3 Tactics To Make You A More Productive Writer

productivityDo you ever sit down at your desk/sofa/perch with the full intention of having an awesome writing session, only to look up at the clock, see it’s 11pm and realise you’ve written the sum total of, fuck all?

Well, me too.

But I’m trying to change that. After a catastrophic May, in which I managed approximately 3 WIP words, I decided June had to change.

I got books to write people. Wasting a month, no matter how many of those hours were spent on Bash stuff, just ain’t good enough.

But I don’t just want to write faster. I know what me writing faster looks like – a garbled shitstorm of gobbledycrap. And that ain’t helpful to anybody’s novel.

Instead, I approached this tactically. Here are 3 tactics I’ve employed to write quality words, faster.

What tactics do you use? Let me know in the comments below. While you’re at it, why not sign up to my newsletter, here.

ONE: PLAN

I know. I know. But you’re a pantser. Well sorry. That shit don’t fly with me, cause guess what, so am I! Being a pantser is no excuse for disorganisation. Do you want to get more done or not?

Here’s what happens when I don’t plan my writing:

Sit at my desk. Stare for a couple of minutes, scratching various body parts, trying to figure out what I am going to write. Write nothing. Check Facebook. Respond to comments. Pin shit. Stumble Shit. Read blog posts. Reply to comments. Two hours have evaporated and I have written nothing.

Sound familiar? If you’re shifting awkwardly in your seat, then just admit it. It’s fine. We all do it. But now’s the chance to do something about it.

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I have lists for list. This is my rather worn book where I keep all my lists. If they weren’t in one place, I would genuinely lose my mind.

Plan your writing. At the end of each writing session I write down what I need to do in the next two. Why two? Because sometimes I write fast, I’m more productive than I expect and if I get to the end of my allotted plan and don’t know whats next on my list, I’ll revert to social media stalking. Writing it down physically seems important too. Bit like signing in blood. If I keep it in my head I can ignore it. If its inked I am more obliged.

What do I mean by plan? Doesn’t need to be much:

  • Write chapter 4
  • Edit chapter 20
  • Write ironic post on productivity

You know what happens when I sit down knowing what I need to do?

I write. I get shit done. I don’t procrastinate.

TWO: CUT THE CABLE

Hate to say it, but the internet is a drug. I’m like a crack addict waiting in line for the local dealer to get my next fix.

Our computers are smart. Unless your evil, you don’t need to turn the actual wi-fi off and make everyone else  in the house suffer. Flip the switch on your own computer.

Then flip your (phone/iPad/tablet…insert choice of technological device of wonderment) over so you can’t see the notifications pop up.

Know what happened when I flipped mine? I edited to completion a chapter a night for a week, plus wrote blog posts and finally when I turned the wi-fi back on, went straight to my blog comments and sat and replied to all of them too.

I had no idea how much of a time drain the internet was until I actually cut the cable. I was stuck with tinted specs, living in ga-ga land thinking I wasn’t one of ‘those’ writers. I told myself the only reason I have the internet on when I’m writing is to use the thesaurus. Im an idiot and I was very wrong. I bought a thesaurus cut the fucking cable and now I get shit done.

I will NEVER write WIP words with the internet on again. EVER.

THREE: PACKAGE IT

I’m not actually talking about wrapping your book in some nice shiny christmas paper. I’m talking about your time. This blog is a time suck. I love it. Just as I love all of you. But it isn’t actually helping me write my books.

We have a choice.

Prioritise the blog, the comments and the interaction, respond all day every day and watch as your precious WIPs disappear into the ether of WordPress management.

Or

Package your time. Block off sections of time for each ‘thing’ that needs managing in WordPress and only, do those things in that time slot.

See, I am one of those, if I have my phone near me and I can, I will reply. But that means when I am writing chapter 7 for the 700th time, and I am replying to comments every three minutes I don’t get a lot done.

