Focusing on the Writing
by Terry Odell
I was supposed to be on a photo tour in Croatia today, but that’s been put on hold, so let’s talk about dealing with writing routines in times of distraction.
I’ve talked to a lot of people about how they’re having trouble focusing on their writing. Distractions abound, and the writing gets set aside. Guilt sets in.
It’s okay to be distracted, to flounder about. Writing less is acceptable. For me, I find the following techniques helpful. I’ve used them when coming back from vacations, when it takes a while to find my writing groove, and they work as well for me in these crazy times.
Get rid of chores that will nag.
If you are going to worry about cleaning house, paying bills, going through email, take the time to get the critical things dealt with. Otherwise you’re not going to be focused on your writing. If you’re a ‘write first’ person, don’t open anything other than your word processing program.
Do critiques for my crit group.
This might seem counterproductive, but freeing your brain from your own plot issues and looking at someone else’s writing can help get your brain into thinking about the craft itself.
Work on other ‘writing’ chores.
For me, it can be blog posts, or forum participation. Just take it easy on social media time.
Deal with critique group feedback.
Normally, I’m many chapters ahead of my subs to my crit group. If I start with their feedback on earlier chapters, I get back into the story, but more critically than if I simply read the chapters. And they might point out plot holes that need to be dealt with. Fixing these issues helps bring me up to speed on where I’ve been. It also gets me back into the heads of my characters.
Read the last chapter/scene you wrote.
Do basic edits, looking for overused words, typos, continuity errors. This is another way to start thinking “writerly” and it’s giving you that running start for picking up where you left off.
Consult any plot notes.
For me, it’s my idea board, since I don’t outline. I jot things down on sticky notes and slap them onto a foam core board. Filling in details in earlier chapters also helps immerse you in the book.
Figure out the plot points for the next scene.
Once you know what has to happen, based on the previous step, you have a starting point.
And don’t worry if things don’t flow immediately. Get something on the page. Fix it later.
What about you? Any tips and tricks you’ve found when outside world distractions keep you from focusing?
And one more thing. On Friday, May 1st, you have a chance to Ask Me Anything. I’ll be on a Draft2Digital Spotlight podcast talking with Mark Leslie Lefevbre. It’ll be broadcast on YouTube and Facebook. You can bookmark the links and you might be able to set up a reminder.
Time: 10 Pacific, 11 Mountain, 12 Central, Noon Eastern. It’ll be my first video appearance. Yikes! The program is 45 minutes long, with the last 15 minutes for Q&A. I hope to meet you there.