Writing Racers Kim Wilkins and Bec Sparrow

Picture a warehouse room full of laptops and expectant faces, imaginations primed and ready to write. Then picture those same faces, an hour and a half later,  glowing with achievement: combined, the QWC Writing Racers produced 48,498 words, just a squeak away from a complete naNoWriMo novel. 20 or so writers all boosted their own projects by thousands of words in one writing session of social writing – and what with all the pizza and lollies, it didn’t feel like work at all!

Meanwhile, the AWMonline Racing crew are also smoking hot this November. Some are working on NaNo books, and others are just using the month of focus to work on their ongoing projects. Last Sunday we were joined by Special Guest Peter M. Ball, author of Horn, and he blew us away with these fantastic tips:

Staying on the Ball:

1) You only have to write the next 250 words (Picked up from the blog of Dean Wesley Smith originally).

I like breaking goals down into something small and achievable, so I try not to think in terms of "I need 1000 words today" or "a ninety thousand word manuscript." All I need to do, in order to get things done, is write the next 250 words of the manuscript. If I do that every day, at a minimum, I’ll have a short story within the space of a week or a novel in the space of a year.

The other way to think about it is "how much can you write in twenty minutes." For me it largely equates to the aforementioned 250 words. If I find myself not wanting to write, I tell myself I’ll sit in front of the computer and do twenty minutes of work before heading off to my procrastinatory activity.

2) Get things done in the morning

I’m one of those folks who feels the guilt of not-writing really heavily, so I make sure it’s the first thing I do when I get up in the morning. Even if it’s just for an hour, or a half hour, or twenty minutes, I get the writing out of the way so I’m no longer thinking ‘oh, god, I have to write something."

Usually this makes it easier to sit down and keep working, because the angst of not-writting usually gets worse the longer I leave it and I have a somewhat counter-intuitive response (basically, "oh god, I’m not writing, lets go watch TV")

3) Have space that’s committed to being a writer.

While this is my first writing race, I have a regular write-club with my friend Angela Slatter where we meet once a week and basically be writers. We trade news about our successes and failings, eat a nice meal, then sit down and bang out words with someone else in the room. Frequently the three or four hours we meet will be more productive than the rest of the week combined.

On the weeks where we don’t meet, for whatever reason, it’s usually much harder to focus on getting work done. Largely this is a mindset thing – spending time talking about writing, giving it a weekly space regardless of what’s going on, makes it easier to remember that I’m a writer when the day-to-day problems of the week start distracting me from the idea that I should be writing.

Giving yourself the space *to be a writer* with other people who acknowledge that is enourmously powerful when you’re starting out, especially when other people look to things like novels and JK Rowlings sized paycheques to justify the activity.

4) Turn off the internet

It took me years to learn this one, but it finally sunk in. The internet is based on creating links and diverting your attention, always sending new information your way and demanding that it be processed. It’s the most distracting thing I’ve ever come accross and I noticed the difference immediately the day I decided to turn it off during my regular writing time.

And once again, it’s a reinforcement thing – the three hours every morning I devote to writing are *purely for writing*. By taking the internet away I’m telling myself that I’m not doing anything but writing.

These days I tend to get up and write for three hours every morning before I take my computer into the study and plug it into the modem. Creating that space, away from the distraction, made a huge difference in my daily wordcounts.

This is a luxury that a lot of people don’t have, and I appreciate it as such, but even if you’re only going to be writing for twenty minutes on your lunch break it’s worth seeing what happens when you take the modem away :)


Last bits…

Feeling scared about changes to the publishing industry? Take heart from this post at Storytellers Unplugged. And then be gobsmacked by the innovations at the new monthly magazine, Electric Literature.

Write on, people!

One Response to “On the Ball…”

  1. john,

    great tips, thanks

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