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.


  1. > My mind went blank for a moment and I
    > couldn’t remember what I’d been
    > considering. Finally, I remembered—focus.

    This STILL cracks me up, Lisa!

    I love all your suggestions and the connections you make between improving focus and improving the writing process. That's what I keep coming back to -- the process. And being open to learning to love it.


  2. Lisa ~ Love all the ways you've found to stay connected with your current project and practice focus.

    I do some of the same things. Getting to a coffee shop or cafe is my favorite productive spot to find my focus.

    Unfortuntely, I'm able to hyper-focus more often than I need, therefore, I need to practice the opposite. Which I'll talk about next week. ;0)

    Excellent post, Lisa. Kudos to your writing journey and the focus you're able to find through your tried and true methods. Lots of good stuff in here.

  3. Yvonne - Thank you. It really is funny. Pathetic, but mostly funny. :) Glad you like the suggestions. I love your comment about being open to learn to love the process. Writing, like life, works best when you stay fluid and adaptable. Not that I'm the expert at this.

    Candy - Thank you. You are the master at finding places to concentrate. Maybe you can teach me how to hyper-focus and I can teach you how to...well, not.

  4. Hi Lisa,
    Loved the post. Staying focus is so taxing when there are other demands on us--children, job, etc.

    I use some of the same techniques you do: I have the binder and the notebooks. I also use WriterWayPro which helps keep all my research, story ideas, outlines, character sketches, photos of people and places in one place.

    Still, I find my speckled theme books to be the most helpful. You can whip them out anywhere and work on an idea.

    We're not alone in this notebook fetish. I've been reading a wonderful book entitled: Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks. There were 73 of these lost but now found notebooks with detailed plot descriptions and notes on many of her most famous books.

    It tickles me to no end to think of Dame Agatha waiting at the dentist office with her notebook trying to decide how to thwart Hercule Poirot or trip up Miss Marple.

    Keep jotting down those notes in all those quiet little moments and soon you'll have a book full of ideas.


  5. Lisa, love the photo! Your little dog sure is teaching us focus!

    I keep a notebook, too, though it's just full of my scribblings. No formal character sketches for me, really, but a line or two, or a question to myself, help me to pick up the narrative after I've had to step away. The quicker I can find my focus when I get in front of keyboard, the happier I am. Not to mention that focus puts me in a position to layer in more levels of detail.

    More quicker... Can't beat that! Here's to results, Lisa, as you focus on focusing this year!

  6. Shellie - Thank you for commenting. We'll have to talk about WriterWayPro. I'd like to see what that looks like. Organization is always good.

    Nicole - Thanks for your input. I like that you ask yourself questions. I do something similar - put a question mark next to something I'm not sure of or if I don't have an answer for it yet.

  7. Lisa - sorry to have read this so late! Great post, great advise.