting Organized: Take Control of Your Writing Career 10 Minutes at a Time

Writers are different. We don’t always think in straight lines. We take leaps of logic, we think metaphorically, and we know that in order to make something beautiful, you might also have to make a mess.

You’ve probably tried to adopt at least one organizing system already. Maybe it was in a bestselling book written by someone in a suit. Or maybe it was the system that works for your brother the accountant or your naturally-neat co-worker. Whatever system you tried, it was probably very logical and made total sense, until you tried to force yourself to fit into it.

Did you come to the conclusion that there’s something wrong with you? That you’re naturally disorganized? That creativity and organization can’t coexist?

First the good news: you’re not broken, and it is possible to be creative and organized at the same time.

Any functional system of organization for writers must be designed around the writing process. And every writer’s process is a little bit different.

This book shows you how to analyze your writing process and set up your tools and resources in a way that feels natural and supports you in being more successful in your writing career.

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