1) Revise the manuscript, not the draft: This happens to me all the time: I get a new idea to add to something I’ve already written or I think about the draft and decide that I want to cut or alter a scene. I know that I need to push forward and finish the draft before I make any changes but I don’t want to forget the new idea or revision. I keep an outline in my Scrivener program, so instead of going back into the draft, I go into the outline and create a new paragraph called revisions. Then I write in my ideas and move on. This is just a quick note to jog my memory when I begin my second draft.
If I want to add a new scene, then I add a brief synopsis for the scene in my outline and move on. If there is a scene in my outline that I have decided to cut I will mark it with a label for deletion but I will not actually delete it. Instead, I move the scene to my discarded drafts folder. I save everything because I might change my mind or find another place for that material later, perhaps even in another story. This method has allowed me to let go of the nagging new ideas or revisions that pop up in my head so I can focus on completing my draft.
2) Focus on the character: As I write my first draft, I try to see the story only from my character’s point-of-view. This kind of focus is not easy for me particularly when there are so many other voices in my head: my English professor telling me to fix that dangling modifier, my mother telling me I should make that last scene less graphic, my husband asking if that dude really needed to be shirtless? How do I get all these noisy internal voices to shut up? I had a professor once who told me to imagine taking all those people you hear critiquing your work as you write, stuffing them into a jar and placing them on a shelf. I love this. Picturing them slamming their little hands against the glass wordlessly as they try to say their piece? Priceless and blessedly silent. Maybe I’m just sadistic but this really helps me.
Another method I’ve developed to help me focus on the character is to listen to music. I created a playlist of songs that make me think of the plot and the characters on my iTunes so when I’m struggling I listen to this and picture the scene. It usually only takes a song or two to get my head back in the game.
3) Writing sprints: Set a timer or go to a site like Write or Die or Written Kitten and write non-stop for a set amount of time. I find Write or Die particularly motivating because it has this awful alarm that sounds when you’ve stopped writing. Written Kitten is similar but for every 1000 words you get a new picture of a cute kitty. Writing sprints are also fun with friends. You can do a word war through Write or Die or sprint to get the most words before the timer runs out.
4) Writing long hand: I write my initial outline and my notes in long hand. I also use long hand when I’m really stuck on my rough draft. I go back to my notebook and write out with a pen and paper what I want to accomplish in the scene. This helps me to regain my focus. I type about as fast as I think, so it is very easy to hit that backspace button and revise as I type. Writing long hand, I am much slower and more likely to complete my thoughts. I don’t write the entire scene out in the book. Just a quick note about the character’s motivation and the plot points. Stepping away from the computer and writing out my thoughts is a nice breather and helps me to remember what my priorities are.
Weekly Writing Summary
There are loads more but those are the methods that have helped me the most this week. I’m happy with my progress. I exceeded my goal of 60,000 words, writing 10,718 this week which leaves only 140,76 before I reach my end goal of 80,000. It doesn’t have to be exact but I like having a rough number to work towards. I’m about halfway through the third act so that number will be pretty close. My goal for next week is 70,000. I’ll have another update next Thursday.
Words written this last week: 10,718
Current total word count: 65,924
Goal for next Thursday: 70,000
Now I want to hear from you! What methods do you have to keep yourself focused? Also, how is your current writing project going? Feel free to post your own word counts so I can cheer you on!