Friday, November 22, 2013

Preparing for a Productive Writing Day

By Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

I’ve always been a big believer in being prepared (yes, I was a Girl Scout all those years ago).  I don’t like hectic mornings, so everything is organized the night before to make sure the mornings go smoothly.  My kids know that in the evenings before bed, they have to have all their homework done,  essays printed out, homework collected in their backpacks downstairs,  and have a handle on what they want to wear the following day.  Lunches are made the night before.  The more time we invest at night, the better and more stress-free our mornings are.

The Lifehack blog recently ran a post by Timo Kiander: “Do You Do This Common Mistake When You Start Working on Your Tasks?”  In it, the writer gives tips for people who open up a document, daily goals firmly in mind, and then basically waste their writing time through lack of preparation.
I’ve never wanted to mess around in the mornings.  I get up before five a.m. to write, and I sure don’t want to waste that time…otherwise I might just as well get more sleep.
At this point in my writing career, I’ve got an outline to follow for each project.  But that’s only been in the last year or so and only out of total necessity.  Although I never fully outlined with my previous books, I always knew what I was going to write the next day.  That way I could hit the ground running in the morning.  Get my coffee, open up my laptop, see my little three sentence note to myself regarding what I wanted to write that day, and knock out a good part of my goal.  I used mini-outlines to keep myself on track.
For me, a good mini-outline should be very concise, but very explicit.  I also include a short summary of where I left off the day before.  That way I don’t have to read what I wrote the previous day (which always makes me want to edit). Then I’ve got an extremely brief sentence or two that explains the point of the scene.  If the scene doesn’t have a point that can be summed up in about a sentence…that’s just not a great scene. Our whole book should have enough of a point that we can sum it up in a sentence.
I also get into a writing mode by thinking about the story before I even make it over to my laptop.  So, as soon as I wake up (gosh, this sounds compulsive, as I’m typing it down), I start thinking about where I left off and where I want to go with the story today.  While I’m pulling on a robe and pouring the coffee, and letting the dog out, I’m thinking about dialogue and plot points.  By the time, minutes later, that I’m finally opening my computer, I’ve got a very clear picture of where I’m going next.
What happens when you sit down to write each day?  How do you get into that writing mode and keep your writing time productive? 
Image: MorgueFile: cohdra