Monday, November 9, 2015

Process and Productivity

Diana Urban recently put out a blog post about Six Productivity Tools All Writers Should Know About and it got me thinking about my writing tools and process. I think one of the key milestones for any author is determining what process or system works for them. Actually getting the work done, is ultimately what separates actual writers from those who merely talk about it. I’ve found that for me, the easiest way to get the work done is to use a consistent and concrete process.

Disclaimer: This is what works for me, and me only? Your mileage may vary!

So, it’s pretty simple: I write  every day in the mornings, and try to hit 600-1100 words per day during the week, and approximately double that on the weekends (since I have a “day job.). Firs thing in the morning I lock myself away at this somewhat Star Warsish looking desk in my home office, and get to work:

I don’t check emails, I don’t check the news or Twitter first. I get “write” into the day’s work. When I’m working through first drafts, I don’t listen to any real music except sometimes for background, New Agey stuff. Later, when I’m going through revision passes, I can listen to playlists and such, but not when I’m initially creating.

I don’t do long, detailed outlines, but I will usually jot down a “road map” of about 5-10 chapters at time; just a few notes for each chapter to help guide me. I also create a storyboard as I go, using the old-fashioned technique of simple colored note cards and a cork board.

As I complete chapters, I jot down on the cards what the main beats were for that section, character notes and anything else that I want to remember, and then I tack it up on the board. The color codes change on whether I’m breaking the book down by POV sections, or however else I’m establishing the book’s architecture. Laying it out like this visually allows me to get a 30,000 foot view of the entire story arc, and I can move and shuffle cards around at will. Sometimes, just adding up the colored cards lets me know if I’ve over or under-written a particular character or plot thread.

That’s it, that’s my process.  I completed both THE FAR EMPTY and its sequel this way. I’m half way through another (untitled and non-BIG BEND book)...

and I imagine I’ll continue to work this until I find something else that works better.

In terms of my own productivity tools, I use DropBox for saving all of my files, an extra external hard drive for backing up ALL files, and Evernote for keeping track of things I find online. Other than that, I keep all research for each book in a big folder, and write endless notes to myself.

The mental effort of writing is hard enough, so I try to make the rest of it easy by using a simple, by-the-numbers process that is comfortable and efficient.

Find your process, and I'll think you'll find your writing take off...

As always, keep writing - JTS

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