Friday, July 20, 2012

5 Tips to Increase Writing Productivity

by Jean Oram

We could all use a little boost or kick in the pants when it comes to making the most of our writing time—especially in the summer when ice cream and sunshine threatens to pull us away from the glow of our monitors.

If you're wondering how to get more writing time in your life, try these five tips.

5 Tips to Boost Your Writing Productivity

1. Fast Drafts

Feel inspired? Write it down right now. Right now. Just get it down. Don't edit. Don't jump back up a few paragraphs and tweak—leave yourself a quick note in the document if you need to, but don't move backwards—keep moving forward.

For example, sometimes I'll sit down and write three blog post drafts in forty minutes. Sure, it needs editing, but the idea is there and the main points are there. Later, when I need a post, I can add some polish, go find reference resources if needed and voila. Done. Way faster than trying to write a post when I am not inspired or trying to do it all in one swoop. I can edit in any mood. I can't write in any mood.

Same goes for your manuscript. Just write. Worry about edits later. Just get it down so you will have something to work with later.

2. Write Often

If you can, write every day. This can do amazing things for your productivity because you are used to writing. Your typing speed increases, your finger muscles learn your keys (all keyboards are different!), your mind remembers where you were in the story and can pick up where you left off. Plus, you are in the habit of grabbing the right words from thin air.

Think of it as training. If you were going to be an elite runner you would run as often as possible, right? Same with writing. You need to build those muscles and keep them toned and warmed up.

I don't care if you can only squeeze in 15 minutes. That's 15 minutes more than 0 isn't it? And at the end of a week that is almost 2 hours of writing time that you've snuck in! You can get somewhere in 2 hours. Plus, because you are writing often, you won't take as long to jump into your story making those 15 minutes GOOD minutes. Maybe even better than if you sat down for a two hour chunk. You are fresh and ready to go. It's not a burden, it's a challenge to see how far you can get in that time and you are more likely to look forward to the next 15 minute chunk.

3. Get Organized

Are your notes and ideas all over the place? Get a notebook, binder, or document or folder and keep all your thoughts in one place. Then, when you are ready to go, you can find what you need with speed and ease and get down to it.

Personally, my "office" is wherever I can sit with my laptop. I use binders, notepads, and notebooks for my notes. I also use a writing program called Scrivener which is a place where I can keep all my electronic notes in one place—right in with my manuscript. When my notes are on slips of paper scattered all over I never want to work on the "hard stuff" because I don't want to have to dig around, organize it, and make sense of it all again. That's not efficient.

4. Consider a Writing Program

I use Scrivener, simply the best $40 I ever spent. It keeps me organized and I can jump around in my manuscript and leave notes for myself all over the place. This saves me an incredible amount of time. I can easily jump to wherever I need to be. I didn't realize how inefficient I was using Word until I made the Scrivener jump. I will never, ever go back. A writing acquaintance who has ADHD said Scrivener made writing possible for her because she doesn't get distracted. She can just write.

(Note: You can output your files in Word format using Scrivener—and even ebook formats. If you consider trying this program, I highly recommend doing the tutorial as the time you put into that will quickly pay off and help you get the most out of the program.)

As well, other writing programs such as the mind mapping tool, XMind, can help you map out complex ideas as well as brainstorm. In the end, with writing programs, it is figuring out how your mind works and then finding a program to help make you more efficient.

5. Skip TV

The average American watches enough television a week it could classify as a part time job. Think about it. How much TV do you watch during a week? Be honest with yourself. Now how much time do you spend writing? Actually writing. Not tweeting or updating your Facebook status. Pen to paper. Fingers to keyboard?

If you have to, cancel cable or put the TV in the basement. If you need a wake up slap, put it this way: Are you a TV consumer or a writer? If you watch an hour of TV a day and complain that you don't have enough writing time I will reach out and smack you. Got it? It's a choice YOU make.

Want to know the secret to writing more and increasing your productivity? Turn off the TV. By Jean Oram

Now that you have looked at increasing your writing productivity from the write angle, how about you? What keeps you efficient and on track? Do you use a writing program? How much TV do you watch? Share your tips in the comment section.

Jean Oram is an efficient mama making every moment count in her day of writing and parenting--especially in the summer. Instead of watching TV she blogs at (where she is talking about Scrivener today), shares play ideas on Facebook and tweets writing (@jeanoram) and play ideas for kids (@kidsplay) as well blogs kids play ideas for bored families who are trying to break the TV habit and play more at Oh, and she is sorta on and pins fun kids stuff on Pinterest as well. She's obviously traded TV for the Internet. ;)


Jemi Fraser said...

Awesome tips, Jean! During the school year I find my time can be very limited. Catching those 15 minutes chunks is vital - otherwise I'd rarely write during the week at all. I find having music (currently on a jazz kick) on in the background helps me stay focused too :)

Liza said...

The writing program sounds like something I should investigate. This may, however, distract me from my writing (just kidding.) I try to write some everyday, and I try very hard not to get sucked into TV programs that have ongoing story lines. I'm not good at writing at night. Most often I read, but I do turn on the TV to a food related programs I can shut off whenever I want. Thank you for this helpful post!

Jean Oram said...

It's amazing how fast 15 minute chunks can add up, Jemi. You mentioned on Twitter that you are going to give Scrivener a try. Hopefully it will help you stay "in it" when you can't catch 15 minute chunks for a long stretch. It really helps me remember the important stuff quickly. I'm hoping that will do the same for you.


Jean Oram said...

Liza, I used to get sucked in by ongoing storylines all the time too. Later I'd be like, "I didn't even really enjoy that, why did I feel obliged to keep watching?" Now, I don't have the time so it works out well for me. :) (If I have time after writing and all the other stuff, then maybe I will watch TV--but usually a good book sneaks in!)

If evenings aren't a great writing time for you--I understand as I am not a morning writer--maybe you can sneak time in during other times of the day. Although I bet you already do that! ;)

I looooove Scrivener. (A big thanks to Robert K. Lewis for nudging me towards the program.) I believe they have a free trial? It's worth checking out as well as trying their free tutorial as it really shows a lot in terms of what the program can do.

Enjoy! (And thanks for the comment.)

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shaEina said...

I couldn't agree with you more.
My single most important productivity tip (which by the way I've learned from Sir Richard Branson) might not be the same as yours but it's also kind of related. :)
You should love what you do. Meaning, you should focus on the things you enjoy and are really good at. And try to outsource or delegate everything else. It makes perfect sense because doing the activities (like writing something you have interest in) you love always inspires you to do better and I think it also lessens procrastination.

Kathy Colin said...

Increasing productivity in the writing process can be accomplished by the following tips: write whenever you feel inspired, don’t bother with the technicalities you can tweak your work later, write often almost every day if possible and organize yourself. Also, any service for homework writing can also help you out to relax a little which will help you increase your productivity.

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