Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Forge Ahead: Ways to be a More Productive Writer, Part 4

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

The urge to fiddle is strong with a lot writers. Even once the book is published we want to go back and edit. But tweaking first draft pages can often hold us back, especially if we're looking at writing we've just done when we want to write something new.

This first article in this series is on finding the right time and place to write, followed by more on preparation, stopping in the middle, not re-reading too much of the previous session, and leaving yourself notes. The final stop is all about not wasting time. 

Tip number four on being a more productive writer:

Don't read what you wrote the day before. Or at least not all of it.

I always started my writing session by reading what I'd done the session before. Re-familiarizing myself with the story and the voices. But then I noticed that I was spending a lot of time editing those "quick re-reads" and by the time I got to the writing, a big chunk of my writing time was gone.

So I started just reading the last page or two, if anything at all, and moving forward.

I noticed I got to the actual writing part a lot faster, so I got more done in my allotted time.

This is much easier if you've left yourself a "in the middle" paragraph so you can just pick up where you left off. Even easier if you take those five minutes and plan out your writing session. You can even read the last session's planning summary to remind yourself where you were. (another handy reason to do this)

There will be times when you do need to go back for a specific reason and double check something, but most of the time you can forge ahead and get to work.

This tip's challenge:
Don't re-read more than two pages of your last writing session's work. Dive right in and see how much more you can get done.

As for last tip's challenge... Where did you leave off? Did mid-sentence work better for you or mid-paragraph?

The whole series: finding the right time and place to writeall about preparationstopping in the middlenot re-reading too much of the previous sessionleaving yourself notes, and  how to avoid wasting time.

If you're looking for more to improve your craft (or a fun fantasy read), check out one of my writing books or novels:

In-depth studies in my Skill Builders series include Understanding Conflict (And What It Really Means), and Understanding Show Don't Tell (And Really Getting It). My Foundations of Fiction series includes Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a self-guided workshop for plotting a novel, and the companion Plotting Your Novel Workbook, and my Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft series, with step-by-step guides to revising a novel. 

Janice Hardy is the award-winning author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, including The ShifterBlue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The Shifter, was chosen for the 2014 list of "Ten Books All Young Georgians Should Read" from the Georgia Center for the Book. It was also shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize (2011), and The Truman Award (2011).

She also writes the Grace Harper urban fantasy series for adults under the name, J.T. Hardy.

She's the founder of Fiction University and has written multiple books on writing, including Understanding Show, Don't Tell (And Really Getting It)Plotting Your Novel: Ideas and Structureand the Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft series.
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound


  1. More often than not, when I'm writing I do the complete opposite. That is I tend to edit while I write. Going over each chapter a couple of times before writing the next.
    When I come to do the final edit this means that I have very little work to do.
    I think this shows that there is no one way to do things and writers should be wary of changing a style that works for them, just because another does if differently.
    Keep up the good work. I enjoy reading your blog and suggestions a lot.

  2. This is a great tip!! I've learned, as you have, to do this and it boosts the output for the day.

  3. I agree with this one hundred percent. If I let myself, I'd tinker relentlessly. I have to fight the urge to edit what I wrote the day before. Since I write long hand I try to keep telling myself that I'll do the first edit as I type it into the oomputer. Usually it works.

  4. Oh man- this is me to a T! I get bogged down with going back and editing and before I know it, most of my writing time is up. Your tip is so simple, but I know it's going to work- thanks!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. I so agree, I know how much time I waste reading and editing what I have done before. Sometimes I start right from the beginning! This is a great tip.


  7. Love this!!! I get way too wrapped up in what came before - tweaking away at stuff that probably won't make it past the next revision anyway:)
    I tried stopping in the middle of an action sequence - worked great! I hope it's not cheating if I wrote myself notes to orient and get going the next day:)

  8. So true! I re-read, start editing, and sometimes don't even make it to writing the new stuff. Ugh.

    Well, I'm about to jump into the MS right now. I will. Not. Re-read! :D Thanks for the tip.

  9. This is excellent advice. But, it's also incredibly hard to follow. I think that if I could write as soon as I got up in the morning, I could do it. I guess that just means I should be getting up earlier, rather than waiting until there is a child to feed and entertain. Instead, I wait until that child is asleep, and by then, so much real life has happened that I need to go back to get back IN my story.
    I also edit as I write. Bad, bad, I know ... but it's a hard habit to break!
    Must away so I can write something before the child wakes for the afternoon!

  10. I think this depends on the writer. The ideas don't always come in the right order for me, so I have to go back to make changes. But what I do is make changes/additions that are as a result of that. What I don't do is revise sentences to make them better.

  11. This is a great tip! I find that I make slow progress if I keep re-reading what I've already had. Plus, I'm polishing and editing a part of the story that I may find I need cut, once I get to the end.

  12. Lovin' this series - all the tips have been useful and helped to polish up the system I had in place. For the last one I found that mid-paragraph works best because it connects to the whole thought rather then the moment. Just the way my brain works.

    As for this tip, I started doing this one about four months ago when I was working on fast drafting techniques - it is a HUGE time saver.

    Thanks, Janice!

  13. I'm late to the party. Great tips. Hard to do, but great tips.

    Cora Blu

  14. Boddaert, indeed. If you're that type of writer this totally won't work for you and you shouldn't force it. It's more important to find your way than do what you think is the "right" way.

    Traci, awesome!

    Amy P, very interesting. Longhand would certainly encourage you to keep going. :)

    Amy, most welcome!

    Lukkydivs, I do that too sometimes :) Hard to break the habit, especially if you're secretly stalling or procrastinating, hehe.

    Marliee, not cheating at all, and that was one thing I suggested. Glad to see it's working for you!

    CherylAnne, Good luck!

    Deberelene, it's really up to you if you choose to try this or not. If you need that "get into writing" time to wind down, there's nothing wrong with doing it. But if you find yourself not getting much new writing done and that frustrates you, it could be something to try. Some folks do well polishing as they go.

    Linda, totally. Not everything works for every writer. And if you go back and get a lot done, then you are being productive anyway.

    Andrea, that's what I kept finding. Until that first draft is done, the little tweaks just slow me down.

    Gene, thanks! Lots of folks prefer that one it seems. Good to hear you found this one already!

    Cora Blu, no worries, late is still good :)

  15. Great ideas, Janice. The last two days I've used the suggestion to stop "in the middle of a paragraph" so I can just pick up where I left off. It works. Sometimes I struggle to pick back up the next day (or two later) but by stopping when I still have some momentum, it's easier to get back in to it. Thanks!

  16. Heather, great to hear! Thanks for letting me know ;)