A client that I consulted with published their first book recently and that motivated me to share some of the things we discussed to help her dream become reality. Each strategy that is listed below are actions that helped me release two best-selling novels in eight months.
1. Discover the path to your zone
Step one is at the top for great reasoning. The first step for more efficient writing is discovering the path to your zone.
While growing up I rarely visualized a career as a writer although I’ve always been passionate about the craft and wrote consistently. When the ambitious thoughts of being an author crept into my mind, I envisioned writing on a sunny beach or at a crowded coffee shop on a consistent basis.
The decision to end my career as a mid-senior level manager in corporate America to pursue my passion seemed meant to be when I had a scheduled vacation to Los Angeles within the first two weeks of my career change. I decided to study writing techniques night and day leading up to my trip. Implementing that plan gave me the utmost confidence that I would hit the ground running once I found a comfortable spot on the beach.
Hours went by on the beach and not a word was written. After I grew frustrated with my lack of productivity, I hurried to the closest coffee shop. Another two hours went by and I yielded the same result. My trip that I had been looking forward to for six months went south once I packed up my belongings at the coffee shop near Venice Beach. While I drove back to my hotel in silence, I began second guessing the spontaneous decision to fire my job. I pulled over a few blocks away from the coffee shop to see which new jobs were posted on LinkedIn. Once I opened the app, my phone died.
Thankfully, visiting with my family helped rekindle my spirits and clear my mind. I returned to Houston a week after my blunders at the beach and coffee shop. Stepping away from my everyday life to be around a refreshing environment put me into a special place. On the ride home from the airport, I stopped to get some coffee. I went through the drive-thru because I didn’t want to be reminded of my recent mishap. While I sat in the lengthy line, I made a playlist of some songs that spoke to how I was feeling at the time. Once I parked at home, my energy pulled me towards the computer in my bedroom. The force felt so intense that I decided to leave my luggage in the trunk until the next day.
That night was the first one I spent writing, “Made It Out”. I didn’t leave from in front the computer until 6:00am. To make sure that night wasn’t an anomaly, I made some coffee and replayed the same playlist shortly after I woke up. For the next several months I repeated those same steps with slight variations every day. The only things I would adjust was a playlist or substitute tea instead of coffee. Doing what it takes to get to my zone puts me in a place where I am able to articulate from my soul and highest level of intellect.
Finding out what it takes to get in your zone requires trial and error. Your method may be writing in the park, by the pool, in a coffee shop, or in the library. Take time discovering your unique route to get to your zone. Some special happenings are there waiting for you.
2. Devise a pre-existing plan for writer’s block
Knowing how to get to your zone is great but taking it to the next level is discovering the alternative routes to your zone.
Step one for this will be to identify a reason bigger than yourself for why you are writing. Wanting to write a novel because you want to become famous versus wanting to write a novel to impact readers worldwide will make you move with two different senses of urgency. Authors have the same opportunity as musicians to connect with their audience by speaking to what they are going through at the time and providing them with thought provoking content. It is very evident to the crowd when professional entertainers or athletes perform like they are only in it for the money versus being in it for a reason bigger than themselves. Consistently across all niches top performers state that a main reason for their success is their love for what they do and not their desire for monetary gains. Monetary gains are sure to come once you develop your passion and provide value to others.
Although I have an extensive list of reasons to write, there are primary reasons that come to mind when I get writer’s block. My biggest motivation to write is my son. I felt as though maximizing my skills that I am most passionate about and naturally gifted at would set the best example for him. The first thing that I do when I come to a bump in the road while writing, is an activity with my son. Usually early into our activity I am mentally refreshed, and my thoughts begin running rampant about what I will write next.
My culture is my second biggest motivation. It lights a fire under me when I think about the oppression, racism, hate crimes, and long list of other things that my people have experienced. When I want to channel that pain into something positive, I read about others who utilized their profession to help advance the culture.
I have the highest regard for those who believed in me before my dreams became reality. Most of those people are close friends who are also doing great things with their lives. Simply having a conversation with them will feel like a cup of coffee. Conversing with someone who is speaking about how they are striving towards their goals or offering words of encouragement inspires me to put in some work once our conversation is over.
