Sometimes, fate (or deadlines) plop a writing day in your lap. A glorious day with loads of energy to devote to your craft!
When I want to make the most of that time, I use these methods to keep myself on track. It hasn’t been uncommon for me to hit 5000 or even 10000 words within 5 hours when I am intentional about the following steps. And sometimes I’m not even half-dead by the point I leave my desk!
Of course, everyone has their personal style and way to get into rhythm, but hopefully these ideas can help spark some of your own.
1. Start Early
Start your writing day in the morning. Like, as soon as you finish breakfast, it’s time for writing. I say “morning” instead of a specific time because I know for some people morning means 11AM, while for others it might be 6AM. You know your groove. But do start early in whatever you define as daytime.
2. Set Goals
Set a wordcount (or page number) goal at the start of your day. That gives you a definite point to aim for, instead of leaving you wandering. When you get to it, you’re allowed to stop and reward yourself. Or if you’re hitting your stride, you can overachieve and go beyond it. But have the marker there in front of your face.
3. Eliminate Distractions
Put your phone on airplane mode. Turn off internet if you can, at least on your devices. If you need internet (for playlists or whatever), then log yourself out of all social media. That way it’s not as simple as idly wandering on when you’re brain reverts to addict levels of checking the internet. And we both know you don’t remember your passwords anyway, so it’s going to take some level of effort to get back on.
There are tons of apps out there for enforcing self-control, but honestly I find it easiest to just force myself off the grid.
4. Get Accountability
If you have writing friends nearby, invite them to join you on your writing day adventure. You can do word wars (see who writes the most during a session (session = timed space of writing)), plan coffee breaks to discuss roadblocks, make it a social affair. During the sessions, no one is allowed to interrupt anyone else — when you’re on break, you can chill and relax. I’m an introvert, and this is my favorite way to draft.
If you have writing friends online, same thing — but use Skype or Google Hangouts instead of Facebook to chat with each other.
If you don’t have anyone who’s available for the time slot you need, go solo and prepare to be super focused. You can still tell a friend/sibling/parent/partner what you hope to accomplish so they’ll ask for a report by the end of your day.
5. Get Ready to Rock
Have playlists ready. Depending on the mood I’m in or the mood of my scene, I vary from instrumental to upbeat indie to electro swing to spy lounge. But some of my go-to playlists include: Premium Word Count and Freljord on 8tracks, and of course my various WIP playlists on Spotify (I’m currently a little obsessed with my Scatterling instrumental collection).
Headphones can be great, even if you’re in a room by yourself. If I’m in a particularly quiet room, I also also like to play Coffitivity at a low volume in the background.
6. Time Yourself
Set a timer — ideally where you can see it/check it easily. Some people like to do spurts of 20 minutes with 10 minute breaks. I tend to do best with 45 minutes of work and 15 minutes of get-tea, stretch-legs, etc.
Disclaimer: Getting back in the chair (and off Facebook) after your break is the hardest bit. So make sure you get back on! Setting another timer for this can be helpful.
7. Don’t Forget the Day’s Goal
Track how many words you write per session and check how you’re progressing toward your ultimate goal. It feels good to watch yourself get closer and closer. It can also be interesting to watch how your writing speed quickens and slows depending on how warmed up you are and what sort of scene you’re in.
Have an active reward planned for the end of your writing day. When I was in England, I’d reward myself by going on a hike through the footpaths. Moving after that length of writing feels really nice.
You can also reward yourself with a nice dessert, going out for dinner, watching a favorite show/movie… Whatever works to motivate you.
What methods do you use on your writing days? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!