How to be a more productive writer

The first half of this year, I was amazingly productive. I turned in one book February 19, started writing a second book February 20, and turned that book in June 1. Each book was prounounced by the respective editor to be the best book I had ever written for them.

Since June 1, I've made some progress on a new book, but not nearly at the level of the first five months of the year. I was lamenting that fact, but then I realized the first five months of this year sucked. I would lie awake every night doing the math, dividing the number of words I had yet to write by the ever smaller number of days I had left to write those words in. I worked evenings and weekends. I wrote in hotel rooms, on airplanes, and in the passenger seat of cars. I wrote on "vacation." I wrote when I was in the hospital for that misdianosed kung fu injury.

Yoda_SWSBSo, I don't want to repeat that, but I do want to try to write more. But as Yoda said,"Do. Or do not. There is no try."

Some things that work for me:


  • Pomodoro method. Write for 25 minutes, take a five-minute break, write for 25, 5-minute break, repeat for a total of two hours. Then take a longer break.

  • Turn off the Internet using MacFreedom. (You can use this to help you with the Pomodoro method.) The longest I can consistently go is 45 minutes without a break.

  • Go to a coffee shop without Internet (or if it has Internet, don’t ask for the password and stick you fingers in your ears if someone else asks for it).

  • Go to a hotel - someplace where there is little to do but write. Writing on planes can also be good, especially if you are like me and too cheap to pay for inflight Internet.

  • Turn down the screen brightness until you can’t see it or cover the display with a tea towel. This forces you to write without editing.

  • Tell yourself, I’m not really writing right now, I’m just getting ready to write. It might seem less stressful and less scary.

  • Write when you first wake up. Harder still: No coffee until you’ve written a certain number of words.

  • Use writeordie.com to meet a goal of X words in X minutes. I usually set it for 500 in 15 minutes. Half of it will be crap, and some of it will be brilliant.

Methods other people swear by:


  • Write in long hand.

  • Write with a friend or in group. Be serious about not talking.

  • Put on a CD without lyrics and do not get out of the chair until it’s over.

  • Do 1k1hour sprints on Twitter.

  • Time yourself and see how much you can do. Set a stretch goal for yourself.

  • Stop writing and talk through it. Read out loud what you’ve just written, then step away from your and start talking out loud about your topic, as if you are in front of a class room.

  • Limit how much you write. Allow yourself to write only for a half hour. Stop as soon as the half hour is over, even if you are in mid-sentence.

  • If you don’t know something, do not stop to research it. Write TK or make something up and fix it later.

  • Begin each day with a furious 500.

  • Before you go to sleep, take five minutes to write down a few notes about what you might write the next day. Feel stuck? Ask this question: “How can I make things worse for my characters?”

  • Write a 200 word nightcap.

  • Break off in the middle of a sentence.

  • Write the easy parts. As soon as you feel you have worked a scene as much as you can, move on to another section that is appealing.  And repeat.

  • Try doing a mind map on a page of paper turned on its side to help you see new directions to go.

What works for you?
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For the last couple of years, I've done most of my new writing at McDonalds. WiFi's available there, but I'm able to resist the temptation to log on, and ignore the music/TV/chatter around me :)
For three years, my writing laptop was disconnected from the internet. I'd bring it downstairs and plug it in if I wanted to back up a file. But that was it. Now my laptop has died of old age and it will be a while before I get a new one. I can't focus on the family computer because I'm not used to resisting the internet. I'll try out some of these tips.
I hope you find something that works for you. It's hard to have the willpower, which is why I like Mac Freedom.