to Overcome Roadblocks, Finish Your Project, and Get It Out There
by Brian Mercer
It took me ten years to
write The Kaladrious Reflection, an epic science fiction
trilogy. My next book, a 110,000-word mainstream novel, I finished
in just ten weeks. What follows are the techniques I used to
streamline the writing process, to go from taking years to
completing my projects, to finishing in only weeks.
Technique #1: Set daily, small, easily achievable writing goals.
In life you get to
define success. Define success in a way that you know you can't
lose. When it comes to setting daily writing goals, don't take on
too much. If you're too ambitious, you're only going to get
discouraged. Set daily, small, easily achievable goals. The key
word there is "daily.
There's a power in doing
something a little each day, accomplishing it and feeling good about
it. It's those constant little successes that are going to
motivate you to get your butt behind your desk every day, putting
pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. If you habitually write a
little each day, you'll get into a rhythm and your subconscious will
be primed to spill words out onto the page the moment you sit down.
There's a fallacy that you need long, unbroken stretches of time to
get serious work done. I dispelled that myth early on, when my
office manager allowed me to modify my schedule from eight-hour days
to nine-hour days in order to take every other Friday off. The idea
of having an entire day to write every other week seemed like the
perfect way to finish my novel quickly.
practice, however, I found I got less accomplished with my new
schedule than I did when I worked a regular eight-hour day. The
reason quickly became apparent. Since I was getting up an hour
earlier to go to work, I had less time for my daily writing
sessions; I was essentially saving my writing time for my days off.
The problem was that I was never productive every moment of my day
off. I'd take stretch breaks, breaks
to eat, breaks to use the
bathroom. There were always interruptions.
I solved these issues by
returning to my old, eight-hour schedule. I still came into work an
hour early, but instead of working, I wrote. While I couldn't write
for ten hours straight
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on my day off, I could
write ten hours in one-hour increments over the two week work
cycle. After writing habitually at the same time each morning, I
found myself brimming with ideas. When I sat down to write, I
couldn't type fast enough.
Each two-week cycle I'd
have as much as twenty or thirty pages, instead of the paltry eight
pages that I'd write on my days off. And it was easily my best work
to date. That's the power of doing a little each day.
Tips for daily goal setting:
Set a goal that you
know you can effortlessly accomplish. Maybe it's writing
fifteen minutes each morning. Or writing a paragraph on your
lunch break. Your aim is to build daily momentum. Half the
battle is getting your butt in the chair.
If possible, make
your goal time-oriented rather than page-oriented. If you've
been studying the habits of professional writers, you've
undoubtedly heard this advice: Write one page a day. But I say,
write one hour a day instead. Or a half-hour. Or fifteen
minutes. Writing a page can take fifteen minutes or two hours,
depending on your subject, mood, and environment. When you set
a time-goal, however, as long as you block off the time
properly, you know you can accomplish it every day.
If possible, break
large writing sessions down into smaller sessions.
If you have the luxury of writing for multiple hours every day,
break a long session into smaller, hour-long sessions. While you
might not be absolutely productive for three continuous hours in one
stretch, you're likely to use the time more effectively writing,
say, an hour in the morning, an hour at lunch, and an hour in the
evening. If you do this habitually, you'll find your subconscious
will be working even when you're not actually at your desk. When it
finally comes time to capture your thoughts, the prose often comes
in long, continuous streams of consciousness.