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How to keep writing every day?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by SLR436, Jul 30, 2014.

  1. SLR436

    SLR436 New Member

    I'm curious if you used any tricks to hack motivation before you managed to 'just sit down and write', it's for my blog post on how to write an ebook.

    So far I've heard modifications of Seinfeld's productivity trick he used for writing jokes, where every day that you complete your writing task, you get to put a big red X over that day on your calendar. The red X is sometimes replaced with golden star or even word count for that day. The problem with that is continuing to add to the chain once a new month starts, as it feels as you're starting all over every month.

    Little hacks like "stop writing mid-sentence", set a specific time to write and turn off Internet.

    I'm asking this as an advice to someone who is not a writer and is likely not looking to become a writer in the long-term, but is interested in producing a single piece nonetheless.

    Finally, is writing every day a goal for you or not?
  2. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    On this forum there's a thread called Writer's Work in the sub-forum Writing Groups. It's for signing in and out when you start and stop writing, and you're meant to do an hour every day. It's worked out great for me.

    The basic concept is accountability. If I tell others I'll do something I will have to do it.
  3. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    In my case, its 'that time of day' type deal. Barring some other project, I sit down after dinner, write for an hour or so, then take a break for a bit, followed by more writing.
  4. Terry Greer

    Terry Greer Sage

    I've just posted this exact same thing on another thread, but:
    I just make sure I wrute at least 1 page every night before i let myself go to sleep - it doesn't have to be good - just down.
    It's surprising how many nights you write far more than a single page ;).

    I also have an excel spread sheet where I put the total words so far in. this then gives me a graph that reminds me if I ever lapse and prompts me to carry on.
  5. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    The best motivation is to look at the project as something you're passionate about. That could be defining its style as more you and less what other people want; if you love dialogue, it's okay to build a sense that you just won't do as much description. And for the parts you're less into, Write To Done has a new piece on the right times to get those out of the way: Lost Your Motivation to Write? The One Thing that Helps

    Another is to always have someone to show your results to, or at least brag to, daily if you can. Ideally every writer should have two people to show everything to: the beta or pre-beta reader you trust to ask you the hard questions, and the Someone Important you hate to let down. (Though it's nice if they're the same.)

    One more thing: there's a timeless debate over whether writers "hate to write," and some of the biggest names ever like to say that they do. I think that in most cases it's more that no matter how practiced you get, each day you can hate to start to write, until you get going and realize how much of it you never forgot. I call it the Scary Bicycle rule: Facing the Blank Screen — the Scary Bicycle | Ken Hughes
  6. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    I do think holding yourself accountable somehow is important. If you're writing as a hobby, then there's really no pressure. However, if you're interested in getting lots of work out there (which more and more people are saying is the best way to sell books, write more books) then creating some sort of schedule helps a lot. It's not completely necessary, but for those who have problems keeping focused, it can be indispensable.

    Like Svrtnsse said, we have a group here on the site called Writers' Work, which like wordwalker described can be a place to comment on your progress. It's worked wonders for me as I've been writing every day for six months now. I sound like an infomercial, but just signing in and out every day has held me accountable somehow. Nothing will really happen to me if I stop, but I don't want to stop at this point. What at first seemed like a chore became a habit and has since become part of my daily routine.
  7. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    I think the aim is to find motivators that work for you.

    We're all different in the ways we approach writing. From choices of style all the way to scheduling, there will be differences in effective routine. However, somewhere in there all of us (I think) need to develop some form of habit. Forming a habit can take several months of forcing yourself to do an activity, even when you don't want to.

    Forced Behavior --> Habit --> Lifestyle change --> Success.

    I run a lot like Terry Greer said above. I make a daily word count and track it on a spreadsheet. That method works for me because I can see the holes in the timeline if I miss a day. I can't stand that, so it keeps me accountable. It also motivates me because I can see how quickly small chunks of writing add up. That alone has taught me I'm capable of writing large works if I choose.

