Each month, the Nonfiction Authors Association asks a burning publishing question of the industry’s best, brightest, and most innovative experts. Here’s what they have to say for April!
NFAA: What are your best productivity tips for writers?
When writing my book and online content, I just try to get as much down as I can in the moment. It doesn’t have to be polished and perfect right away, but I just need to get my thoughts down in front of me. By taking down my thoughts and getting to a certain word count, I’m being productive because I’m pushing things forward.
Next, when I go back to it and polish it, I’m that much more ahead and can work on cleaning up my content to get it to a place where I’m happy with it.
The point is: it doesn’t have to be perfect right away, but just work on getting something down. This is step one in the process of being a productive writer and your moving things forward, even if it isn’t crisp content just yet.
In the midst of COVID and a lot of people being at home with family, one of the best productivity tips I suggest is to invest in noise-canceling headphones. This will help to keep focus and minimize distractions. Next, change the scenery. If you have a local favorite place that is accessible, go there and allow the view to spark your creativity and your pen or keys to flow. This could even be a coffee shop, outdoor location, or church.
Finally when the cursor is blinking at you and your fingers cannot find the words, I recommend a dictation software. Naturally Speaking will allow you to write at the speed of thought, or at least the speed of your speech. Having coached clients in writing their first books, dictation software has been essential. There is a variety of software available to most writers. Most phones have a voice to text feature built within. However, if you choose to download an additional application on your phone IOS or Android, the list is extensive in the app store. You can also utilize the factory settings on your computer PC or Mac. Ultimately, the outcome will be the same: you will be more productive when you incorporate these tips in your writing arsenal.
Books: Magnetic Woman: 21 Days to Regain Your Power (2020) and The Favor
of a Wife: Healing You to Ignite New Life in Your Marriage (2021)
Clean your workspace. Decluttering your desk clears the mind. Writers are often overwhelmed by ideas and chores at the same time. Sometimes, the physical environment
becomes too messy to let ideas flow.
I’ve always believed that high productivity is mostly due to two factors: consistency and motivation. Your environment has an impact on your career, and if you have the wrong life schedule, you won’t be able to maximize your productivity.
Set aside time for work and breaks, create your own work space at home, eliminate distractions, and you will be able to focus on your work. You must also be strongly inspired by the appropriate expectations; you must substitute broad goals like to achieve fame and recognition with specific targets like to compose 1,000 words a day or to be released for the next month. Only attainable objectives will provide the motivation.
I will encourage all young writers to bring in a lot of effort in order to accomplish their ambitions, since no one has ever really achieved without it. You should never be content with what you have and should constantly strive for better. Look for any valuable connections, additional seminars, writing resources, and any other opportunities to obtain expertise.
Managing Editor, FiveBarks
Get your creative writing in before checking email, text, or even going online; it’s a game-changer.
Also, three other daily practices will help keep your creativity at its peak. Enforce downtime daily to refresh the mind, whether this means a 20-minute walk or exercise. I also do this one day a week and every Wednesday: I totally get my mind off any writing task so I can return to them fresh. This tactic has helped me not only create quality content weekly but also run my digital marketing agency and the online presence of a motorcycle publication.
For nonstop energy daily, don’t sit. I use a stand-up desk for all of my writing. You won’t even find a chair in my office. And read William Zinsser’s On Writing Well and Sol Stein’s Stein On Writing—not once, but annually. These are biblical texts for writers and should be studied religiously.
Plow new ground. Write multiple drafts instead of obsessively editing the same one. You can tell the same story, but tell it over again. You will probably feel more encouraged. That part that you never knew how to fix? Maybe your new draft doesn’t have it anymore.
It’s good to have an end-goal in mind. By that I mean work out what it is you want to achieve with your book. Is it to support or educate other people? Is it to help you raise money for charity? Getting clarity on this will help with your motivation. I wrote my book to help me raise funds for a hospice and that thought kept me going if my motivation levels started to drop.
