Month: April 2015

Future Readings

Here are a few upcoming titles I’ve put on my list to read. At the time of this writing these titles have not been published. Series I’ve begun are not included, these titles are either stand alone or the first in a new series.

The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty) – Ken Liu
Three Moments of an Explosion: stories – China Miéville
The Figaro Murders – Laura Lebow

Getting Into the Zone

I work at something other than writing to pay the bills, and I have three children, two still at home. Too often the effort that goes into everyday life leaves one susceptible to the distractions of the Internet and TV. Partaking of those two forms of ‘entertainment’ can be energy draining rather than renewing. To combat the time suck associated with mindless relaxation (sometimes falsely called re-energizing) I have adopted a few strict rules.

During the week:

  1. Do not watch the evening news while preparing dinner/cleaning/doing laundry or whatever. Turn on some music instead. Use a genre or playlist that suits the writing intended for the evening. Let the mood seep into the subconscious and the day melt away.
  2. Save the Internet (Twitter, G+, Ello, etc.) for AFTER the writing is completed.
  3. Exercise. Even if only for 20 minutes. If walking on a treadmill, read something.
  4. Change clothes, but do not put on PJs. We’re not getting ready for bed yet no matter how comfortable they might be, there is still work to be done.
  5. Write.
  6. Read.
  7. Sleep.

Weekends

  1. Do not listen to the morning news while making coffee. Read.
  2. Again, save the Internet activities for after the writing is done.
  3. Write.
  4. Read.
  5. Watch a Movie (and study the characters and structure)
  6. Sleep.

Usually somewhere between weekend numbers three and four life intervenes with chores, kids activities, etc. Still, by sticking to these rules I have been able to quickly slip into that precious productive zone where real writing occurs. It’s the zone that builds word count with words that matter. Finding that zone quickly is critical for productivity. These are not rules for everyone, they just make me more productive.

Tracking

I have read many suggestions for writers to plan and track their work and I always find the results discouraging. I never achieve what I set out to and then feet worse about my effort than if I had not planned at all. A couple of things changed that recently and I now find planning and tracking important.

First, I realized my goals were unrealistic. I used to create my goals for a month’s writing based on someone else’s and thought them modest enough. They were not. Second, I discovered the key to making them realistic was to make them more specific. So rather than saying I will plot and create characters this month, and next I will outline, I need to be more detailed and concrete. My goals are now something like: sketch plot by potential chapters – identify each plot point. Then, flesh out characters X, Y, and Z. Sometimes there needs to be some world or setting development and those items need to be specific too. This way rather than staring at some large unbounded goal I have specific tasks that need to be completed. I still call them goals, however, because a task that isn’t 100% complete seems like a failure, whereas a goal that is 95% achieved is a win.

My progress from last month and my plans for this month are positive which makes me energized and anxious to get to work.