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Suggestions for Being a More Productive Writer

Melva Gifford took these notes on a presentation by Kevin J. Anderson that was available through Dave Farland’s website. I thought there were some great ideas here.

Presentation by Kevin J. Anderson on Nov. 10, 2010

1. Shut up and write. You can’t wait to write until the muse hits. Think of your writing as a job. Brandon Anderson had a night job as a clerk at a hotel when he first started out as a writer.

2. Defy the empty page: If you can’t get through the first sentence
(stuck) then go to the second sentence/scene. Crash through words. Story will pick up its own momentum. If stuck on starting where you left off, then retype the last page of what you wrote before and that can get you going.

3. Dare to be bad: work on different projects at the same time. A. Research B. Outlining, breaking up chapters, C. Character development etc. D. Write the first draft of the manuscript. E. The editing phase. F. Proofreading part (grammar spelling) and G. Running around and do promotions. Kevin has about six projects in various stages of production. If swamped on one project than move to another. Your projects can becomes a horse race with five horses (books) running at a time. Maybe put something on the fire for a new idea if you don’t have other books currently in process.

4. Know the difference between writing and editing. The writing part is the creative part such as building characters and describing the adventure. Editing is the analytical part of the brain. This is where you A. study the sentences, b. determine why a sentence is flunky. Confirm details of the story. When you’re writing, turn off the editor in your head. If you get to a spot that needs research, then make a note on it and just continue with the draft and come back later for the fix or research.

While writing you need to keep focused. Save self criticism and editing of details for the second and later drafts. Be more productive by just concentrating on getting through that draft. Once that is done you can turn off the internal editor. Just concentrate on editing.

5. When you get time to write determine how to use every minute you write. Figure out how to use all that time economically. Even in half hour blocks a lot can be accomplished. Even a few sentences or paragraphs in a short time can move the story forward. John Grissom wrote one page a day on the first book he wrote. Everyone can find time to write one page a day. Even page or few sentences moves the story forward.

6. Set goals for yourself and stick to them. If you set goal to write 5 pages a day than you need to stick to it. It must be an inflexible part of your life even if you stay up to ensure that you write those 5 pages.
Set realistic goals that are challenging. If you set a goal of 5 pages but only consistently write two then modify your goal. Make sure the goal is realistic.

7. Some authors are productive when they think of their manuscripts as being in a race. Once Kevin and his writing group kept track of how many things they had in the mail at one time. Have a list of various markets and just send things out constantly. Have it be a challenge to each other.

Use deadlines for different markets, contests to submit to. Decide that there will be a new story for that deadline for each quarter of writes of the future. Find a way to create goals and write for them and submit to them. Give a reward for accomplishing different goals.

8. Create the best writing environment for yourself. See when you are the most productive. What makes you get inspired to do more work? Figure out what time of day you do your best work. Some authors work well in the morning or evening. See what works best for you. Maybe you need to get up early before you go to work. Some may need music to play in the background while writing. Some may require no sound at all. Some authors might like to go to places because it is busy but they don’t’ have to be involved, such as a coffee shop. Construct your writing environment to create the best environment for you. Look at your office setup. Is your equipment ergonomically correct for your health? Don’t hunch. A bad posture/working environment can cause muscle or joint damage.

9. Think outside the keyboard. Your job is to capture words in your imagination. Doing this is not restricted to a keyboard. Some find long hand more useful in their first drafts. Some like to sit outside with a laptop. Some will dictate their story into a digital recorder, while they are hiking. Sometimes the outside environment can add to the creativity.

10. How to get inspired: The more stuff you know about or learn the more that goes into your writing. Learn stuff. Take trips and see things, learn ball room dancing. Take wood working or language. Different experiences can add to your knowledge database. Watch people and maybe make up stories that could give an explanation of why they might be doing what they do. Learn science, politics, other countries and cultures. Take a balloon ride or go pheasant hunting. Shot a gun or visit foreign countries. Learn about other cultures. Don’t just be a home body. Be a sponge you’ll never know where all those experiences and knowledge will fit into a story. Your experiences will be your toolkit for future stories.
11. Know when to stop. Once you’ve edited four or five times, stop and send it out and move on. Be careful of getting input from others. Don’t waste time talking about writing. Many authors waste time “talking” about writing rather than actually writing.

Q & A:
1. Pacing suggestions. Different scenes can accomplish multiple
things simultaneously. Mix world development in with the action. If you have a scene of two charters talking have that scene take place in an interesting place. An example may be of a relationship breaking up while they are at the horse races and they’re betting on an important race that they must win. Or there may be a dialog in a spot where the world building can take place. Scenes don’t have to be an “either/or”
situation. Have scenes do doable or triple duty.

2. What shouldn’t you do as a writer? Don’t get involved in too
many distractions. Turn off your email program. Don’t play games during writing. Try to have your writing computer be a distraction free zone. You may want to check email every hour on the hour. Maybe set time goals for yourself when you meet the daily goal then you give yourself the reward such as playing your favorite Facebook game.

3. How to find professional editing help. Most charge thousands of
dollars to read a manuscript. But many books don’t need it. The book may be ready to send out. When choosing a reviewer, look for their references so you can contact those authors who have used them and see how they did.

For more information, see Kevin Anderson’s website.

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