The beauty of writing for a living is that you can write from anywhere. I live in Dubai and often write from home for example, but my agent and publisher are in the UK. Not being chained to a desk in a corporate environment is a dream of freedom for many of us (I’m currently typing this on my laptop in bed!) Yet, I soon learnt that such a relaxed approach to writing novels doesn’t get the job done. I normally consider myself a fairly disciplined and motivated person but it’s incredible how many distractions there are in your own home. Never has folding laundry being so enticing when you know you have at least 2000 words to write that day. Having been writing for clients for the last seven years and the last two years writing The Good Mother and my new book The Home, here are a few techniques I use to make sure I meet deadlines and get the job done.
1. Identify When Your Motivation Is At Its Highest
First thing in the morning on the first day of the week is often when I get the most writing done. I feel refreshed and energised after the weekend so I make the most of this time by making writing the first thing I do before I do any other task. In order to avoid any distractions, I keep my to-do list next to me so I can make a note of it and forget about it until later. As I have a weekly word target, I will often go beyond it when my motivation is high and that gives me a little leeway in case I have a bad day during the rest of the week.
2. Keep Editing To A Minimum Initially
It’s incredibly tempting to go back and continuously edit and re-edit your work but I try and avoid this, especially in the beginning. My motivation starts to climb along with my word count, so the more I write, the more I feel I can write. Of course, there are times when I write dribble, but if that’s the case, I will highlight it in red to flag that a particular section needs work at a later date.
3. Map Out Your Chapters
It’s amazing how many details you have to remember for a novel and how easy it is to become confused, especially if you’re switching between different time periods. By mapping out your chapters and creating character profiles, it becomes a useful reference tool to use so you have an idea what you’re supposed to be writing that day. There are various ways to do this – I simply use a notebook, but I know people who use Post It notes, mind maps, and even online systems to help plan their novel.
4. Have A Plan For When Your Motivation Is At It Lowest
If you’re like me, some days can be harder to write than others. Whether I’m distracted with other demands or simply lacking inspiration, a blank screen can be one of the most off-putting things for a writer. To address this, I made a list of back-up plans, my most favourite being to move to another location - a change of scene normally does the trick. Another option is to go for a walk or do some yoga – a writer’s life is fairly sedentary so even just ten minutes of movement can help. Finally, a good network of other authors is a great support. I set up a Facebook page to keep us all connected and share writing tips and techniques.
5. Have A Word Count Target
Whether it's a 100 words a day or 4000 words a day, the most important thing is to write and keep chipping away at your novel. While at first, the task might seem overwhelming, by breaking it down into chunks, it will seem so much more manageable and before you know it, you'll have a manuscript! Good luck!
These are just some of the ideas that work for me. Every writer works differently though and I always love to hear hacks from other authors – please feel free to share!