“The bad news is, time flies. The good new is, you're the pilot.” ~Michael Althsuler
While attending a writing convention to improve my craft, another author gave some amazing advice. They said we each have the same 24 hours in a day. There is no magical spell that allows writers to have extra time to write their novel (As much as I wish… I could get more sleep). I have the same amount of time as Stephen King, J K Rowling, and all the others before and since. The difference is simple: they planned ahead and finished their work. Some may have the ability to dream and create a fantastic book from their subconsciousness. I have read fantastic stories from such authors (Maria Watson); but, that is not how every story is made. For the rest of us, we have to plant the seed and tend to it as it blooms into the magnificent collection of words and phrases arranged in the perfect bouquet. How do we do that? I offer you five pieces of advice I learned.
1. Set goals for yourself
Even if it is something as simple as 30 minutes a day writing or editing, take time to do it. I set soft deadlines for each draft of my story. This helped me practice for the real deadline for a short story I submitted in April. The people who are great writers spend most of their time writing. It’s not always fun, but it’s worth it in the end.
2. Avoid distractions
It sounds simple enough, but ask any author about the number of distractions they have to wall out and they will tell you otherwise. The world screams for your attention. I had to use the small space of our coat closet when I started. Once I learned how to ignore those pesky things, I was able to move to other locations. Find your writing “closet” to work your magic. I wrote an article to help you with distraction pests.
Wondering how to make your story better? Ask others. There are countless articles, blogs, tweets, and pictures giving you an arsenal to devastate that deadline. It helps to step away and dig a bit online, yet be wary of those internet holes. YouTube can suck you away for hours (Seriously, 2 or 3 videos of what you are learning about are enough… and watch out for kittens).
4. Plan ahead
This is where you have to experiment a bit. Maybe you enjoy creating characters and throwing them into a wild situation, letting their adventures write the tale. It could be you start typing with a writing prompt and let the words guide you. However, you could also be like me and spend hours creating an outline, character sheet, and thesis before you even start your rough draft. Research some different ways and find what works. I’ve enjoyed using the “Save the Cat” outline for my novels.
5. Panic! Freak out! or Reward yourself for making it!
Hopefully, you reached your goals and met the deadline. You somehow managed to avoid the “soldiers returning from war” videos and the endless updates on Facebook. There are always sacrifices made to be a writer, but that’s what it takes. If you have extra time left, take some time to reward yourself for a job well done. It may be breaking out that victory wine, watching those kitten videos, or spending time with your wife whom you haven’t seen outside of your writing closet for a month or so (NaNoWriMo was crazy last year). And if you are feeling ambitious, start researching your next story.
I hope these tips help you on your journey as a writer. Let me know how it's going. As Red Green would say, “Remember, I'm pulling for ya. We're all in this together!”