I get well over a thousand comments a month on WordPress alone. I LOVE them. I WANT to reply to each and every one. But I also love my WIP. And WordPress is only one of the sites I manage. So how do I cope?

I reverted to weekly blog notifications. I only receive posts on a Sunday. (You can change this in the WordPress ‘manage who I follow’ section). Where possible, I only read posts on a Sunday. Now that’s not strictly true, I do read stuff in the week, especially before bed. But by and large I sit with a fat cup of coffee and plough through all the lovely posts I’ve been waiting for all week. I have hundreds of posts to read every week, I can’t manage them all, but I try to visit everyone and read something from all of them. But, by and large, what doesn’t get read on a Sunday, doesn’t get read at all. It’s a hard choice I have to make.

For my sanity, I need to start the week fresh knowing I haven’t got a constant backlog of posts to catch up on. Otherwise the week starts bad, and I am always behind.

The same is true for comments. I try to either, reply  last thing at night, every night… Once my WIP tasks are done. Or block it in chunks. Sit for an hour or two and reply to all my comments/pins/tweets.


So tell me, what tactics do you use? Let me know in the comments below.

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139 comments

  1. I think these are all really great tactics. We have to be disciplined and strict, otherwise the writing doesn’t get done. I think you hit the nail right on the head… we have to decide what we are first and foremost; anot author who blogs, or a blogger who writes. Once we know this, we can then prioritise. And there’s nothing wrong with either choice, but it does change the way we use our blogs and work our time. Glad your new strategies are working for you!

  2. These tactics are great! I always write off-line as emails and social media are just too damned distracting. And I try to treat it like a job – I wouldn’t rock up to work two hours late and then not really do anything, so I take my writing time just as seriously. At the end of the day it comes down to discipline and determination.

    1. I definitely refer to writing as my second job. I suspect I put in almost the same hours as I do for my full time one!!! and then I am a mum on top of that! I wish I had pulled the plug sooner. It’s sooooo much more efficient.

  3. I think its easy to get sucked into blogging and prioritising it over writing. Its obvious which is more important but keepjng the stats going, keeping the interactions going is addictive in itself plus the writing of posts is an easy way to trick ourselves that we have written dammit, just not the book…

  4. Ok so I read your blog great stuff then watched the video really good then hovered over the next video as I love Rowan Atkinson but then my conscience got the better of. Get on with your weekly blog then your WPI a little voice cried but first I must comment here and then…….

    1. I know right. I hated admitting it!

      Sorry I didn’t visit you yesterday – bash etc has got me behind. Once it’s over I’ll come back and visit next week xx

  5. Wise words indeed. The Internet is a menace to writers. According to some research Facebook is more addictive than cocaine. They know this ‘cos they gave some mice a choice between the purest coke and FB, and the little fellers spent the whole day on FB, sharing funny cat videos and left the coke alone. Allegedly.

    1. No way??? Actually I can well believe that. Facebook is an addiction in itself! lol to the mice story! I still think you’re on to something with the FB addiction though!

  6. Oh boy do I know where you’re coming from… like most bloggers I had been trying to do it all, but my writing suffered, and that would not do at all. So, I took a long hard look at my workload…and changed a few things. The email shift is now split into two chunks, so I effectively turned a marathon into two separate sprints. Walking away from the PC was the hardest thing to do, but I persevered and have done a load of work this past month. More to do, but life is getting more manageable by the minute!

    1. Sorry or the delay, the bash has been crazy busy an meant I have neglected the blog! Ironic hey. Glad you have changed things and found a better balance. We can’t produce our best writing if we are stressed and constantly distracted from the task at hand.

  7. Love this! Great post. It sounds a lot like some of the strategies I’ve come up with this year. But I do have trouble cutting the cable. Like you, I keep telling myself that I need dictionary.com but I think you are right and I’d be more productive if I bought a thesaurus and turned off the internet.

