Monday, 13 December 2010

Methods, Schedules and Rules

All writers have methods to motivate themselves. Some people have daily word counts. Others are strict about getting words onto a page regardless of how many there are. I personally like to have deadlines.

Keeping on track with your writing and editing makes you feel good. There’s nothing like the feeling of completing a chapter, scene or even draft – which I happened to do yesterday, hence the day late post – after working so hard to get there. You get what you give, and if you put the effort and time into it, you’ll always get it back out again in some shape or form.

No matter what works for you, there are always some general rules I try to stick by.

Work in a way which works for you. Don’t tie yourself down to a schedule you know you can’t keep, because you’ll only disappoint yourself by trying to attain something that’s impossible. If 1000 words a day is too hard, lower it to something that’s more suitable. The important thing isn’t how fast it’s written, only that it is. Sparing a few hundred words a day won’t kill you. Stressing yourself out about word count won’t kill you either, but it will get you down, and your disappointment will translate in your writing. Know your limits.

Recognise progress when it’s made. If you’ve reached something you’ve been aiming for, celebrate it! However small or insignificant, recognise that you have achieved something with the time you’ve put in, even if it’s only as small as fixing a scene that didn’t quite fit, or tackling a chapter you were terrified to attempt. Any achievement goes towards your overall goal; give yourself some credit. Treat yourself. The reward might even give you the motivation to keep going towards the next target.

Don’t regret life getting in the way. Life tends to throw us obstacles. As writers, we have to try and scale these as much as possible. Sometimes, this simply can’t happen. Things crop up which can’t be ignored, and your daily writing goal might suffer for it. Never get caught up in guilt with circumstances you cannot control. Even if you can control them, don’t ever feel bad for dealing with something which needed to be done. Balance your priorities. By all means try to write, but if you can’t, don’t beat yourself up over it. Only move on and try again tomorrow.

Finally, take pride in your achievements. You see that word document filled with words and scenes and  ideas? You’ve made them all. Look back at that manuscript – no matter what state its in – and smile. It’s something to be proud of. It’s yours. No matter what happens, that will never change.

I hope these helped in some small way. I'd love to hear what your writing methods are, and how you motivate yourself to achieve them.


  1. I like this post :) I'm definitely the type that likes deadlines, but I'm okay with not getting things done in time, too, as long as I WILL. I'll tell myself to finish editing a scene today, and if it doesn't happen, that means I'll do it tomorrow. Sometimes it may take me a week and sometimes I'll move through several scenes in a day. I can't predict how productive I'll be. So it's really important to me that I'm never too hard on myself for that sort of thing. As long as there's progress!

    I definitely think the BEST thing a writer can do to help themselves finish writing a book is to figure out HOW. There's so many different methods it's maniacal. But if you can find how you work best, you can count on your method to get the job done :)

    I can't lay the gavel too hard down on myself when I just HAVE to go back and edit the scene I just wrote to make it work. That's just my process. If I just wrote a whole book without every looking back, I'd hate it all and rewrite the whole thing--and that's an intimidating prospect to me. Taking it one scene at a time isn't so hard! For other people, writing the whole book and then editing is easier.

    Writing is a lot about figuring yourself out as much as it is about figuring your characters out :)

  2. All great recommendations! Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Jessica: I'm the same, I never try to be too strict on myself or it'll take away from everything I'm trying to achieve with writing. Your motivation can really vary from day to day; you're completely right with productivity.

    That's exactly it. Everybody has different methods, but until you actually go through the process yourself, it's impossible to say which ways are better than others because we each have different work styles. Tailoring your writing to you is always the best thing to do.

    I'm in the other section from you, I much prefer to write the entire first draft then start looking back with edits. If I re-read a scene, I'll change up small things, maybe syntax, grammar, punctuation etc., but I would never make any big changes until I edited. That works for me. Again, it's all about finding out which suits you.

    I absolutely love that last quote! It's so true; writing can teach you so much you didn't already know about yourself as well as your characters. Not only about your style and writing habits, but genuinely about your personality and aspects of you which might trickle into your characters' beliefs, no matter how altered or changed they may be. It's definitely a learning process. I don't think any writer ever stops learning, to be honest.

    Ollin: Thank you! It's no problem, I'm glad it helped.

  4. you're right! :D this is so true.

    thanks so much for the advice! those points really helped.
    cheers xx

  5. Denisa: We both helped each other out with our blogposts! It's no problem.