Sunday, March 4, 2012
At the end of critique group a few weeks ago, someone asked what my word of the year was. My mind went blank for a moment and I couldn’t remember what I’d been considering. Finally, I remembered—focus. After we had a good laugh, I realized how much I needed to consider this word.
There aren’t many times I am free to write for long periods of time. But there are many times when I have at least some time to write. If I add up these chunks of time, and I am really able to focus during them, then these pieces would soon amount to something substantial.
In order to stay focused, I have to stay with my book. I’ve been trying to do something about it most days in order to stay in contact with it. Make notes, brainstorm, and record my ideas in a notebook are all things I can do when I can’t get to the computer. This is important to focusing. If I can’t remember what I was thinking the last time I wrote then it takes forever to start writing the next time. Time spent trying to remember my next scene reduces time spent actually moving forward with the story.
I’ve also kept a log of each time I write and how many words I’ve written. This makes my progress concrete and helps keep me on track. I have a loose-leaf binder where I keep my plot outline and story notes. My outline also includes a list of scenes surrounding each plot point. In addition, I never turn the computer off without making notes at the end of my manuscript (in bold type so I can tell them apart) about what I want to do next. This keeps me from having to review several pages before where I am in the story. I read a couple of previous paragraphs, the notes I’ve left myself and then I’m ready to go. Once I’ve written what I made notes on, I delete the notes. I don’t lose anything by doing this because I still have them in my notebook.
I also tell select close friends and family how many words I’ve written that day. This gives me a sense of accomplishment and keeps me honest. Also, it is another way to keep my manuscript at the forefront of my life.
Another method is to change scenery—go to the library or a coffee house—anything to eliminate distractions. Not having the laundry, the dishes and the TV helps me to concentrate. In addition, having a new environment keeps me fresh. It stimulates my creativity to change my surroundings.
And, of course, my best way to focus is my critique group. There are so many ways this helps me. Regular meetings, submitting my work for critique, discussing the industry, blogging and commiserating on writing issues are some of the many ways that being a member of the Rockville 8 keeps me on point.
So, that's my word for the year. Hopefully, all of this focusing will lead to writing. Because that's what writers do—we write.
What are some ways you keep yourself focused on your writing? I'd love to hear how other writers do it.