    My biggest challenge now is rearranging my routine now that summer is here and everyone in my family has a totally different schedule than during the academic year. It looks like I’ll be getting up at 5:00 again and doing my writing then.

    Thanks for the post. Best of luck on your WIP.

    1. Thanks Lorna, it’s nice to know someone else is using the same strategies. hahaha definitely just buy a dictionary – then no excuses. I wish I could get up at that time and write, but I am a born and bred night owl! Good luck with your WIP and thanks for stopping in.

  8. This is a perfectly timed post. I’ve also decided to be more productive in the writing department this month so I’ll definitely use these tips. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  9. I have this thing with my daughter that every Christmas we watch Love Actually together and cry at a different part. This year it was the PMs minder singing a carol. So thanks for the weepy this am. I ignore the cable – best advice ever that. Leave the phone and the iPad somewhere distant and don’t open mail and the Internet and I’m off in Lala editing land. Bliss.

  10. Planning is my major issue when it comes to writing. I’ve always wrote when I felt like it, but I’m finding myself becoming a bit overloaded with things to do and the order to do them in, particularly as I start writing one thing and often end up going off on a tangent – I think that it’s about time that I started being a bit more organised!

    1. Lol too many ideas is a great place to be though. I have an ideas notebook so that I can capture all the tangential things that pop into my head whilst I’m working on something so that I don’t lose them and can actually complete what I started. Easier said than done tho to be fair!

  11. I’m going to have to switch off as I’m spending way too much time reading and commenting on blogs, replying to emails, checking FB and not writing. Some bloggers I follow post several times in a day. I simply can’t respond to each and then I feel guilty! And wonder if the blogger is offended – and the blogger probably hasn’t noticed. I need to get a grip.
    I do make lists – the best part of lists is using a red pen to cross out the tasks I’ve achieved.

    1. Yep.Yep.Yep. I am going mission dark after the bash! I have to get my head down and finish my sodding book before I implode! Yes, I know bloggers who post more than once a day. But I work full time, plus I am a mum too. That’s without the books or the exercise or the house to clean let alone the blog or having a social life! we cannot do it all, prioritising is totally allowed. 😀 No one is offended, and if they are, shame on them! <3 <3

  12. I do keep a notebook for tasks which need to be done. I do waste time on the internet, a lot of you tube stuff which I put down to “researching”. lol yeah right. My blogs I try to do every day, maybe I should try the only on a Sunday thing. sounds good. Thanks again Sacha for a great post.

    1. Well have a go one week – see what happens. In fact – try it for two weeks so you get used to the free time in the week – I suspect your second week would be more productive. hahahaha researching – I do that too! lolllllll

  13. Excellent advice. #2 tends to be a tough one because I usually have some sudden research to do. Figuring out a part of a ship, architecture questions, animal biology, etc. Honestly, my biggest challenge is getting around the other people in the house. Wish I had a tactic to handle that, but it’s usually hiding on a different floor of the house with my laptop.

    The biggest tip that helps me is planning. With an idea of what I want to do in a chapter, I can focus more. Maybe this ties into making daily and weekly goals. That does help with time management even if I don’t get as much done as I’d like.

    1. Yes I agree. I do struggle with that sometimes. I think there is an app you can use – Heather suggested it – as it blocks whatever websites you need – i.e. the social media ones, while still allowing access to research ones like google.

  14. We might go about it in slightly different ways, and express it a little differently too, but I agree with the three items of advice on your list. I always have a plan. I put my writing first. And I try to visit all my favourite bloggers once a week. I don’t do the notifications on Sunday though. I couldn’t manage that much reading in one hit! 🙂

    1. hehe, It is a mean feat I tell you, but I also like the fact once I’ve done it, its over for a whole week. I get really easily distracted, and I was reading posts at the end of every day instead of writing. It was the only thing I thought to try, it seems to work for me 😀

  15. This is going to resonate with a LOT of writers. I happen to be a pantser with a side of disorganization so I WILL start using that notebook but the part about blogging and reading and commenting and social media… Yes. The internet (for most) must be shut down. I do this when I’m writing and I can’t imagine any other way. (Glad you’re prioritizing your writing.) ?

