Do you struggle to come up with fresh ideas?
Does your writing sound like everyone else’s? Have you ever been accused of copying another author’s work?
When you sit down at the keyboard, do you spend hours on a single page or even a single paragraph? Have you ever been in the flow of writing?
When you finally get a piece of writing finished, is it tossed back at your feet for more editing due to spelling and grammatical errors? If this applies to you, I am willing to bet you are longing for the passion for writing that first got you started down the path of becoming an author.
Well, it doesn’t have to be this way. You are probably making three common mistakes that a lot of writers do when they set about putting words on paper (or screen.)
How Not to Write
Researching and Writing
You want your facts right. That means research, correct? Everyone does research from the nonfiction how-to blogger to the author of 700 page epics. You need to get details, find out what other people have done in the same circumstances, etc.
So in order to do your research, you sit yourself down behind your computer and start digging into the subject matter. You might Google a topic; you might have a private database you access. You do your due diligence in research and immediately sit down to write. You might even Google a bit, write a bit, Google a bit.
Expecting to Get it Perfect the First Time
You might be one of those that sits down behind the computer and writes a paragraph, rereads it only to erase the whole section and start again. You might even do that for a page or two.
Do you agonize before sitting down to write that you don’t have a brilliant inspiration to go off of? Does the idea of sometimes doing just mediocre writing send shivers through you enough to paralyze you and keep you from writing?
Proofread as You Go Along
Punctuation and spelling is important. People judge us on our grammar. All writers know that you have to have error free material.
So you make sure as you write you don’t make any errors. You might write a page and go back and proofread it to make sure you get it right the first time. You might even do it after every paragraph. I bet a lot of people use the word processor to show the errors and make sure to correct these before moving on.
You Don’t Have to Get It Perfect
The overall problem you are having is because you want it to be perfect the first time through. You want your writing to come out with its facts straight, beautifully written with no errors. Unless you are a very rare person who has been blessed with super human writing powers, it doesn’t work that way.
How to Write Amazingly and Productively Well
The fact is that amazing, productive writing doesn’t have to be a struggle. You just have a couple of the mechanics down a little wrong. You do need to research. You need to have high standards for yourself. Of course, you need to proofread. The problem is you don’t want to do it all at the same time.
Structure Your Writing
The way that I am able to write well (in my own humble opinion) in my own voice, and with few if any errors is that I perform all that needs to be in done in a systematic manner that separates one from another and makes sure that while I am doing one of the writing tasks I am not stepping on the process of another.
You definitely want to research your subject matter. What you want to do is research as much as needed, and then take a 24 hour break where you digest what you have found. What this break does is allow you to put together in your mind what you have found and lets you then roll it out in your own voice.
Trying to look things up on Google or whatever method you use as you write, doesn’t separate you enough from the original source. So what happens a lot of time is that, even if not intentioned, you paraphrase too closely the first author. Also, by going back and forth from research material to your writing, you break your flow which we will talk about next.
Get in the Groove
I use a variation of free writing where I set a period of time, say thirty minutes where I will just write. That is all I do during this time. No researching, no proofreading, no corrections, not even reading what I had already written. I just write. Now I don’t worry about what I am going to write about before I sit down. I start off where I left off (more about this next section) and pick up the thread for the set amount of time.
Of course you need to proofread your material. The trouble is if you try to proofread immediately after or even worse during writing, you won’t see many of your mistakes. It is too fresh in your mind. Your mind will jump over the errors and just give you the thread that you had meant your piece to have.
So I wait twenty four hours after a writing session then go back and do a very through proofread on it. One trick that is very successful for me is to read it out loud. That picks up any stilted tones or anything that just sounds strange. Need some help on your editing skills? Copyblogger has some great tips for proofreading in 30 Quick Editing Tips Every Content Creator Needs to Know for any writer, not just bloggers.
I do a very savage proof on these writing samples. Sometimes I have gone in directions I didn’t really like and out of five pages; I might end up keeping only a couple paragraphs. The thing is though, I am looking at this with a fresh eye and that keeps me honest on what works and what doesn’t.
Once I finish proofreading, I immediately start my next free writing session. After such detail work, my mind responds well to the getting back into the writing flow.
My Whole Writing Sequence
So here is an example of a writing sequence that allows me to be free of outside influences on my writing, allows me to getting into the writing flow and produce a good quantity of material and then allows me to do a good proofread on it that catches the errors and allows me to drill down to the bare essentials.
Monday – 2 hours or research
Tuesday – half hour of free writing sample one, hour of research
Wednesday – half hour of proofing writing sample one, half hour of writing sample two, hour of research
Thursday – half hour of proofing writing sample two, half hour of writing sample three, hour of research
Friday – half hour of proofing writing sample two, half hour of writing sample four, hour of research
…and so on.
Now I don’t promise that with my techniques and writing sequence you will end up like authors such as Joyce Carol Oates or bloggers such as Gini Dietrich of Spin Sucks. They pump out hundreds of pages and posts on a regular basis.
What I think will happen to you is what happened to me. I started enjoying writing again and not looking at it as another thing that had to be completed. I found that I could produce a lot more material that I had in the past and it was of higher quality.
Isn’t that what it is all about? Doing something you love and doing well?
I am interested in what other methods are out there. What do you do to make your writing productive? Please answer in the comments.