Secondly, it can feel daunting at the beginning but just start somewhere, it doesn’t matter where as long as your ideas spill from your mind to the page or screen in front of you. It could be bullet points of ideas at first, or a line of dialog. It might even seem like complete nonsense to start with, but at this stage that really doesn’t matter. The order will come later, a few drafts down the line! Don’t give up, keep going, and remember consistency is the key to success. You might also find that there are certain times of the day when your creativity flows more freely, so try and set out those times to sit down and let the words spill out, and remember to take regular breaks.
To stay productive as a writer, start your work day by re-reading the last page of content you just wrote.
This is a neat little trick I picked up during the earlier stages of my career, and it has always worked really well in putting me back in the right headspace. If you’re prone to writer’s block and dread the whole ordeal, slow things down. Start by reading what you wrote previously and
re-associate yourself with the content being discussed. If you’re sitting down to write for the first time, read something in the same niche. That will help you achieve the same effect.
What this does is re-engage you with the topic without forcing you to write anything first. All you have to do is read, and reading is pretty innate. When you’ve finished, you might even find the occasional error or two you want to fix. That’s great, too. The process helps you proofread your work for quality control and simultaneously gets you into that all-important flow state. It means that you’ll be able to create even more, and feel great doing it.
Head of Marketing
Find an accountability partner that you can send those pages to. Your partner can help keep you on track and motivate you to write, especially if he/she is excited to read your material.
Facebook: Michelle L Gamble and 3L Publishing fan page
One of the greatest sources of lost productivity for an author is trying to figure out where to get started with writing. Our company has found that offering authors our ABC strategy makes all the difference in focusing their writing and getting their manuscripts completed in a timely fashion.
“A” stands for assertion, “B” stands for body of evidence, and “C” stands for call to action. With the “A,” the assertion, this is where you tell people your belief; this is what you are asserting. It may not be a popularly held belief—and that’s what makes it so good!—but it’s your belief. For example, a book on being a minimalist might assert one should look around and limit the number of items in his/her possession to only fifteen items. That’s it. That is your assertion.
But then you go to “B,” your body of evidence. This is where you give your readers your why, your rationale, your belief for why you think everyone should live a minimalist life, avoiding excess. Does it bring happiness? Does it drive one to focus on what’s really important? Does it make room—literally and figuratively—for more fulfilling pursuits and possessions?
Finally, the “C” is the call-to-action. Now that you’ve given readers what you believe and you have clarified for them why you believe it, now it’s time to tell readers what they should do as a result of receiving this information. You always want your reader to have a call-to-action, an insistence that they now take action because the goal is that they are not the same people they were before they picked up your book.
Be mindful of your motivation level.
It’s common for writers to believe they need to constantly be writing—and there are people who say, Sit and write, no matter how you feel. Just get words out! However, I’ve found that doesn’t work for me. My best material usually comes when I want to write.
Before you head to your writing space, tune in to how you feel. Are you motivated? Do you feel the time you’ll spend creating will be productive? If not, honor that. Don’t force it. Sitting down for a writing session when you’re just not feeling it may increase frustration and decrease creativity and production. Instead, use the time for something else, keeping a pad and pen (or your phone’s Note app) handy, just in case inspiration does strike!
When writer’s block hits you—as it inevitably will—go for a walk. Do not listen to music or a podcast while you’re out walking. Do not plan to walk 10,000 steps or to reach a certain location, as the only destination you’re seeking on this walk is clarity or a re-draft of the thorny chapter you were struggling with before.
For me, my best advice is to channel your own knowledge but always keep up-to-date with latest developments and try to be as up-to-date as possible at the time of going to publish. Not writing in a vacuum, especially for nonfiction, is a major thing I’ve learned. My book is all about pulling back the curtain and providing insights into the newsroom. COVID has rapidly changed the newsroom and how journalists operate. I needed to stay current with that so my book is still relevant right now.
It is also so easy to never be ready to launch! I now know that feeling, but putting my book up as a pre-order has helped put a deadline on everything and I’ve got to be ready to let it go out into the world.
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