  16. I like the Lists book, Good idea mine are everywhere. I fear that one day I will be writing a novel going back through my notes and suddenly add in a shopping list, or to do list. 😉

    1. hahahaha that would be hilarious! Can you imagine? :p now – the list book is genius. Until you lose it. Then you’re f***ed definitely done that before!

  17. I had to turn off the notification sounds on my phone. I still miss them terribly, but I was becoming Pavlov’s dog. Brrrinnngg! What? Someone loves me. Must check all social media, NOW!

    1. oh my god. I am a standard week behind everything at the moment. I actually can’t imagine properly turning off the notifications. I would promptly spontaneously combust and be a minimum of a year behind everything! so many lols at pavlov! I agree though – maybe i should just try turning….. No….YES….No….

  18. High Five on point one! Experience that at times too. But when I know that I have to write now or never it works too… lol! So funny how we function! Oh, and the video is a fantastic example of wasting time! See you soon!

  19. First of all, what’s with the fish eyes on the newsletter sign up? You are toooo funny.

    I wish I could hug you for idea number 3. It’s the one that I struggle with. My blog takes so much time. I love it, but it ALL comes out of my writing time. That’s 30 hours a week I could be writing. It’s like a second job and I really want to get a handle on it before I get frustrated or burn out. You’ve given me the courage to set limits. Much to contemplate, Sacha. Thank you.

    1. hehe, funny fish eyes because, well, why not! I like taking the mickey out myself, and usually, I only pout in photos! Our wedding photographer had a job trying to capture me unaware! I’m glad i gave you the courage. At the end of the day, you are a writer that happens to blog, not a blogger who happens to write. It is such a guilt inducer, almost as bad as my son. But at the end of the day, we have to prioritise or watch our dreams go poof. No one holds it against us, because they are all in the same boat! it’s just that we forget that!

      1. That we are all in the same boat is true! I see more and more bloggers taking time off for other priorities, Sacha, and it’s so encouraging. Not only because they are honoring their creativity (or families), but because everyone elso is so supportive. 🙂

  20. Time management, and having my hand in several projects at once, have been difficult for me too. I love your ideas though! I agree that having daily and weekly goals is a must or else you waste some of that precious time wondering what you should tackle next.

    Great post!

    Julianne
    Ink & Stitches – http://blog.jhwinter.com

  21. Fantastic advice Sacha, and like someone already commented, bottom line is we have to decide if we are authors who blog or bloggers who write. Needed that advice. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some re-prioritizing to do.

    Good luck on your writing, Sacha!

    1. Thanks for reading Jade. 😀 haha, glad you’re going to reprioritise, sometimes that all it takes – someone to ask you the right question and you realise you stepped off the right path momentarily. Good luck 😀

  22. Hahahah! Epic post sach I love point three. Hilarious. And bonus points for referencing love actually. One of my best relationships succeeded because of that movie haha
    Can’t wait to share and also apply.

  23. I do a lot of research as I write so cutting the cord is probably not a good option for me. To keep up with my blogging buddies I read and comment at breakfast or lunch – which explains the crumbs that mysteriously show up on your screen.

    1. If I need to do research I flip my switch back on. It’s just dangerous if I am not focused, I end up wondering off to social media! hehe. But you’re right, its not going to work for everyone. That’s what I love about writing. So many different processes. 🙂 🙂

