Plus January Winners Announced!
It’s getting down to the wire. The 2014 ACFW Genesis Contest deadline is March 15th, just over a month away. My world is teeming with distractions, from homeschooling my 1st grader to dealing with my toddler’s tantrums. The only time of day I usually have to myself is after everyone has gone to bed, and by then I am exhausted and disoriented. This begs the question:
How do you focus when everything around you screams chaos? Here are 5 tips for staying focused while writing.
1. Turn off your word count
In the bottom left hand corner of Microsoft Word, there is a little word counter . As I tend to obsess over things, I found myself constantly glancing at that number, which only made me more frustrated. What? I only wrote 200 words in thirty minutes?
I decided to right click on that little number and turn it off. It was a distraction. Constantly looking at my word count wasn’t making it go up. Now I have a rule: I look at my word count when I sit down to write and then I turn it off. I write for an hour and at the end of the hour I get to check that number. You wouldn’t believe how fast my count shot up! Turning off my word count helped me focus on the task at hand by eliminating this pesky distraction.
I know, it may sound cheesy, but I promise it works. If you don’t have Spotify, get it! It’s free for PC and you can make as many playlists as you want. I have several playlists for my novel from the music on my main character’s iPod to a special playlist for climatic moments. I also have a theme song which I listen to at least three times before I dig into my made up world. I close my eyes and imagine my novel as a movie. I see the characters in their worlds and the struggles they go through. Call it an imaginary montage, if you will. Doing this gets me excited about my writing,, and reminds me of where I’m going and what I want to accomplish.
3. Create your own routine and stick to it
Many a published author has mentioned this, but I’m going to say it again. Come up with your own special writing routine. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to write during the same block of time everyday. Instead, do the same things every time you write.
My schedule changes from one day to the next, so I don’t have the luxury of setting aside a certain time of day. When I do sit down to write, however, I always write in the same place (my bedroom) and surround myself with the same things (my notebook, a cup of something hot, and a special treat like a cookie or, as I’m watching my calories right now, a Fiber One Bar). These little things give me something to look forward to. I choose to write in bed because I love the atmosphere of my room, from the lighting to the wall color. I don’t do well sitting at a desk, and my toddler doesn’t do well with it either. Most of the time she will sit next to me on the bed and watch Barney (yes, that’s a Boppy pillow in the background, aka her special spot) while I write (with my headphones on jamming to my novel soundtrack, of course).
4. Write everyday and never edit until you’ve written “the end”
I know, you’ve heard this a million times, but I know from personal experience if I don’t write every day, without exception, I lose focus. This may mean writing a sentence or several pages, but the point is to write something every day, even if it sucks.
I have also been working on not editing my first draft until it’s done. This is a huge challenge for me as I am a perfectionist at heart. I have found, though, that if I go back and edit I end up getting stuck. I spend hours scrutinizing one or two pages, often halting and even depleting my word count in the process. My suggestion is to keep a notebook handy so when your brain comes up with little changes or additions you can write them down. This way, when you do finally finish and are ready to edit, all those little ideas and changes are right where you need them, just waiting to be made.
5. Enter Contests
Contests are an excellent way to gain professional feedback on your WIP (work in progress). Contests can also provide that little extra boost you need to keep going. Don’t get me wrong, not everyone will love your work, but so far I’ve found that every judge will at least give some kind of positive feedback. It may be a little, or it may be a lot, but in the end it’s something.
Judges are professionals who have, at one time or another, been where you are. Their goal isn’t to destroy your writing dreams, but to help you reach them. That doesn’t mean you should chop up your manuscript just because one judge hates it. It does mean taking a serious look at the feedback and deciding what to use or discard. If more than one judge points the same thing out, it’s usually a good idea to pay attention to that comment or suggestion. I can’t tell you how valuable my contest experiences have been. Contests give me a chance to have fresh eyes take a look at my work from an unbiased point of view.
Seekerville has been a wonderful resource for me as an aspiring writer, offering me encouragement and tips on my journey to publication. Each month they post a contest update. Check out the Contest Update for February here.
How do you get in the writing zone and stay focused? Do you have a special routine or tip you can share? I always love hearing from you! Until then, happy reading!
Yours in Messiah Yeshua,
And the winners are…
LuAnn W., you won a copy of Kirk Cameron’s Unstoppable DVD!
Torey K., you won a copy of Every Day a Blessing!
Christen K., you won a copy of God’s Little Princess Bedtime Devotional!
Congratulations to all the winners! To stay updated on the latest giveaways and reviews, subscribe to my site and newsletter in the sidebar.
*Prizes will be mailed to the address you provided upon entering the giveaway.