Welcome to an entire month of Top 5 Tips for Authors!
Every day this month my friends and I will bring you a new set of Top 5 Tips to help you along on your author journey. 2017 was a year of change in the Indie author world for sure. So many happenings. So many new things to learn. So many old things that didn’t quite do what you’d hoped. Well, every day is a new day. And every year is a new year. So we hope that this month’s worth of tips will get you the kick start you need to make 2018 your best yet and please feel free to ask questions and leave comments.
JA Motherfucking Huss is the NYT bestselling author of 321 and has been on the USA Today Bestsellers list eighteen times. She writes dark shit that isn’t for everyone but once in a while she gets a joke in her that comes out as a romantic comedy. She’s a workaholic who lives on a ranch in Colorado. (This is her blog, BTW, so her links are all over the goddamned place so I’m not gonna post one here.)
Everyone wants to know the answer to this question, right? How the hell do you write so many books? How can I write more books?
Well, some of this is good news and some of this is bad. Because if you’re a slow writer chances are you’re never going to be a fast writer. But that doesn’t mean you can’t improve your productivity! So let’s get started with my top 5 tips for how to write more books.
- Write or plot every day.
I don’t care if you only write 5oo words and only come up with one line of dialogue that can be used tomorrow, you should write or plot every day. You should make progress. And if you get stuck on a plot point, you should use that writing time to THINK about what’s next. Not outline or brainstorm, just take Violet Vaughn’s advice in post two, Be More Creative and THINK. But either way, you’re still moving forward. Writing books is hard. If it was easy everyone would do it. And I know it SEEMS like everyone IS doing it, but there’s a difference between “doing it” and doing it. (ya know what I mean?? 😉 )
You have to be disciplined. And if you’re one of those people who just say–“Well, I’m just a slow writer,” and you let yourself off the hook for not, you know, WORKING every day. Then you’re not gonna get a lot of writing done. So don’t let yourself get away with that shit. You can be a slow writer. No one’s telling you to write a thousand words a day. Two hundred will do. Two hundred is better than nothing. Nothing over seven days still equals nothing. 200 over seven days equals 1400 words. You know, PROGRESS.
- Slow down (Seems counter-intuitive, right? But hear me out.)
Exercise, or meditate, or wash dishes, or walk the dog, or take a bath, or do something “mindless” that allows you to THINK. Stories come from within you. If you don’t give yourself an opportunity to think, you’ll have a very hard time making progress on tomorrow’s words.
I don’t really believe in writer’s block. I think when writers get stuck they either messed up the writing they did yesterday (or last week) and they KNOW it’s wrong and can’t seem to admit it to themselves. Just delete it, people. Get rid of it. Don’t try and make it work just for the sake of getting your word count. I don’t delete very much when I write and it’s not because I’m a great plotter, I just make sure I know where I’m going with the story before I sit down to write.
Creative time for me has changed over the years. When I first started writing in 2012 I used to walk on the treadmill every day for at least an hour. That entire hour I plotted my next few scenes in the book. So that when it came time to write I knew exactly where I was going. I had a little movie running up in my head and all I did was write it down.
These days I take my dogs for walks because I live on a 36-acre ranch. So I get time to just… think. But it’s funny that you often hear stories about “creative geniuses” and how they came up with an idea in the bath tub. I do a lot of thinking in the shower. lol And it’s not like the shower or tub is a magical place, it’s that you’re calm, you’re doing mindless things, and you let your brain just go with it.
And don’t waste your time. If you have no story for today, then spend it doing mindless tasks that have to get done anyway and let your brain go crazy as you complete your to-do list. And then write it down FOR TOMORROW!
- Set daily goals.
I don’t care if that goal is 100 words, or 1000 words, or 10,000 words. You need a goal every single day you write. Know that going in. And if you don’t hit it, you don’t hit it. But at least you KNOW you didn’t hit it and you can adjust your expectations so that next time you write more, or less, depending on how ready you are to progress.
When you sit down to write, do so with the understanding that you’re not getting out of that chair until you hit your goal. You don’t have hit your entire goal before you take a break. That’s not what I’m saying. You should try for several sessions (if you’re a full-time writer, this is especially important). For instance, if my goal today is 2000 words I might write 1000, then eat lunch and walk my dogs, then come back and finish up. The important part is that setting a goal is about having a plan. And hands down, having a plan is better than no plan in just about every scenario I can think of. 😉
If you aspire to write a lot of words in a day the best thing you can do is plan that day out to the MINUTE. For instance, if I know I have to hit a big word count this day I get up early, knock out one third of my total goal, take a break, knock out the second third, take a longer break, and then knock out the final third. That’s a really good plan. If you think the way to writing 8,000 words in a day is sitting at your desk for 8 straight hours, you’re delusional. You’ll go crazy. Break it up into manageable parts and then treat each part as a new goal.
- Have reasonable expectations.
I often set lofty goals for myself when I’m writing. I need 7000 words today! I do sometimes get 7000 words but I’ll tell you what, I only do it if I HAVE to. I don’t want to write 7000 fucking words in a day! That’s horrible! Lol. Horrible! But some days I have to because you know, deadlines and shit. So I try not to get myself psyched up for a 7k day unless I know I really have to get it done. Otherwise I’m NOT gonna get it done and I feel like a failure if I only get 5K that day. So reasonable expectations are better.
I often make 2K or 3k my goal because I know I can hit that goal pretty much every day. If I get more than that, great. If I hit or get a little less, still OK. I do try and make up for any words I missed the next day. But I’m not gonna call that a tip because sometimes it’s not in your best interest to make up your word count. Sometimes you just gotta call a 500 word day what it is. A five-fucking-hundred word day.
- Figure out when you write best.
As in, what time of day. Like… I write best in the early, early morning. But my writing partner writes best later in the day and at night. So we do it differently. But we still get it done. Decide when you’re gonna write. That doesn’t mean you can’t change it later. You’re the boss of you, after all. But if you know you have to get up and write before you do anything else, you get in the mindset of doing that. And you do it.
And I’ll go one step further with this tip. Try another writing time if you’re not seeing results. If you’ve never tried writing at night how do you know you’re not more productive then? Same goes for early morning. If you’ve never done it, how do you know? So if you’re not happy with your production this might be the adjustment you need.
No, not everyone can learn to write fast but everyone can learn to be more productive. Some of this is just your natural inclination to your craft. You can change it a little, but you can’t force yourself to write faster. You can only do your best to make the most of the time you have. Writers who put words on paper quickly do so because they have the story in their head. It’s like a movie running up there and when you sit down, all you do is transcribe it. That how it works for me. I’m not the fastest writer, but I’m pretty fast. And everyone I’ve ever talked to who writes at a similar speed seems to have a similar experience.
So forget writing fast and concentrate on writing efficiently and planning your story better. 🙂