  24. Omg, are we sisters from another mother? Lol. You’re bang on sista! You’ve named all the distractions and your plan of action is similar to mine. Although, by the sounds of you, it’s quite possible I may be a tad more organized than you, but you got me on blog reading and comments.
    You’re so right. We need a plan, pantser or not (which I am). But every night I make a list on my blog notebook of what I plan to get done tomorrow, whether it’s blog writing slotted in or book writing and how many chapters I want to go through. If I don’t it’s too easy to get distracted. But all those things that distract you, I’ve managed to control a long time ago.
    I have 4 email addresses, 2 are my personal mail which I check first thing each morning, the other two are blog and social media related which I only look at each evening. I check twitter after email for 10 minutes and go to my blog to read comments, and most usually don’t even open Facebook until evenings. Of course the exception to that rule is if I happen to come across something I post to FB and land there, I’m tempted to read comments there too.
    But you have me beat on your reading blogs system. I can’t seem to escape that same feeling every morning that I have tons of new blog deliveries in my inbox which never seem to end. I haven’t mastered how to avoid spending almost 3 hours every nite reading blogs. 🙂

    PS Sorry I took up half your page, lol. 🙂

    1. I’m kind of big picture planner. Like overall deadline. If you know myers briggs I am super J – which is the organisation trait. I have a lists book full of lists, but the problem is, I let the list keep growing rather than just having a couple of things on my list that are realistic for the next day. I need to do that. I can’t believe you are reading blogs for 3 hours a night, that’s crazy, its taking over 😮

  25. I had to stop all notifications and rely on FB posts and the reader. I try to pop in (like now) and say hello as often as I can. I set aside two days a week just for writing my book. I do nothing else those days. The rest of the time I blog and do research. It works if you can do it. Best of luck to you, Sacha. You can do it! ?

    1. Thanks Colleen, sorry for the delay, I have been so busy with the bash. I would love to just rely on the reader but I don’t think I am disciplined enough, I would just end up not reading posts!

  26. Hi Sacha!
    Great ideas! I feel guilty when I don’t write people back. If I don’t have time to read blogs, they sadly sit in my inbox until I have 10,000 Emails!
    Janice

    1. wows, 10,000 emails. *swallows* I would control alt those badboys and delete all. You’ll feel loads better! Don’t feel guilty. you’re a writer. Not a blog reader.

        1. I used to. But now I’ve said a few times in different posts that I don’t respond right away I don’t feel bad. I will respond to everything but sometimes it takes me a week. I’m ok with that. I’m only human after all.

  27. I love this post (and the Love Actually video, Rowan Atkinson is one of my favorite comedians ever). As a painter, I sometimes have to turn off all technology too. It is the most annoying thing to me, to have a wet paintbrush in my hand and an urge to pick up my phone (which ultimately is a disaster waiting to happen, acrylic paint doesn’t care about where it lands). When I am working, I usually have the laptop open playing music, but I keep it across the room so that I won’t be tempted to glance at anything but the canvas I’m working on.
    I like how your tactics work for my painting as well as for writing, thank you for giving me some ideas! 🙂

    1. Hehe, it is an awesome clip. I think its hard to turn off technology as a writer because you have to write on a laptop! I am glad the tactics work for you too though 😀

  28. I have loads of stuff to do that’s got nothing to do with fiction (bloody PhD) so I use colour coded To Do lists in Google Keep. I have one for fiction, which says things like “write chapter 52 of The Necromancer’s Rogue”, “plot short story”, “write flash fiction about X”, and then I have one for marketing, and another for academia. As long as I do one thing off at least two different lists per day, it makes me feel like I’m achieving something.

    And I have no problem adding something I’ve already done, just so I can cross it off 😉

    1. I’ve not heard of google keep. I like the idea of electronic to do lists, I’ve tried a few apps. But I can;t seem to get past the actual action of writing one by hand. It seems to make it stick in my head and also I find it so much more satisfactory when I physically cross an action off! I like the ‘two things per day though’ that takes the pressure right off. 😀

  29. Great advice here… I’ve been totally sucked into the WordPress time suck! In fact, I’m about to try and detox for a fortnight (completely offline), and then try and put a bit more structure around my blogging when I come back. There’s so much I want to write, but blogging, reading everyone’s posts, and engaging with them (fun as it is) all takes away from that precious writing time! 🙂

    1. OMG. A detox?? *gulp* you’re a brave man! I am a self confessed addict! :p. You’re right though. We all could do with a detox once in a while. I like to think at some point I’ll get a writers retreat. ha. Lets see.

