“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” ― Octavia E. Butler
Writers write. Alone. Whether you write fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or fortune cookies, it’s you, all by your lonesome, putting words on a blank page. The weak perish. The persistent develop a collection of tricks to survive and thrive along the path to publication. Here are some of mine:
- DEFINE YOUR WRITING GOALS
- Make plans. Be specific. With clarity, a vague goal to “write more” becomes “wake up 30 minutes earlier Monday through Friday and write 540 words before work.”
- Start with broad strokes, then break it down. A plan to produce two young adult novels per year becomes a math equation: two books, at 70,000 words each, equal 140,000 words, or 11,670 words per month. That’s roughly 2,700 words per week, or 540 words per day, five days a week.
- Be clear on your Why. Why is fuel. Inspiration. Your reason for writing is as individual as your fingerprint. My desire to entertain is no less valid than someone’s resolve to build an income.
- KNOW THE FIELD
- Study the market. Learn the ins and outs of your segment of the publishing industry. If you’re going through traditional channels, know which publishing companies handle your genre. If you’re going indie, you are the company. Know what that entails.
- Be familiar with your audience. (Hint: most are reading the bestselling and popular writers in your genre.)
- Understand the accepted practices and standards of the publisher or digital platform you’ve targeted.
- Join a professional writing association. Their trade journal or newsletter can be worth the dues. And many provide an opportunity for writers to connect online.
- DEVELOP A LASER-LIKE FOCUS
- Select and execute on a single task. Multi-tasking is dead. Think: immersion.
- Concentration skills can be sharpened through repetition. Practice, practice, practice.
- Be in the proper mindset before you sit to work. You can’t create and edit at the same time. Remember: right brain for magic; left brain for logic.
- MANAGE PRIORITIES
- Time management does not get things done; priority management does.
- View time as one of the raw materials needed to build a project.
- Think in financial terms. Investing time vs. spending or squandering time.
- START NOW
- Author and coach Hillary Rettig defines procrastination thus: “Procrastination is a failure to start.”
- Commit to a definite start time. Then show up. Better yet, show up early.
- Willpower and discipline are tools – not personality traits. Keep them handy.
- Start each morning with three magic words: “Today I will…”
- DEVELOP BETTER SYSTEMS
- List your top three surefire writing techniques. Make them part of your routine.
- Get organized, but keep the methods simple. The point is to free your creativity for writing, not exhaust yourself maintaining complex systems.
- Utilize your optimum settings. Are you a morning writer or a night-owl? Do you need to “take ten” for every ninety minutes spent at your desk?
- Create more efficient routines for non-writing events. Check websites like Flylady.net for ideas on faster/easier cleaning and declutttering.
- CONTROL HABITS
- Identify your good and bad habits, and then commit to strengthening just one weakness. After one is fixed, tackle another.
- Concentrate on improving key areas first. The return-on-effort is greater.
- IMPROVE YOUR WRITER’S SKILL SET
- Define a successful writer’s skill set. (Imaginative? Productive?) Inventory your own skills and compare to the ideal. Hone and improve where needed.
- Two more magic words: Acquired skill.
- You can learn to write better, faster, and even funnier. Mastery is a byproduct of perseverance.
Enough for now. Watch for more tips, in Part Two.
In the meantime, be sure to check out the Cate Noble website at www.CateNoble.com
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