Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Three Tips For Productive Writing Sessions

Before getting to today's post, I wanted to share that my science fiction short story "An Unsuitable Job for a Human" is live today on Nature's website.

One of the most important things for someone trying to develop a daily writing routine is time management. I've written a fair amount about this topic in the past, and there's a whole chapter about it in "Write Every Day." Something that you can do to help with your time management is to ensure that when you sit down for a writing session that you are ready to be as productive as possible in the time you can allot.

Here are three tips to help you get the most out of every writing session:
  1. Know What You Plan to Write - For me, at least, if I just sit down and think to myself "Hey, it's writing time. Guess I'm going to write now." but I don't have some idea of what I'm going to write, it can get easy to spin my wheels. Having some idea of what you want to work on during your writing session should enable you to get off to a fast start. If you are working on an extended work in progress, this might not be too hard. On the other hand, if you're not in the middle of any projects, you might want to use some non-writing time to consider your next project. This sort of brainstorming/daydreaming activity is great for when you have a few minutes of idle time. Maybe you're waiting in a long line at the grocery store -- rather than perusing the tabloid covers or impluse-buying a candy bar, start rolling ideas around in your head for upcoming writing sessions.
  2. Have a Goal for the Session - Many days my goal is easy to define: 500 words or more. If I was working on revisions during a session, my goal probably would be to revise an entire short story or a major portion of a longer work. Some days when I've had more time allocated for writing (like when I was going to NaNoWriMo write-ins last November) I would simply say that my goal was to get as far into the story as I could in the next time I'd set aside to work.
  3. Minimize Distractions - This is both a matter of choosing an appropriate time during which to work (Maybe after the kids go to bed is easier than before.) and making sure that you aren't self-distracting. If I'm trying to do real heads-down intense writing, I close any browser windows that might entice me to go look at something different while I'm working. For me, it's also hard to focus on writing if there's a television show or movie on. So if I'm working while my wife or one of our older children is watching something I'll usually put in my headphones and turn on some music to help me keep my focus. (Film scores are a favorite, though I can also write to some vocal music as well.) Ultimately, this one is very much a personal thing as different people are distracted by different things. But if you want to get the absolute most out of your writing time, leaving yourself open to distractions can be a problem.
What tips do you have for getting the most out of your writing sessions?


  1. Turning off the internet for the duration of my writing session is a big thing for me (fitting in with your #3 point). If there's something i need to research, i make a note and do that research once the writing session is done.

    I also make sure my writing session is a defined length of time. I've found i work best in one hour bursts, so that's the typical length i'll set for each session.

    I'll keep track of my progress, too (your #2 point). Words written, scenes completed, etc. I'm a stat-monkey, so keeping track of what i've done helps keep me motivated and productive.

    1. Sam, thanks for stopping by! That's a good thought about not letting yourself get sucked into the internet for research purposes.

      Yeah, I hear you on the stat-monkeyness. I have a spreadsheet for my 2012 (fiction) wordcount tracking.