Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Keep Your Hands on the Keyboard

I used to believe that when my kids grew up I would have no trouble writing.  But while I have more time now, I am still so busy that I have difficulty keeping my focus on my writing when I do sit down at my computer. It turns out that my kids were just one distraction among many.  So I'm brushing up on how to keep focused to make the best use of the time I've got.  Here are a few things that help, if I will apply them consistently.

  • Schedule writing time and make a chart to keep track of word count. This drives home the point that this is a job and inspires organization and control. My boss wouldn't let me get away with being a slouch, so why should I indulge myself?
  • Do research first and leave blanks when more information is needed, rather than interrupting the flow to find the answer.
  • Write a synopsis/outline/loose outline/list of scenes to point the story in the right direction when the flow of ideas fizzles out. This is for SOTP writers, too.
  • Read over the last scene you wrote at your last writing session just to get the juices flowing, but DO NOT stop to make edits. This is to help you pick up where you left off.
  • Do not stop to look up details such as the name of the protagonist's dog, the color of her vehicle, her street name, etc.  Leave a blank and fill it in during the editing which comes much later. OR type up a list of these details and pin them to the wall behind your computer screen so you can glance up for the answer without removing your hands from the keyboard.
  • Clear your writing space of distractions. Personal effects on your desk or walls are fine unless they remind you of your last vacation when your toes were in the sand and you get a sudden craving for fish tacos and start thinking of what you should make for dinner. Leaving things out in your peripheral vision can steal your attention.
  • Keep creature comforts close at hand to discourage you from being tempted to get up and retrieve them.  Kleenex, a drink or snacks of choice, Chap Stick, whatever you need, keep it nearby. Your cell phone does not count as a creature comfort.
  • Get comfortable.  Invest in a chair that keeps you from pitching forward toward the screen in a slouch or doesn't cut off circulation in your legs because they don't touch the floor.
  • Turn off all electronic devices - except the document you are working on. All social networking is taboo while writing. 
  • Set a timer signaling a break or the end of your writing time.  Promise yourself you will not get up until it rings and resist the urge to hold it to your ear frequently to make sure it's still ticking.
  • Leave a scene/sentence/word/idea unfinished at the end of the writing time so there is a thread to pick up for the next session which makes it easier to get back into the story. Scribble down the basic direction, in case of forgetfulness.
  • If all else fails, at least keep your hands on the keyboard.

We all have to learn tricks that keep us focused on our stories and that make the best use of our writing time.  Can you think of suggestions to add to my list? We'd love to hear!


Susie Finkbeiner said...

These are fabulous, Debbie! Thank you for the push/nudge/encouragement.

As for me, I have to have music. I write best to Debussy. Something about the constantly moving piano sounds keeps my fingers moving. Also, it helps me to have a reason for the writing. Why do I HAVE to tell this particular story? I write the reason on a piece of paper and post it right next to the window near my writing area. It drives me when I feel discouraged.

Oh! And have those people who know that you're writing and will hold you accountable. It works wonders for me.

susan gregory said...

I set a daily word count. If the sentences absolutely aren't flowing, I nudge that word count forward with a list of related words. For example, if a horse is in the next scene, I might have a list of 'horsey words' - prance, neigh, etc. Often this sparks a thought and then a sentence and then a paragraph...

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Great ideas, Susie! I also use music to drown out any sounds in the background. Music without words only - lyrics distract me. Posting the reason and posting an anonymous picture of your target audience also helps, as long as you don't start wondering what her story was...
Writing groups are priceless!

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Susan, love your idea for related words. I will try that next time.

Cherry Odelberg said...

Much needed helpful reminders - and the humor was fun, too.