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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Prep Yourself for Writing Productivity

Find a cool journal to help keep track of your ideas. 

The kids are back in school and that also means back to their after school sports and other extracurricular activities. Because I work from home, I usually try to prep some of our meals and items for lunch ahead of time so I’m not scrambling to throw something together each evening in the 30 minutes we have in between stops. I use the crockpot a lot and bake things like mini quiches and muffins for extra snacks. As I was making a big pot of soup this afternoon, I started brainstorming about the ways one could prep their writing projects in a similar fashion. Whether you are just trying to get back into your writing groove or trying to tackle a manuscript revision, here are some ways you can prep yourself for writing productivity.

First, start out small.

Spruce up your writing space, or at least declutter. Yes, I know this can be a slippery slope. Writers are famous for reorganizing an entire room before tackling a writing project. But I simply can’t write at home if my desk is a mess and the room is too dark. So file the bills, set up an inbox, hang a bulletin board, and make sure your space is one that you won’t try to avoid because you’re afraid a pile of papers will topple over on your laptop. If your schedule is a little more “on the fly,” you can carry a notepad with you like novelists Elin Hilderbrand and Kristin Hannah do or dictate notes into an app on your phone. The point is, have your tools at the ready.

Scan your hard drive or file folders. We all have them—essays we’ve written for possible submission to anthologies or magazines. Print out a few that you haven’t looked at for a while and put them in your inbox on your desk or writing space. Look over them with a red pen and think about ways you can repurpose or edit. I recently found an opening page to a story I took to an SCBWI conference three years ago. I’m printing it out and putting it in my inbox so I can continue it.

Break up the monotony. Print out a list of writing prompts that intrigue you. Even if you only have 20 minutes, working on a short response will also help get the creativity flowing again. Make a playlist of songs (instrumental or not) to play while you’re writing. Outline an idea for a new short story or novel.

Research. Just like any good chef spends time researching recipes, research before you write. This could be looking up possible markets for submission, printing out a news article that inspired you in some way, looking up books that compare to your own manuscript, etc.

Tackle the hard stuff—a little at a time. Although I hate sacrificing the paper and ink while I’m still in rough draft stages, I’ve found I do more work on a manuscript if I have a printed copy of the latest version on my desk. (I do not right now, hence the screeching halt on the editing). Round up a few beta readers and send them a few opening chapters or a piece you are thinking about submitting for feedback.

How do you prep for writing? What would you add to this list? Do you feel like there are certain “ingredients” that help propel your writing forward? I’d love to hear about them!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who is happy she has a teen daughter who has already volunteered to be a beta reader.


  1. Renee--If I'm continuing to work on a project from a previous day, I'll reread what I've already written (when it's a shorter piece).

    Putting my butt in my chair is the first thing I need to do. ;)

    I'm looking forward to hearing how your book is coming along, now that the kids are in school...

  2. Believe it or not, I've never made a quiche. There's this post and the other post where you guys are all talking about how quiche is your easy go-to meal. If I'd have known it was so easy to make, I'd be making them all the time!

    What I find really helps me write is moving to a different space. I do all my work work (articles, emails, newsletters, artwork) on my iMac in a dedicated office, but for creative writing, I like to use my laptop and write in bed right when I get up (lazy, I know, but it totally jump starts my creativity), and later in the afternoon I'll take it to our backyard, poolside. I use Google docs because my Word license expired on my laptop, but Gdocs is nice because I can quickly switch computers and pick up where I left off.

    I'd warn against too much research. Every time I research I end up going down a rabbit hole, moving from one topic to the other, and never returning to my project. =/


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