      1. I’m off to the Isle of Wight Festival, and have a phone battery that will die in a day if I’m online, so the first part of the detox is unavoidable (probably the only way it would work!). I’ve decided to use that as an excuse to take a longer break, and finish my bloody zombie haiku book!

        On the subject of notebooks, I’m taking mine with me this weekend. It was a gift from my wife… The cover simply says “People I’d like to punch in the face” . She knows me so well 🙂

        1. hahahahaha that’s fucking hilarious! you’re wife is a legend. Not being funny or trying to ruin your detox – but don’t you have a portable charger? God, Al, get with the times :p

  30. Yep, I gotta agree with you about most of this. I’m so bad at starting to write something and then hearing that ‘ping’ as an email comes in and having to immediately check it. I’m not so bad on the social media side as I don’t use Facebook very much and only really use other social media platforms to share posts I have read. I tend not to read blog posts and try and write at the same time.
    If I was not able to respond to comments then I’d be in cloud cuckoo land. Comments can be switched off just as easily as the internet can. Nobody is going to have a go at you if you have closed comments off. In fact, it may even make them read and comment as soon as you publish your next post. I think closing comments off is a far better option than not answering comments at all. If we invite people to comment then we should respond to their comments even if it’s a few days after those comments have been left. Enough said. You know my feelings on that one. ?

    1. Facebook is a proper suck, but someone has mentioned a really good app, that blocks certain websites for set periods of time. I think i am going to give it a try and see how i fair. I don think I’ll ever turn comments off. But I will take my time in replying. I’m ok with that.

  31. One of the best things I did to battle my Internet addiction was install a simple program called FREEDOM on my computer. It also works for your phone. You can choose to block the entire Internet, or you can block social media only. You can also make your own list of sites you want to block. This is super helpful because sometimes I am legitimately doing research, or I need to keep my Gmail on so that clients can email me, and need *some* access to Internet, but the ability to block Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr is essential. I too didn’t realize how much time I wasted online until I took web access away.

    1. Yep – I have a big old list, and I just keep adding to it – its the only way I don’t lose track of everything, but I tend to pick off a couple of points for my next couple of sessions, basically the only thing I can do to stay on track!

  32. Thanks so much for posting this Sasha. I am a pantser and run my life like this with a carpe diem approach but that can make it hard for me to stay on track and get something finished. I tend to work on a project until it’s finished. Where things can come a cropper, is that I put my writing aside to “stew”, which I do believe is a vital part of the writing process but I can have a lot of trouble coming back to it and have a lot of stews in my desk. I think lists will help with this.
    I have put clocks all over the place and try to set alarms but usually forget. I did come across a special visual clock called Time Timer which shows how much time you have left and that really made me appreciate that time is a fixed resource. You can’t stretch it…even by staying up too late at the end of the day, which is my specialty. Here’s a link to a post I wrote about using the Time Timer https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/alarmed-dangerous/
    xx Rowena

    1. Hi Rowena, you’re talking to a fellow pantser! So I sympathise. I let my manuscript rest too, and it took me almost a month to get back into the mode of it. I reckon it was only sheer determination that got me to finish the draft! Right I am off to check out your post.

      1. I went to a seminar recently and heard a really good insight into pansters and planners. That the panster ends up re-writing and editing more and taking longer to get it “out” where your planner struggles more with creating a mood or atmosphere.
        I work much better to hard deadlines and have amazed myself each year with the A-Z Challenge and am looking at how to use this better with my general writing but so much goes on with the family that it’s hard to set those immovable goals most of the time and it’s a matter of sandwiching the writing inbetween. I get a lot of writing done but not necessarily in a structured routine. Indeed, anything but.

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