    Another thing that motivates me is finishing a story. Few things feel better than finishing a draft. Just typing "The End" brings enormous pleasure. This is one of the reasons many folks suggest writing short stories as a beginner. It teaches you how to bring a story together while allowing the satisfaction of finishing within a smaller period of time than a novel would allow.

    Deadlines help too. They force me toward completion. I can't procrastinate if I'm writing a 5000 word story and the deadline is one week. You might not realize how effective a deadline is until you have one hanging over your head. Join one of our challenges. Once you're close to done & have three days left on the challenge, you'll know what I mean. You HAVE to finish, or waste a lot of effort and time.

    In the end though, no matter how you choose to motivate yourself, it all comes down to a simple choice. Do you want to be a writer? If the answer is yes, then write. If no, then do something else.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2014
  8. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I use Seinfeld's method. 500 words in a day gets an X. So does finishing something (say, the last 400 words of a story or chapter started earlier that week). I've got a desktop calendar for it, where each month is a little index card, and I've sworn that when I've got my first book written, I'll lay out the index cards leading up to it and have them framed.

    That kind of goal setting is an external motivation. You need both an internal and an external motivation. That is, you also need to enjoy something about the writing process. And there aren't as many tricks for that.
  9. monyo

    monyo Scribe

    There's actually a Seinfeld-inspired site that keeps track of this for you: chains.cc. And a few clones of it, but I've only tried that one. Solves the problem of having to start over every month, though it's not quite as visible as a calendar hanging in your face. At least they send you a reminder to "not break your chains" if you've been absent for about a week.
  10. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Devor and others: how do you handle editing and later phases of a writing project (marketing, etc)? I've said before here, I recognize the value of aiming for word count, but that only makes sense to me on the first draft. Thereafter, mere word counting is insufficient. When I'm in edit mode, I'm usually *deleting* as many or more words than I'm writing. I recently made two significant revisions over four chapters, about a 12k stretch, spent many hours at it, and wound up with roughly the same number of words.

    As for motivation, wrt the OP, I can't help much. If the individual isn't already motivated, then I'd say the individual ought to find another line of work. IMO, writers are driven, not motivated.

    They were better words.

    So, what sort of X goes on the Seinfeld Calendar in such cases? That is, what level of effort justifies the X and what level of effort would fall short? For you, obviously.
  11. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    Yes Skip, I agree that word counts matter most in draft one. When editing or revising, I simply mark the date (same spreadsheet), but instead of marking a word count, I will annotate how many pages I revised, or if I cut a character's POV...whatever the work. I still try to keep a running total of words. So if I revise chapter one, and wound up cutting 160 words, I record that on the day's work as well as the overall word count.

    The point of tracking your work, at least for me, is accountability & motivation. It doesn't matter what kind of work it is, or that the different types of work are recorded in slightly different ways. What does matter, is that I can open up a spreadsheet for any project and easily ascertain where I am, and the product of my accumulated efforts over a period of time. Knowledge of my personal production capability is important when planning work on a deadline. I have a rough idea how much I can write within a time frame.
    skip.knox likes this.
  12. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    This is the case with me too, edit out and replace equalling roughly the same word count.

    I've used lots of different ways to measure progress. Right now, when I go into edit mode, I chart my progress by sections. What I mean by that is making a pass over a scene with the specific goal of making edits to element X counts as a certain amount of work and progress. I often make several passes over a scene editing for element X. I rarely nail it on the first several tries, but it gets there eventually. I usually do one or two sections a day, sometimes repeating sections if I'm not satisfied where I left off the previous day.

    This works for me because my sections tend to fall within a certain range, so In a way I'm still using numbers. I know that if I make a editing pass over a section, it's generally going to be around 2500 words. So, if I think about it another way, one pass over a section counts as 2500 words edited that day. Two passes over one section or one pass over two sections equals 5000 words edited that day.

    Generally, I find that editing around 5000 words a day is a comfortable and maintainable pace. But of course that depends on how rough the initial words were. Sometimes editing a 1000 really really crappy words will take up my writing day just because of the amount of changes needed. Other times, 5000+ words is a breeze because the changes were simple.

