By David Jones
Over the years, I’ve accumulated a vast trove of brilliant advice regarding writing productivity from famous and prolific authors – and I’ve ignored every bit of it. Below is the Goofus and Gallant of effective and efficient writing. Be like Gallant, not Goofus.
1. Your Workplace
What they say: Find a place devoid of distraction – preferably in a room with no television, a computer with the internet turned off, and a desk with a chair that promotes good posture. The wildly popular Charlaine Harris advises us to treat writing like we would any other job. Make it clear to your family that it’s writing time and you’re not to be disturbed. Isolate yourself in a quiet office. Work. Produce.
What I do: I sit in my recliner with my laptop and headphones while my wife watches So You Think You Can Dance and I pretend to not also be watching. I’m totally watching. I have my file open in the background while I cruise the internet until about ten minutes before I’m ready to go to bed then I begin trying to tackle my daily word goal. I’ll make up the shortfall tomorrow, I tell myself (I don’t make up the shortfall tomorrow.)
What they say: Write every day. New York Times Bestselling author Jonathan Maberry keeps himself accountable by putting a few dollars in a jar each day that he hits his word count goal. Then, when his manuscript is done, he spends the cash on something fun. (He also takes out a week’s worth of money if he misses one day). Sometimes, it’s easy to get bogged down with trying to make that draft perfect, but don’t worry about quality for that first draft, just get the words on the paper. You know who would be perfect for fixing that first draft and making it something worth reading? Future You. It doesn’t have to be perfect right now, just keep moving and get something down every day.
You can’t wait around for inspiration to hit. Stephen King (you may have heard of him) says, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
What I do: There are times when I stick to this and even with work, kids, and other hobbies (read : naps), I find time damn near every day to crank out 1000 words. When I do this, I have a manuscript done in four to six months. But far more often I get about a hundred words done and go to bed (see Your Workplace, above).
What they say: Once you’ve gotten into a project, don’t set it aside to jump into a new idea. I know it’s easy to think of that shiny new idea and tell yourself, Yeah, I’ll just work on this great new one about the breakdancing zombies and then go back and finish the old one later. Kevin Anderson, author of over 50 bestselling novels, advises that there’s no reason you can’t take on multiple projects at the same time, but that involves working on them contemporaneously, not setting one aside. If you’re able to hit your word count goal on one project and still have time and energy left over to ALSO work on your new darling, then by all means go for it. But don’t set one aside to start another one (caveat: if you have a hard deadline on the new project, well, do what you gotta’ do.)
What I do: I have about twelve unfinished manuscripts sitting in my writing file, some of which haven’t been touched since the Cretaceous period, also known as the early 2000s. Goofus is always chasing the next idea without ever finishing the one before.
The formula for productive writing isn’t some mysterious secret. It’s been laid out by industry titans over and over, and it’s there for the taking. Gallant listens to successful authors and models his conduct after them. Be like Gallant.
By day, David fights evil as a Dallas lawyer (dmjlawfirm.com). His legal writing, both fictional and non-, can be found in numerous successful appellate court rulings across Texas. With a specialty in construction and real-estate law, David has also published legal articles for several Texas-based builder and real estate magazines.
By night, David creates evil as a science-fiction writer. He runs a (fake news) sports blog called White Glove Sports and has self-published the first of a three-novel science fiction epic entitled Children of a Doomed Sun.
David now resides in Grapevine, Texas with his wife Shannon, twin daughters, and a circus of animals, each more worthless than the last (the pets, not the wife or kids, well kind of the kids).