I've never met a writer who wished they wrote less, but finding the time, tricks, and tenacity to improve your word count can be frustrating. We're all looking for ways to help boost or productivity and write more during the time we have.
Two weeks ago I talked about finding the right time and place to write. Today in my "Be a More Productive Writer" series, it's all about preparation.
Tip number two on being a more productive writer:
Prep for your writing session.
Over the years, whenever I got stuck staring at a blank page and trying to figure out what to write for that day, I'd shift over and write a summary paragraph or two describing how the scene was going to go. It only took five or ten minutes, and it allowed me to think through the scene and figure out where to start and what to cover.
It wasn't long before I realized on the days I did this, I wrote a lot more, and those scenes needed less revising later.
Whether you're a pantser or a plotter, those few minutes at the start can jump start your brain and make the writing easier. You get your ideas down without having to worry about how they sound, because it's just a summary or an outline. It's not the actual text.
How you prep is up to you. I like the summary paragraph method, but you might prefer outlines of actions, or bullet points on the key elements. Do whatever works for your process. Try a few different styles and see which helps the most.
You can also either prep the entire chapter, or do it scene by scene. If you write short scenes, you might only need a few minutes of prep per scene.
The goal of this prep time is to provide enough fuel to write the scene quickly without those annoying pauses where you stare at the page because you don't know what happens next. You figure all that out beforehand when you're not also trying to craft a readable sentence.
Things to think about:
What's the point of this scene?
- What do you as the author want to accomplish in this scene?
- What do the characters want?
- What plot events need to happen?
What's going to cause trouble in this scene?
- Who/What is getting in the protagonist's way?
- What choices will have to be made?
- What sacrifices will have to be made?
- What doesn't the protagonist want to do?
- What mistakes will be made?
- What's going to go wrong?
What are the risks of this scene?
- Who can be hurt?
- Who can hurt someone else?
- What do the characters want to avoid?
- How are things made worse?
How does the scene open?
- Where are the characters?
- What are they doing?
- Who's in the scene?
How does the scene end?
- Where do the characters need to be?
- What has changed for them?
- What needs to be done?
- What might cause problems later?
These questions help you pinpoint the classic goal-conflict-stakes structure of a scene. Understanding what your protagonist wants, what they're going to do to get that, and what's in their way of succeeding. It also helps with the transitions of the scene, with how it starts and how it ends.
You won't need to answer every question (though some might find it a useful template for plotting), but they're all good things to keep in mind to ensure your scene is moving the story forward. Its' about what your protagonist is doing (so they stay proactive and give you things to write about), what challenges they will face (providing the conflicts which will raise the tension), and what can or will go wrong (showing the stakes and making readers care what happens).
This tip's challenge:
Plan out your writing session before you sit down to write. Take five or ten minutes and quickly block out the next scene.
As for last week's challenge...
Who found their writing time and place? Did you see an increase in productivity? Do you feel better about your writing sessions?
The whole series: finding the right time and place to write, all about preparation, stopping in the middle, not re-reading too much of the previous session, leaving yourself notes, and how to avoid wasting time.