It would be of great use to conceptualize who provides you with the opposite. Avoiding bad energy has been a major contributor to my consistent productivity. Not allowing negativity from others in the midst of your writing process should be a non-negotiable. Holding unproductive conversations, entertaining bad vibes, and gossiping will only lead you to a place of stagnation.
3. Paint a picture
A writer must have the utmost appreciation for someone who made time to read their work. With that being said, a writer should ensure that they provide their best content possible for readers. Making the reader feel like they are experiencing the story first hand and taking them to another world will enhance the odds of providing a great experience. Storytelling musicians were a big influence for me to begin writing as a child. When I listened to certain songs, I felt like I was in another world. That feeling made me want to create worlds for readers that are built with my words, passions, and experiences. Below is an example that can help you paint a better picture for the reader.
Before: I saw a beautiful woman earlier.
After: As soon as I walked into the coffee shop shortly after sunrise, a woman with cognac colored skin and a red dress on made my heart fall to my ankles.
This first sentence is vague and basic to say the most. We don’t know what the beautiful woman looked like, what she had on, where she was, when she was there, or how she made the man feel. Once the reader is provided better details stemming from a more descriptive sentence, they will feel more connected to the story.
4. Play the mind game
The most popular question that my clients ask is, “How long should my book be?” One author could have a 30,000 word novel that impacts readers for the rest of their lives, while another writer could have a 70,000 word book that readers wish they could get back every second they spent reading it. Being hard up for a certain word count can subliminally make a writer feel like they are doing an assignment for school and lower the quality of their work.
Removing the proofing methods has been the most beneficial strategy for optimizing my creativity. It’s hard for a writer not to notice a red line under a misspelled word while they are focused on transitioning thoughts on paper. Creativity relies on momentum and worrying about proofing while you are creating will rob you of innovative thoughts. You can always go back to edit and reorganize your work later.
5. Trim the fat
When writing you don’t want to take a sentence off. Fluffing the word count and filler sentences are quick ways to waste the reader’s time. Checking for redundancy is an imperative task. Dialogue and transitions are two of the most common instances when redundancy occurs.
Before: Once I walked in the break room, I spotted Tim emptying out his locker. Tim had interviewed for another job a month ago and hadn’t heard back from the company yet. As soon as I got close to him, I asked, “Why are you packing your things?” Tim asked, “Why do you think?” Once I couldn’t come up with an answer, I asked, “How am I supposed to know?” Tim didn’t know that I knew he applied for another job. My cousin called me and asked did I know someone named Tim that worked at my company. Once I told him I knew Tim, I asked why did he want to know. My cousin told me that he liked Tim and wanted to ask around to gather more information about him.
After: I hurried to the break room after I clocked out and spotted one of my favorite co-workers emptying his locker that was filled to capacity. Tim, who started the same day as me, had been applying for jobs since we began. He went six months without hearing back from anyone, but had an interview with an oil and gas company about a month ago. As soon as I got close enough where our words could go unheard, I whispered, “Why are you packing your things with a sense of urgency?” Tim looked around then cracked a grin and responded, “Why do you think?” Once I remembered that he didn’t know I knew about his interview, I muttered, “How am I supposed to know?”. My cousin Spencer, who I hadn’t heard from in three years, called me on my birthday last week and asked a million questions about Tim without even telling me happy birthday. After I gave my cousin the news that he was looking for, he said his company was considering making Tim an offer for a position that paid double of what he was currently making.
Aside from eliminating the overuse of “Tim” “Once” and “Ask/asked”, sentences and scenarios were enhanced. When you eliminate repetitiveness you create the opportunity to enhance your writing by using new words and combining weak sentences.
A perfect example of a weak sentence in the first paragraph was “My cousin called me and asked did I know someone named Tim that worked at my company.” Strengthening that sentence in the second paragraph gave the reader an opportunity to know a little backstory of the cousin’s relationship with the main character, the sense of urgency that Spencer had to find out about Tim, and Tim’s chances at landing the new position.
Enhancing a situation could provoke the reader’s emotions. By including how long Tim had been looking for a job, the reader may begin rooting for him on his journey to find a new opportunity. If he doesn’t get the job you have a chance to create conflict and entice the reader to wonder what is going to happen next. Also, creating a reason why Tim doesn’t get the job will enhance your creativity.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope that these strategies will help strengthen your writing skills.