How to become a productive writer: 10 simple rules

How to become a productive writer - tips for being a producer

Learn how to become a productive writer using these 10 simple rules:

1. Be ruthless and make writing non-negotiable

Your writing productivity can weaken when you have mountains of other obligations. It’s far too easy to put errands, housework, social time with friends and catching up on your favourite TV shows ahead of writing. Often, friends and family might see a writer’s process as important as time spent working at a day job or other endeavours, too.

The only solution here is to be ruthless. You have to start thinking of writing as one of those non-negotiable tasks like showering or earning a living.

2. Keep a regular writing appointment

Make your writing sessions regular appointments because this will ensure that you and others view your writing time as non-negotiable. Being consistent in scheduling your writing appointments will also boost your productivity:

In writer Damon Knight’s book Creating Short Fiction, he writes about the value of setting aside a certain time to write on a regular basis because it actually trains the writing part of the brain to ‘show up’ when it needs to. According to Knight, your unconscious mind will eventually get the idea that this is the time when it is invited to turn up and do what it does best by providing you with stories.

Set aside a regular writing time to create a routine that your creative side will begin to respond to.

3. Create a dedicated writing space

How to become a productive writer - have a dedicated writing spaceVirginia Woolf famously wrote that every woman writer should have a room of her own. Even if you don’t have one of your own, you can set aside a spot for your writing whether it’s a corner of your kitchen or a table at the local library.

Creating a dedicated writing space has a few advantages:

It sends a signal both to you and to others that your writing is serious and that this time is only for writing.

It also creates a kind of ritual. The combination of a dedicated writing time with a dedicated writing space gets you into the rhythm of perpetually telling great stories.

Practically speaking, a dedicated writing space gets you away from distractions so that you can focus on telling your story.

4. Funnel other tasks into your writing

It is often said that a writer is always writing. Because story ideas are everywhere. You may not always be able to grab a pen and paper or open a laptop, but if you think about it, there are a lot of monotonous tasks that you engage in most days that you could use for thinking about your story in the background.

Driving, chopping vegetables and many forms or housework are all examples of these. You can brainstorm plot twists, figure out how to get your characters out of the sticky situation you left them in or plan your next writing session.

In doing this, you can increase your productivity because you can spend more of your actual writing time getting words down on the page rather than working out plot problems.

5. Have a plan for every writing session

Whenever you sit down to write, you should have a plan of some sort about what you want to do with that day’s writing. Optimize your writing time for getting words on the page and not for sitting and thinking.

There are a number of ways that you can do this. Ernest Hemingway advised writers to stop when writing is going well and the writer knows what will happen next. Some writers even advocate stopping in the middle of a paragraph or sentence.

Try setting aside a little bit of time at the beginning or end of a writing session to make a plan for the next one. However, if you choose to do this, make sure that it is clearly partitioned off from the rest of your writing time.

6. Track your writing goals and progress

keep a journal - how to become a productive writerThis is one of the best ways to increase your productivity. By setting and tracking concrete goals, you have something to reach for and you can also see how far you have come.

You can choose how best to do this tracking: You can:

  • Use Excel spreadsheets to track daily word counts and other targets
  • Make notes to yourself in a writing journal.

Set realistic goals that you can reach. Even if that’s just 250 words or one page per day, then after a year, you’ll have more than 300 pages.

Tracking your writing in this way has other advantages as well. If you’ve never done it, you may have no real idea of your actual productivity. For better or worse, you might be surprised by what you learn.

You might also find it useful to note moods and conditions and see the effect that has on productivity. You might write more productively in a noisy or quiet spot, with or without a cup of coffee, or just after an exercise session.

7. Be accountable to someone 

Tracking your goals and progress creates accountability, but it also helps to appoint someone as a kind of accountability overseer. If you have a writing friend either online or offline, check in with each other. You can even create little challenges and competitions. Some writers even meet for “writing dates.”

If you don’t know any other writers, you can find some online. The Now Novel mentoring process is designed for exactly this purpose. There are also general websites focused on goal setting that can offer useful tools. Some of them will even fine you if you don’t reach the goal you have set.

8. Stay passionate about your book

If you can keep your enthusiasm high you are more likely to be productive. You might find it helpful to make a list of the things you love about your novel and about writing to refer to when you are feeling your passion flag.

9. To become a productive writer avoid burnout

Notice whether any sense of lethargy or lack of inspiration regarding your work is ongoing or just lasts a session or two. If you can’t push through that feeling, you may be truly burned out and you will need to take a day or two off. You may lose this time, but you’ll come back more productive.

10. Take care of yourself 

As important as it is to make time to write, you also have to take care of yourself. You’ll get more done in a shorter period of time if you are well-rested, eating right and getting some exercise even if it’s just a short daily walk. Realistically, you can’t always fit all of these things into your regular life plus writing, but keeping them as a goal and falling back on these basics when your energy and productivity are lagging will bring results.

Set concrete goals to increase your productivity, but choose goals that are realistic. If you’ve been tracking your progress for a while, you’ll have some sense of how much you can increase. Don’t expect to double your output in a single session or two. If you normally write three pages at a time, just add a third or quarter of a page to your next session. Incremental increases will add up more quickly than you realise.

Productivity is a combination of making sure you have the time and space to write, setting concrete goals, working to increase your word or page count and having an effective book-writing approach.

How have you increased your own productivity?

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