As writers, when we often hit roadblocks in our writing. The same things that drew you to writing in the first place: your love of a good story, your keen sense of what works when you’re reading a book, and your desire to create engaging content – those very positive traits can be the same ones that make it difficult to write.
Left unchecked these qualities can morph into the very book-killing traits we’re trying to avoid: perfectionism, procrastination, distraction and writer’s block.
Every professional writer experiences this. The only difference is that over their career, they’ve created systems and strategies so they can get down to work faster and more efficiently.
1. Daily Free Writing
Today we’re going to start with the “scratch notebook”. It can be any kind of notebook – or a word doc if you prefer to write on your computer. Each day before you start, spend 2-5 minutes free writing. This is a form of mental housecleaning, a quick sweep before you start on the day’s work. Don’t try to edit what comes out, just let it flow. If you can’t think of anything to write, then write, “I can’t think of anything to write…” and keep going. Describe your environment, they way you feel, the weather. It doesn’t matter. Things will bubble up or they won’t but this daily practice will give your brain the chance to spill it’s guts. What’s worrying you? What else do you have going on today? How do you feel?
Do this every day.
2. Forming the Monotasking Habit
If you’re prone to multitasking, here’s a little secret: you’re probably getting less done then if you just did a single task. (There’s a study on it). During this month, we’re going to monotask during our 1-2 hours a day of writing. If you think of things you should be doing, just open your “scratch notebook” and jot it down. Then get back to work. If you have anxiety or worries, it goes in the notebook. If you think, “I will never figure this out,” acknowledge it with a quick note and get back to work. You can’t stop those thoughts and feelings from bubbling up but you don’t have to let them run the show. You can say to your brain, “Thank you brain, I have made a note of your concern and I will get back to you just as soon as I’m done working on my book for the day.”
3. The Painting Metaphor
Once you finish your free writing, let’s move into starting your book.
The early stages of book writing is very much like painting. Typically there is a rough under sketch. The artist doesn’t even TRY to make it look “good”. No one will ever see it. They use a blue pencil and sketch out the scene they are about to paint, well before ever picking up a paintbrush. It’s just for the artist, some visual notes on how they intend to lay down paint, but it looks nothing like the finished product.
Here is an example:
(Notice the red head changed tables by the final piece and everyone’s positions shifted. It’s not a blue print, it’s just an idea.)
If you’ve installed Scrivener, I’d recommend creating a new card called, “concept notes” – or you can do this in MS Word. (We will go into Scrivener for outlining in more detail later in the course, along with Trello and Evernote for storying ideas and research).
Write about your book. Start wherever you are – fully formed idea or just a faint whisper of one – and write at least 1 page describing what your book will be about as if you’re describing it to another writer. This isn’t sales copy. This is nuts and bolts. What is the book about? What will happen? What issues will you tackle? What are some themes you have in mind now? Are there characters? Describe them.
But write quickly. No editing. It’s a sketch. An underpainting. No one will ever see it. Don’t fix typos. Just write everything you know about your book right now.
(PS: If you’re stuck on this, for example you have two book ideas or you don’t know how to choose an idea – post in the Facebook group – sometimes a little feedback can go a long way.)
|1||Daily Free Writing|
|2||Open Scrivener (or MS Word) and write a one page sketch of your book idea.|
|3||If you haven't already, join the FB group and say HI!|