Writing tips: Have a super-extreme writing day

writingHaving trouble writing? Here’s a post Joshua Winning wrote last year for Open Book Society that should help get you into the writing groove…

Like skinning a cat, there’s no one way about writing. Everybody has their personal own rhythm, just as some of us are morning people and some of us aren’t. However, if you’re struggling to find the time to get that story out of your head and onto paper, why not smash the apathy with a Super-Extreme Writing Day? All those holiday days you’ve been saving up for time off from the world? Use one to really get cracking on your project. This really helped me when I was writing my debut novel, dark fantasy Sentinel, in between my regular job, so hopefully it’ll work for you. Here are my tips for making that day really count…

  1. Get a good night’s sleep. Go to bed at a decent hour so you can wake up fresh. (This isn’t really a point because it’s sort of a given that you shouldn’t stay up ’til 2am playing Zelda before a hardcore day of writing.)
  2. Get up at a decent hour, shower, have breakfast, make a pot of coffee. Pretend you’re getting up for a day’s work – which of course you are. This isn’t an excuse to slob around in your onesie/dressing gown. You mean business, so act like it.
  3. Wear shoes. This is a weird one, but I find it really works for me. Instead of sitting at your desk in socks or slippers, put on shoes as if you’re about to go somewhere. Not sure why it works, but it does.
  4. Put on headphones. I know some people don’t like to listen to music when they’re writing, but if you’re struggling to get into the ‘writing zone’, blocking out all ‘life noises’ is the only way. Choose music you know well so it won’t distract you and turn it up enough so that you can’t hear the cat meowing at the door or your neighbours watching Wheel Of Fortune all day.
  5. Decide exactly what it is that you want to achieve. Are you planning your novel chapter by chapter? Attempting to nail that important first chapter? Or just hoping to blitz it by laying down as many words as possible in one day? Set yourself that goal.
  6. Turn off the internet. I mean it. And if you need the internet for research, don’t have a tab open with your emails visible. The world can wait. Similarly, leave your phone in another room and forget it exists.
  7. Have a lunch break. Food is fuel and you won’t be able to write if your belly starts grumbling at you. (Also, obviously, make sure your cupboards are stocked for the day. You don’t want to have to run to Tesco and panic-buy some crummy sandwich.)
  8. Don’t edit. If you’re doing a writing blitz, don’t stop. Just go for it. By all means, read the last few paragraphs of what you previously wrote, but only to get you into the mood for writing – and remind you what you wrote before. Now sit and just write. Without going back to correct it when you hit a tough spot. Push through.
  9. Screen breaks are important. Computers get overheated if they’re on all day, and your brain’s the same. Take periodic screen breaks, and try not to think about what you’re writing during that time.
  10. Having trouble writing or don’t know what to write next? WRITE ANYWAY. That may sound harsh and weird, but sometimes sitting and reflecting for five minutes, and then just bashing at the keyboard will help get the juices flowing again.
  11. Save everything. Even if you’re about 102% sure that what you’ve written is total crud, save it anyway. There might be something in there worth using down the line. I often find that re-reading something that doesn’t work simply makes you realise what would make it work.
  12. Finish at dinner time and take the evening off. If you’re not feeling too burned out, consider jotting down notes for what you want to write on your next Super-Extreme Writing Day (yes, you’ll want to do it again). Then leave what you’ve written to sit and stew for at least a week. You’ll come at it with fresh eyes and – hopefully – you’ll be surprised at what good stuff you’ve plucked from your brain and smeared onto the screen.

Got your own writing tips? Have you done your own Super-Extreme Writing Day? I’d love to hear about it!

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