On writing: Writing more productively

Last week I wrote about cultivating a better writing atmosphere. Here are some additional tips and reading recommendations for those who want to focus on writing more productively.

Shut off your devices

Here’s one that’s going to be hard for a lot of people: turn off your internet and cellphone while you write. Internet, messaging apps, cellphones: all of these things are just fancy distractions keeping you from being more productive. To write more, you need to buckle down and focus, and this means eliminating as many distractions as possible.

Some writers go so far as to have a computer that does not have an internet connection and they use this computer for their writing. George R. R. Martin shocked the internet back in 2014 when he shared that he still uses a 20 year old DOS computer for his writing. While his point seemed to be that he preferred the word processing software of the older computer, I still imagine he must get much more done on a machine free of the distractions of modern software.

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reddit authors from /r/WritingPrompts and beyond

I’ve mentioned reddit’s /r/WritingPrompts before, but for those unfamiliar it is a subreddit dedicated to writing prompts. Users will either post a writing prompt themselves or respond to another user’s prompt. Contributors are a varied group: some are beginner writers, practicing the new freedom of storytelling; some are more experienced, polishing the finer details of the craft. All are there to share their creations.

From reddit and /r/WritingPrompts, a few books have been born. Here are some examples of reddit authors:

1,000 Awesome Writing Prompts by Ryan Andrew Kinder

1,000 Awesome Writing Prompts by Ryan Andrew Kinder (2014)Ryan Andrew Kinder, or /u/RyanKinder, is the redditor who resurrected /r/WritingPrompts from the ashes (or so the legend goes). Kinder has since published a collection of his best writing prompts.

Don’t use writing prompts? You might want to start. Writing prompts can be a good tool for authors who are stuck without a story to write about, or who want to do something a bit different and like the challenge of a preset scenario. From my experience with my novelette Two in the Bush, writing prompts can result in a genuine story which draws you in, a story you might not have come to without the prompt.

As reviewers have noted, these prompts are geared for a more science-fiction/fantasy crowd than other collections, so if you tend to write in genres other than these, this book might not be your style. But if those genres appeal to you, or you would like to look at prompts outside your comfort zone, Kinder’s collection of writing prompts might one for you.

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On writing: Word count spreadsheets

NaNoWriMo is coming and with that the word count crunch! For those of you unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, here’s the blurb from their About page:

NaNoWriMo crestNational Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.

50,000 words in one month is pretty daunting: most writers aren’t nearly that prolific. But this challenge is for anyone, as NaNoWriMo emphasizes. So how’s the average writer supposed to tackle such a gargantuan task?

Well, one common answer is word count spreadsheets. A spreadsheet won’t do the writing for you, but it will help you keep track of your progress, and as you chip away at that 50,000 word mountain, you’ll see that 50,000 words in a month can be done.

Note: to modify these word count spreadsheets, you’re going to need a program like OpenOffice or Microsoft Excel, or use a service like Google Docs.

The Basic:

Justin McLachlan has made a very good basic word count spreadsheet for writers who only care about word count.

NaNoWriMo Tracker by Justin McLachlanThis spreadsheet tracks the very basics: word count, the day’s target, if you are meeting your goal, and how far along you are. But what I really love about this spreadsheet is the colors used to visually cue the user as to their progress towards their goal. Utilizing the stoplight colors of red / yellow / green helps the user know when they are on track and when they are falling behind. Green is excellent, yellow is good, but red means danger, Will Robinson!

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