    In the past, I've used straight time as my measure of progress. I'd "clock in" at the library and I wouldn't leave until X hours later.
    skip.knox likes this.
  13. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    For me, I try to have a space set aside for writing, and a space set aside for editing, marketing, planning, research and all that. I'm not marketing right now, but that would fit in the same space. If I'm backlogged on editing, then spend some of the writing time on prompts and challenges, but still keep writing.

    The X is for writing. I don't track the other time in the same I'm-proud-to-have-edited, mark-the-calendar! way.

    I'm not going to tell anyone to quit. There are ways to improve your intrinsic motivation that might help. I'll see if I can put together some comments on that later on.

    I think something is missing here?

    Marking the X has to represent a level of accomplishment. If I don't feel like the words counted as real progress, there's no X.
    skip.knox likes this.
  14. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    I find that I am most productive as a writer if I have confidence that whatever I'm working on can turn out all right. Whenever I experience that level of confidence, I can hammer out words like no tomorrow. More than anything else, it's moments of self-doubt, or the recognition that my projects can't work, that kill my productivity.

    I don't think anything like daily word count goals would benefit me. If the story has a shaky foundation, a few extra words won't suffice to repair it.
  15. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    "You can fix anything but a blank page."
    - Nora Roberts

    To finish anything of length, you have to push through all the doubts you listed above. Then you can go back and fix those details you find troublesome. You cannot let doubt win and be successful.
    Jabrosky likes this.
  16. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    @T.Allen.Smith: I'm starting to get to the point where measuring overall productivity is relevant to me. I'm close to having written (all the way to done) enough works that I'm no longer worried whether or not I can do it. Motivation has never been an issue. But should I get an agent or publisher one day, I'll need to be able to say how long it will take me to finish the current novel. Heck, my wife asks me that regularly!

    So, word count isn't so much irrelevant as it is incomplete. What really matters is TTC: Time To Completion, counting all levels of editing, as well as production. Maybe marketing as well, as marketing Work A is inevitably going to take time away from writing Work B. Still sorting these things out. Does anyone have an extra lifetime or two they could spare?

    Anyway, thanks to you, to Devor, and to Penpilot for reporting on that aspect of your work. I wish more writers would talk about the entire process and not just the early days.
    T.Allen.Smith likes this.
  17. SM-Dreamer

    SM-Dreamer Troubadour

    I think word count is a good way to keep up productivity in the early, first draft stage of . Especially if you end up, say, getting distracted during a writing time, in which the "hour" wasn't really an hour. So it looks like counting how far you're getting is good for getting into the habit of writing productively.

    And then in the later stages, the editing, it's more about whether any actual work got done. Less about words being written/deleted/altered/edited, and more about progress through the writing. And that's what that X is really about, the progress being made.
  18. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Are you kidding me? Talking about writing is no problem. In actuality, you're lucky I shut up. :D
  19. Bansidhe

    Bansidhe Minstrel

    I think the idea that you HAVE to write every day is a bit of a misnomer, personally. Many writers (even successful ones) have full time day jobs and life stuff that gets in the way of that. But just because you're not writing every day (I don't) doesn't mean you can't be disciplined about writing (I am).

    I actually find myself more productive by NOT writing every day--because I get to rest between sessions. I write for three or four hour blocks four days a week, and I'm writing more words per week than I was by writing every day. Instead I have a weekly goal of 10K per week, thereby keeping my daily goal flexible in case something comes up or I'm not feeling well (or working late for some reason). Sometimes you just have to rest. The writing muscle is just that--a muscle. And someone who wants to write just that one book but hasn't yet put in the time that any craft takes to develop, they may lose heart or strain their writing muscle by pushing themselves in the beginning. Epic word counts take time and practice to build up to!

    If someone is just going to write one book and wants to know how to go about doing it, I'd say they first need to learn story structure, and how to at least plan or plot a book before the drafting begins. Knowing where you're going can take some of the pressure off.
    Ruby likes this.

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