With finite hours in the day, our writing sessions need to be productive to help us meet our writing goals. Writers write, and sometimes we need to use a few tricks to get it done. It never hurts, either, to experiment with what works for others, try different methods and tricks. You might find some don’t work at all for you, but you might find a few that do.
Plan your work. Think about your scene beforehand. Start writing it in your head before you sit down. By the time you get to the page, you won’t have to stare at it waiting for the words to come.
Think about your schedule. Is it possible to schedule writing time during your daily creative peak? (We all have one. It helps to know. Mine, for example, is about two hours after I get up and again after dark). If your schedule dictates that you write on the weekends, that will look far different from someone who gets up an hour early every morning to get the words down. Know your personal flow and schedule writing sessions for peak times when possible.
Intention also matters. Having enough of a road map to know what you intend to accomplish during your next session is helpful, even for extreme pantsers.
Don’t underestimate the power of routine for helping you focus. While it can shake up your creative flow in a good way to deviate from routine, there’s also a lot to be said for setting expectations for your writer mind.
If you listen to music, start each session with the same song (and only listen to it then). If you prefer ambient noise (I use a thunderstorm), don’t listen to it outside of writing sessions. That helps your brain know it’s time to produce.
Use a separate work space for writing if you work from home or spend a lot of time on line. In the same way psychology helps insomniacs, it can help creatives. Use that space only for writing and your brain will adjust, slipping into writing mode when you sit there.
Try to write at the same time each day as another way to slip into writer mode.
This should go without saying, but if you struggle with it at all, turn off the internet (or use a system without it) and turn off your phone. Don’t worry, they will be there when you’re done.
If you need silence to write, get your family or housemates on board and put a sign on the door so they know to leave you be.
Writing to music is great for those who can. If not, find some audible white noise that works for you and helps block distractions.
Turn off your spelling and grammar checkers. Red and green squiggles can be terribly distracting and your job is to write, not edit.
Set a goal. Quit groaning, it’s a good thing. Don’t set a time goal. You can decide to write for an hour and spend most of it staring at the screen or picking apart one sentence. Better to set a word count goal or a page goal. Start with a reasonable goal and continue to increase it every month or two until you have stretched your capacity and are comfortable with your production level. For some of us, that’s two pages or 500 words a day. For others, 5000 words is not out of reach given their available time, experience, and level of practice. Find what works for you.
No editing! If editing as you write is a problem and turning off your squiggles isn’t enough, try ilys.com or Write or Die. If working on a browser is a problem due to internet availability, here’s a little trick I use. Open your word processing program, choose a small script font, set the font to 6 or 8 point, turn off squiggles, and type away. You can’t read what you’re writing at all, but it’s easy to translate after your writing session. If this is a problem for you, address it. Again, your job is to get words down, not edit.