IPT Time Management Clinic – 5 More Tips for Productive Writing

Welcome back to the IPT writing clinic on time management. Last week, I shared 5 Tips for Productive Writing. If you haven’t seen that post, take a moment now to read it. The focus of that clinic was on being a more productive writer and I’ll continue that theme this week.

1. Keep Your Ideas Organized

At first glance, you might wonder what organization has to do with productivity. Just this. Every minute you spend looking for something is a minute taken away from writing.

Trust me. I can vouch for this! I’ve wasted countless hours looking for things I knew I’d written, but that I couldn’t easily find. Not even with the search feature in Windows (which only works if I can remember the right key words).

Find or create a way to organize your documents that makes them easily accessible. Things to consider are:

  • The function of the document (journal, scenes, plot ideas, notes on research, etc.)
  • The story it relates to (if applicable)
  • Your own preferences in filing

Organize physical documents, too. Devise a system that makes sense to you, then use it until it becomes second nature.

It’s helpful if you organize digital and physical files in the same way.

For example, most of my stories come with a working title or acquire one early in the process, so I label digital and physical files with the working title first. As necessary, I add sub folders for scenes, plotting documents, research, and whatever else is necessary. Most of those sub folders are digital, but the same naming system applies to physical files when necessary.

2. Find a Brain Storming Partner

What you’re looking for is someone you can bounce ideas off and who can bounce ideas off you. Ideally, your brain storming partner should be someone in your own genre, but that’s not as important as someone who can read your ideas, offer a fresh point of view, and help you sort things out. They should also be someone who understands you and your writing.

You can have as many brain storming partners as you like or need (maybe one for each genre you write in), but my experience is that one great brain storming partner is worth a dozen mediocre ones.

Note: Your brain storming partner may also be a crit partner, but does not have to be. The brain storming partner is the person who helps you at the front of the project. Your crit partners will be there to help you out at the end of the process. Big difference!

You may be wondering what a good brainstorming partner has to do with productivity. Just this. Running through as many ideas as possible helps you sort good from bad from wacky. Narrowing the choices early in the writing process keeps you from following every rabbit trail and detour that comes along while you’re writing. Anything that keeps you moving forward (as opposed to backwards or sideways) improves productivity.

A brainstorming partner (or a crit partner for that matter) can also get you back on track when you wander.

3. Write Even When You Have Nothing to Write

Find a way to write something in those dry periods. Even if the only thing you do is describe why it’s a dry period or what is keeping you from writing, do it.

Remember that Scene Document I described in 5 Tips for Productive Writing? I have several scenes in which a writer is dealing with writers block and what she did instead of write.

Some of them are thoughtful.

Some are funny.

All of them accomplished one thing. They made me write.

4. What if…?

Never stop asking “what if…?”

It’s snowing today. What if someone were stranded in the middle of Nebraska with nothing but the clothes on their back and the candy bar in their pocket?

Mmm.

The sun is shining today. What if the sun shined in a cloudless sky every day for the next twenty years?

Oh, no. A flat tire! Mmm. What if someone driving across country alone had a flat in the middle of East St. Louis in the middle of the night?

There’s a car with a dent in it. What if the dent was put there when the driver backed into his mailbox in his haste to leave the scene of the murder he just committed?

(Can you tell I lean toward mysteries?)

The point is that anything you see, hear, taste, smell, touch, eat, read about or do could be the starting point for your next novel…

…but only if you ask “what if”.

5. Spend as much time as possible writing.

Yep.

I know I already said that, but it bears repeating.

It doesn’t matter how often you get new ideas, have new thoughts, or ask ‘what if’ questions. If you’re not writing (even if only to write them down), it doesn’t matter. The point of being a writer is writing. All of the rest is icing on the cake.

I hope these tips help you as much as they’ve helped me. Just remember that if you write long enough, you will encounter a time when there is absolutely nothing in your imagination. I know, I’ve been there. Don’t let it get the most of you. Find something that gives you a reason to write and do it every day. Sooner or later, the spring of your imagination will begin to flow again.

Next week, the discussion turns to managing non-writing time more efficiently.

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