Writing is hard. Wait, scrap that. Writing is really hard.
And sitting down to write every day and staying focused while doing so? That . . . is possible.
Let me start from the beginning.
I have a scatterbrain when it comes to writing. Damn, I just love chasing the next shiny idea. I’ve enough unfinished WIPS to build a little fort out of at this point. Probably even enough to build a little WIP moat, drawbridge, cannons . . . you get the idea.
Focus, Paul, that’s what you’re supposed to be doing here! Bad pen monkey! Bad!
So where was I? Ah, yes. How do we stay focused as writers?
Below are a few ways to outline
Have clear goals
Every writer should have clear goals to aim for. Whether that be finishing a novel, short story, screenplay, or earning billions through their writing and gloating over all us word peasants. We need those dreams and to keep them alive. They are the ones that keep us inspired and motivated to keep on writing and achieve our writing dreams.
If you are just starting out as a writer you might feel a little overwhelmed or feel like finishing your manuscript is impossible. Break your writing goals down into more sizeable, achievable chunks of 1000 words a day or even as low as 250 words a day. Don’t let anyone tell you those are rookie numbers; work at a comfortable pace for you. Have different milestones to celebrate. Keep chipping away at the mountain and soon it’ll be little larger than a mound to climb over.
Finish the damn story
“I’ll write one day when I have the time,” they say. You have time now, don’t you? All you need is thirty minutes to an hour each day. Or if you’re the busiest person on the face of the planet, try word sprints. Don’t try to write an entire novel on your first attempt or you’ll get the dreaded writer’s burnout. Why not instead simply try to write a short story or a finished piece of writing of any kind? Or if you’re just plain crazy, you could try NaNoWriMo. Just like any other job, part of getting things done is showing up every damn day. But above all else, don’t go chasing the next shiny project and end up with a fort of unfinished works. Get each one done, polished as much as you possibly can, and then move on. dreaded writer’s burnout. Why not instead simply try to write a short story or a finished piece of writing of any kind? Just like any other job, part of getting things done is showing up every damn day. But above all else, don’t go chasing the next shiny project and end up with a fort of unfinished works. Get each one done, polished as much as you possibly can, and then move on.
Have people tell you that you suck
Not in the street or in day-to-day life, but rather in your writing. If the first point occurs, then damn. Those people are asshats. Getting a critique of your work can seem super scary, but doing so will give you useful feedback and insight into your own writing. And if they love it. Great! Ask them what they loved and why. Learn your strengths as well as your weaknesses so you can improve. You can join online groups or a local writing club, or even take a writing course to get feedback from your peers.
You might not like everything you hear, but if you learn how to take constructive criticism well this could prove invaluable for your book. Try sites such as GoodReads or Critters. Or if you have the cash, look to sites such as Fiverr for beta readers. The more trusted people you can hire, the better.
Get your work out there
Once you’re finished, edited, and have your manuscript as tight as *insert filthy joke of your choice here* then it’s time to get your work out there. Try submitting your work to various publications online. Online publications are usually always on the lookout for new content as they publish frequently due to their low costs. Or why not self-publish if you know how to market and get your work out there?
Writing + Something = Profit
I assume that magical missing step is to pray to the book gods and sacrifice badly-written novels. But who knows. Keep marketing your work, building relationships, growing your email list, and good things will come. Not to those who wait. But to those who work their asses off!
Usually, this first paycheck will be enough to buy a packet of peanuts, or on a good month, enough to replace your damaged keyboard after mashing your face into it in frustration at the writing life. It gets better. Money shouldn’t be the end goal (but it does help!)
Next, you’ve got to get those sweet, sweet reviews. Look for reviewers online and practice your sales pitch. You want sales, you gotta hussle, son! Trust me, reviews are worth their weight in gold as I’ve discussed before.
Someone leave you a glowing review? Or get in touch with you to tell you how much they enjoyed your piece? Getting your first true fans is a thrilling experience (and no, your mom doesn’t count even if she said your book sucks and doesn’t have enough sparkly vampires in it!)
Even one-star reviews can help. All five-star reviews will raise alarm bells and make your reviews look ‘fake’. Embrace those one and two-star reviews.
It’s not going to be easy staying focused. And some days, it can feel all too tempting to just quit, take a nap, and forget all about writing. But remember why you are doing this. If you truly love what you are doing, see the bigger picture, and don’t mind hard work, then you will get there. It might take a year, it might take thirty years. But stay focused and write, edit, publish, repeat. You’ll get there eventually.