My Top 5 Writing Tips

Yesterday, I shared my NaNoWriMo prep process. Today, I thought I'd share some tips I have for writing in general--that is, everything from beating writer's block to staying focused. 

I have a typical writing output of about 2,000+ words per day, including tweets, emails, blog posts, and all my day job writing. When I look at it purely as numbers, it feels so incredibly huge: I remember struggling through 2,000 word papers in college and now I consistently write that much in a day... and then I repeat it the next day. 

I have a very specific way I like to write and very rarely does that actually align with what I would consider the "romantic view" of writing. I'm not cuddled up on a rainy evening with a perfect cup of coffee and a lit candle; I'm usually wearing Forrest, who is asleep, listening to his white noise play for the 901st time OR I'm hurriedly trying to get everything done in the one hour my husband has to watch Forrest after work. 

What I'm saying is: I've gotten a lot of writing done in the last two years. Here are my tips for writing more, writing better, and writing in a way that's enjoyable. 

1. Write in the same place(s). 

A long time ago, I used to write wherever: in the library, on my couch, at my desk, in bed, in the kitchen. Wherever! No more. That's just not possible now. I have too many distractions if I'm anywhere other than where I write. Unless I'm on vacation, I write in one of two places: at my desk at home or at my desk at work. That's it. For my best work, I have to write in one of those two places. 

2. Change something, sometime. 

As much as my first tip stands, I also should say: sometimes, if you're in a rut, you need to change something. For example, this past weekend, I was getting my desk cleaned up and ready for NaNoWriMo and I decided, "it's time for a change." I moved my computer to face a different direction, rearranged my notebooks and pens, and basically changed how I look at my computer, desk, and window. Sometimes, to get inspired, you just need to have a slightly different view, so don't be afraid to change things up--whether that means rearranging your desk, drinking a different kind of "writing drink" (tea instead of coffee? water instead of soda?), or just finding a new desk chair. 

3. Comfort yourself. 

I'm a big baby and sometimes writing, especially during NaNoWriMo when I may be writing emotionally difficult scenes, can make me really anxious and upset. That means I need to take a lot of care to make sure I'm physically comfortable, should I start getting anxious during my writing process. I keep a heating pad and a heater next to my desk, as well as candles and aromatherapy oils. I also make sure to take lots of breaks, especially when I'm feeling stressed out about writing. 

4. Know everything (within reason).

When I was in college, I took a writing workshop where my professor suggested a writing exercise where you list the contents of your main character's trash can. I loved doing it because I love list making and it's something I still do for every NaNoWriMo novel character I write: I make a list of what's in their kitchen trash can. It sounds weird, right? It kind of is. But it goes with the idea that you should know everything about your character, even if you aren't going to include it in your writing. You should know 100 little facts about your main character, but you don't have to include all of those little facts. I keep a list of character writing exercises handy during NaNoWriMo to help me get through any bumps in the road when it comes to characterization.   

5. Take notes.

In this increasingly digital age, I still find a lot of value in taking notes. As in, really taking notes: picking a notebook and writing things down with a pen on paper. I know, it's crazy talk. I handwrite most of my notes and outlines for all my writing--from NaNoWriMo to social media and blog posts. I keep bullet journals for all these notes. I find that writing things down, as they happen, as I think of them, helps me to better remember them and stay on track. Give it a try!