So you want to write more and not less?
Don’t we all. We wake up every morning ready to write more, wanting to write more, but so often life gets in the way… and you get to bed that night not having written much at all.
Trust me, I’ve been there. Just this past Monday a phone call completely changed the whole trajectory of my day, and I had to make up for lost time later on.
Many people have asked me over the years how I manage to write so much, how I manage to draft one novel after another and write so many stories for Medium. Many think I have all day to work on my writing, when such is definitely not the case.
The thing is, no matter your schedule, you absolutely have the ability to create a better work ethic when it comes to your writing. In fact, you can develop a killer work ethic if you try!
Here are five things I do often that might help you in your writing journey…
1. Develop a writing schedule and stick to it.
This is the key to success as a writer. It’s figuring out a schedule for when you’re going to write and how much you’re going to write, and sticking to that schedule every single day.
As soon as you deviate from the schedule, you might deviate more in the days to come, and you might stop writing completely because essentially you’ve given yourself permission to step away from your rigid schedule.
Here’s the thing about developing a writing schedule: you need to figure one out that works best for you.
When I write my novels, I typically write 2,000 words a day every day until the first draft is done. This number is intimidating for some, so starting at 1,000 words a day or even 500 words a day might work better for you.
When I write articles for Medium, I aim for 800 to 1,000-word stories, at least three a day. This also might be too much, so aim for one new story a day, maybe at something closer to 600 to 700 words.
Your writing schedule is totally up to you, and of course feel free to push yourself harder if your current schedule is working well or pull back a little if you can’t find yourself reaching the minimum word count.
Whatever you do, stick to your schedule every day, and you will absolutely find yourself writing more.
2. Create deadlines for yourself.
Going beyond the writing schedule, you need to come up with deadlines to make your work ethic truly take off in ways you didn’t think it could.
This is especially helpful for longer writing projects. It’s not enough to simply create your daily writing schedule. You need to look far off in the future to see what possible date you might be able to reach THE END.
For example, this past summer I wrote the first draft of my twentieth novel. I started it on June 3, 2019, and I decided that day I would finish the novel on July 3, 2019.
One month to write the book, and to do that, I needed to write more than 2,000 words a day. So I actually aimed for 2,500 words a day at first, and then by week three, I was nearing or even going over 3,000 words a day. One day I even reached 4,000 words!
On July 3, I wrote the epilogue chapter and reached THE END, on the exact day I was hoping to finish the manuscript. The first draft came in at 81,000 words, about 5,000 words longer than I had hoped it’d be!
I was able to do this by coming up with a writing schedule, sticking to it, and keeping my firm deadline in mind always.
3. Plan your writing a day or even a week ahead.
This is kind of similar to developing a writing schedule and creating deadlines for yourself, but going a step further, what helps me maintain my killer work ethic is figuring out always not just what I’m writing today but also what I’m writing tomorrow, and even the next week or month.
Over the summer I figured out exactly what I wanted to work on in my fiction for the rest of 2019. That’s right — way back in August I figured out my writing projects, to the week, through December.
For example, on Monday I start the second draft of my new novel I finished over the summer, and I’ve planned on six weeks to complete it. I didn’t just randomly decide on Monday, October 14 to begin the second draft. I’ve had that date in mind since August!
I always feel more confident about my work ethic when I know what’s coming up. When I know what I’m working on tomorrow and next week. It actually gets me more excited when I have a clear idea of what’s on my writing plate next.
The absolute worst thing you can do for your work ethic is sit down at your desk in the morning without a clue what you want to work on. You’ll sit there, and you’ll sit there, and nothing will get done!
So plan ahead. Figure out what your next project is days, weeks, even months in advance.
4. Do everything you can to avoid procrastination and erase all distractions.
Another easy way to ruin your work ethic is to procrastinate. Is to focus on something else for five minutes or ten minutes or an hour or whatever that don’t do anything to help you reach your goal.
In 2019 we have so many distractions. There is just so much demanding your attention. Articles to read. Videos to watch. New television series to stream. The amount of content available to us now is insane.
You want to find pockets of your day to catch up on some of this content, of course. Don’t try to avoid it all completely, you’ll never be able to!
But what you need to do is push aside the distractions and procrastination during that sacred writing time by any means possible. For me, it’s turning off the Wi-Fi right before I begin my fiction writing. Or putting on some music that inspires me. Or signing out of all my social media sites before I begin.
You might think a five-minute break to watch a Youtube video isn’t much of a distraction, it’s just something to help you relax. But you know what happens after that? You click on a second video, and a third. Before you know it, a whole hour is gone, an hour you could have spent writing!
You won’t be able to avoid distractions all throughout the day, but if you have one hour, maybe two hours, to do your writing for the day, do everything you can to eliminate the distractions during that time so your work ethic can thrive.
5. Find your inspiration in other writers and creators.
Now this is a distraction you should embrace, not eliminate! Because reading the work of others that inspire you will actually do more for your work ethic than you know.
I write for at least 1–2 hours every day, seven days a week. I’ve been doing this for about a decade now. Some days this is easy for me to do. And other days it’s a whole lot harder.
What always helps keep me motivated through the hard times is finding inspiration in other writers and creators. It’s seeing the beautiful, harrowing work of others and wanting to push myself to do work just as good as them.
This is why I keep on average two to three books beside my bed. Nothing truly inspires me more to get my writing day started than 20 to 30 minutes of reading as soon as I wake up in the morning. I cherish this time of silence, this time of no screens.
I lose myself in a world for a short bit of time, and that process invites newfound creativity, newfound inspiration. It makes me want to do even better work in my writing hours to come.
Don’t waste time scrolling through social media when you first wake up. Spend more time finding writing that inspires you to write something amazing for the day. To do something that you can be proud of.
For me, reading a chapter or two of a really good book will do this always. But it might be something different for you.
Just don’t ignore the amazing writers and creators out there. Focusing on the work of others instead of the work of only yourself will actually help your work ethic improve in the weeks to come, I’m telling you!
Developing a killer work ethic won’t happen overnight. Just keep at it, and you will get there.
It took me awhile to really find my rhythm, find my groove. I struggled writing my novels in the beginning. In my twenties I was distracted so easily and days and weeks would go by with little writing from me to be seen.
But things got better. Especially when I knew I could start a long writing project… and eventually finish it.
And as the years went by I developed more and more strategies to help me get more writing done, to help find a work ethic that’s not only outstanding, but killer.
You can find that killer work ethic inside of you too. You just need to develop a writing schedule and stick to it, create deadlines for yourself, plan ahead, avoid distractions, and find inspiration wherever you can get it.
Again, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t reach the amount of words you wanted to write today, and don’t panic if you manage to miss a deadline here and there.
The important thing is to keep trying, and keep going. As long as you learn from your mistakes and never give up, eventually you will get there!
Brian Rowe is an author, teacher, book devotee, and film fanatic. He received his MFA in Creative Writing and MA in English from the University of Nevada, Reno, and his BA in Film Production from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He writes young adult and middle grade suspense novels, and is represented by Kortney Price of the Corvisiero Agency. You can read more of his work at his website, brianrowebooks.com.