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Write It!
How to Overcome Roadblocks, Finish Your Project, and Get It Out There


by Brian Mercer

It took me ten years to write The Kaladrious Reflection, an epic science fiction trilogy.  My next book, a 110,000-word mainstream novel, I finished in just ten weeks.  What follows are the techniques I used to streamline the writing process, to go from taking years to completing my projects, to finishing in only weeks.

Technique #1: Set daily, small, easily achievable writing goals.  In life you get to define success.  Define success in a way that you know you can't lose.  When it comes to setting daily writing goals, don't take on too much.  If you're too ambitious, you're only going to get discouraged.  Set daily, small, easily achievable goals.  The key word there is "daily.

There's a power in doing something a little each day, accomplishing it and feeling good about it.  It's those constant little successes that are going to motivate you to get your butt behind your desk every day, putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.  If you habitually write a little each day, you'll get into a rhythm and your subconscious will be primed to spill words out onto the page the moment you sit down.

Example:  There's a fallacy that you need long, unbroken stretches of time to get serious work done.  I dispelled that myth early on, when my office manager allowed me to modify my schedule from eight-hour days to nine-hour days in order to take every other Friday off.  The idea of having an entire day to write every other week seemed like the perfect way to finish my novel quickly. 

In practice, however, I found I got less accomplished with my new schedule than I did when I worked a regular eight-hour day.  The reason quickly became apparent.  Since I was getting up an hour earlier to go to work, I had less time for my daily writing sessions; I was essentially saving my writing time for my days off.  The problem was that I was never productive every moment of my day off.  I'd take stretch breaks, breaks to eat, breaks to use the bathroom.  There were always interruptions.

I solved these issues by returning to my old, eight-hour schedule.  I still came into work an hour early, but instead of working, I wrote.  While I couldn't write for ten hours straight

 

 

 

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on my day off, I could write ten hours in one-hour increments over the two week work cycle.  After writing habitually at the same time each morning, I found myself brimming with ideas.  When I sat down to write, I couldn't type fast enough. 

Each two-week cycle I'd have as much as twenty or thirty pages, instead of the paltry eight pages that I'd write on my days off.  And it was easily my best work to date.  That's the power of doing a little each day.

Tips for daily goal setting:

  • Set a goal that you know you can effortlessly accomplish.  Maybe it's writing fifteen minutes each morning.  Or writing a paragraph on your lunch break.  Your aim is to build daily momentum.  Half the battle is getting your butt in the chair.

  • If possible, make your goal time-oriented rather than page-oriented.  If you've been studying the habits of professional writers, you've undoubtedly heard this advice: Write one page a day.  But I say, write one hour a day instead.  Or a half-hour. Or fifteen minutes.  Writing a page can take fifteen minutes or two hours, depending on your subject, mood, and environment.  When you set a time-goal, however, as long as you block off the time properly, you know you can accomplish it every day.

  • If possible, break large writing sessions down into smaller sessions.  If you have the luxury of writing for multiple hours every day, break a long session into smaller, hour-long sessions.  While you might not be absolutely productive for three continuous hours in one stretch, you're likely to use the time more effectively writing, say, an hour in the morning, an hour at lunch, and an hour in the evening.  If you do this habitually, you'll find your subconscious will be working even when you're not actually at your desk.  When it finally comes time to capture your thoughts, the prose often comes in long, continuous streams of consciousness.

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