My tricks for more productive writing

Lately, I’ve started getting back into the mindset of wanting to push out higher word counts on a daily basis. There’s no secret to why – I’m working on a novel again (see front page sidebar for writing status on Chrysalis, which I update every few days. Chrysalis is intended to be the introductory novel for my character, Niki Hunter). The last few days especially, I’ve seen my word counts jump from a few hundred a day to a few k a day.

To be fair, the last few days I’ve also been off from work and without much in the way of commitments, unless you count going to the movies or taking the kids to Pokemon a hard pressing engagement. These are, however, the things that have worked for me.

  1. Tunes. Preferably something with a strong drum tempo and low word count. I prefer either Hans Zimmer (Man of Steel, Dark Knight, or the Sherlock Holmes soundtracks) or Bear McCreary (Battlestar Galactica reboot – I have them all). I find my fingers pounding in tune to the tempo, and I like that.
  2. Typing effect. Yeah, it’s arcane and stupid, but I’ve found that the sound of typing – especially when it corresponds to letters appearing on my screen – helps fuel my writing. The nice thing is that there are a lot of options here – you have FocusWriter, which can handle text and ODT files and has typewriter sounds built in. Or you can get something platform specific, like NoisyTyper on the Mac, that turns every keystroke into a typewriter sound.
  3. Actively counting words. I’ve loved Jamie Rubin’s scripts for word counting and spreadsheet updating without muss or fuss. Every time I change toolsets and workflows, I write helper scripts to keep the spreadsheets updated. The problem I’ve had lately, in addition to finally finding a tool that doesn’t meld well, is that the same thing that makes these scripts great – the lack of human intervention – also makes them less than ideal for mental tallies. Instead, I’ve gone back to an old spreadsheet format I used to use, which let’s me record daily writing updates on the novel and returns how many words I’ve written. This is not for everyone, or probably even for most, but for me the manual process of updating my word count serves the function of  reminding me how much I’ve done and how much more I might need to do. Programs like Scrivener or Storyist, if that’s your thing, can do this for you automagically. In my quest to be more platform agnostic, I’ve been working in LibreOffice lately, making for some more manual efforts.
  4. #1k1hr – this twitter hashtag, when used, has helped me produce more words than I ever thought possible. The notion is simple. Announce or search on twitter, and then with or without others, start writing for exactly 60 minutes. I don’t know if it’s the time constraint or what, but I’ve had great success with this. There is no winning or losing, but the focusing for an hour on just the one thing – writing – can be exactly what you need sometimes.

These are the tricks that seem to help me. Of course, nothing beats just sitting ass in chair and writing. I hate using the expression, but these are like productivity hacks that work for me. Give a few a try. Worse case, you can leave me a comment somewhere telling me how awful it turned out and then my secret plan to figure out who my readers are will have begun to hatch.