Tuesday, August 07, 2018

One Simple Trick to Write Everything Better

write faster, CODE
By Laurence MacNaughton, @LMacNaughton  

Part of the How They Do It Series (Contributing Author)

What if there was one single trick that could help you write better, faster, and easier than ever before? What if that trick could help you organize your thoughts, get started sooner, and finish every writing project, from a blog post to a novel?

There is such a trick. And as a full-time writer, I use it every day.

The trick is deceptively simple. It's a single word: CODE.

That's an acronym for Collect, Organize, Draft, and Edit. Those are the four separate steps in the writing process.

As writers, we tend to try to do several of those steps at the same time, and that's when we often run into problems. Our thoughts get jumbled. We backtrack. Make false starts. Get frustrated.

The CODE trick helps you break down the writing process into simple steps, and take them one at a time. If you follow these steps in order, you'll find that writing comes much faster and easier than before.

So how does it work? Here are the four steps:

Step 1: Collect

First, collect everything you will need to write this project, and keep it all in one convenient place. Gather up all of your notes, reference books, and other materials. Everything.

If you use Scrivener, you can import everything into your project. Otherwise, start a separate folder for this project and save all of your materials in it.

But don't start writing just yet. If you get inspired by an idea, jot it down and make a note for later. But hold off on any actual writing for now.

First, focus on the prep work. Do your research. Brainstorm ideas. Get everything out of your head and into your notes.

Step 2: Organize

Go through all of the materials you collected and sort them out.

Pick out the most important ideas, make a list of them, and organize them into some kind of sequence. Depending on what you're writing, you could group your ideas by topic, or put them in sequential order, or even just make a list of bullet points. Whatever works best for you.

If this is starting to look suspiciously like an outline, then you’re on the right track.

Step 3: Draft

Now, finally, you can actually sit down and write.

But don't feel overwhelmed. Just start at the beginning, and write all the way through until you reach the end. Don't stop in the middle. Don't second-guess yourself. Just keep going.

If it helps, set a timer for 20 minutes and do nothing but write during that time. Force yourself to keep moving forward.

Give yourself permission to write badly. Don't spend too much time agonizing about getting the words right. Just get them down as quickly as possible. You can fix the problems in the next step.

Step 4: Edit

Before you start editing your writing, take a break. If you can, set your writing aside overnight and come back to it fresh the next day.

Generally, the longer you wait to start editing, the better. If you’ve just finished a novel manuscript, congratulations! Personally, I like to set a novel aside for a month before I look at it again. If you can stand the wait, you'll be much better at self-editing it.

Want to Be a Better Writer? Use CODE Every Day

The CODE method is so handy that I don't know how I ever lived without it. It sounds too simple to be helpful, but the truth is that it's incredibly powerful.

I would love to take credit for the concept, but it was actually invented by master copywriter Steve Slaunwhite. I discovered it almost a decade ago, when I became a full-time writer, and I've been using it constantly ever since.

Now, it's your turn. Which part of the writing process do you have the most trouble with: researching, organizing, writing the draft, or editing?

Leave me a comment below, or contact me at www.LaurenceMacNaughton.com.

Laurence MacNaughton is the author of more than a dozen novels, novellas, and short stories. His work has been praised by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, RT Book Reviews, Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews. He lives in Colorado with his wife and too many old cars. Try his stories for free at www.laurencemacnaughton.com.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads 

About No Sleep till Doomsday (Dru Jasper, Book 3)

An inexperienced sorceress must retrieve a priceless artifact from the enchantress who stole it, break the curse on her half-demon boyfriend, and stop her friends from turning on each other before the enchantress calls down doomsday.

When a wicked enchantress steals a cursed doomsday amulet, crystal sorceress Dru Jasper has only twenty-four hours to get it back before the world will come to a fiery end. With this supernatural amulet in hand, the enchantress intends to break the sixth seal of the apocalypse scroll--making the seas boil, the stars fall from the sky, and the earth itself split apart. Overall, bad news.

Dru must hit the road to get the amulet back. But she suspects her half-demon boyfriend, Greyson, and his demon-possessed muscle car, Hellbringer, are hiding a dark secret. Can she trust them to help her stop doomsday? Worse, tracking down the enchantress runs Dru smack up against a pack of killer shape-shifters, the grim mystery of a radioactive ghost town, and a dangerous speed demon even more powerful than Hellbringer.

As the clock runs out, Dru is locked in a high-speed chase with the enchantress, fighting a fierce, magical duel she can never win alone. Can Dru and her sorcerer friends unravel Hellbringer's secrets, outwit the shape-shifters, and retrieve the stolen amulet before the dawn of doomsday?

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound | Kobo


  1. What an incredibly simple way to look at the process!

    I think sometimes we tend to overcomplicate things more than they should be.

    Taking a step back to look at it from a distance certainly simplifies the steps and reduces the stress of being a writer.

    Thanks for the great article!

  2. Glad you enjoyed it, Renea!

    Bonus trick: I keep this simple list tacked up above my computer. (Collect -> Organize -> Draft -> Edit.) Then, every time I pick up a project during the day, I make sure I'm clear on where I am in the process.

    If I find I'm struggling, more often than not it's because I'm trying to draft when I should be organizing, etc.

    Try it for a week or two and let me know what you think. : )