Where should I write? When should I write? How much should I write each day? Should I outline or should I wing it?
Those voices in your head reside on a crowded, noisy street where writers of every caliber (including me) are often found—asking the same questions.
I wish I had a spoonful of sugar to help this medicine go down, but here it is anyway: Your daily discipline will make or break you as a writer.
Manuscripts don’t don’t become books by your hoping for a series of productive writing days. I know. I’ve written 195 of them.
So here’s a humble offering of tips that work for me, in the hope that these may add fuel to your writing week.
Tips for Serious Writers
- Write in a life-giving place. When my writing cave was a hotel room or some other remote location, time away from my wife Dianna proved far less productive because I missed her. Nowadays, my writing cave is 100 feet from the house, so we’re together for meals or whenever I need a break or just want to see her. And when I’m done writing each day, she is my reward.
- Know your body clock. First thing in the morning is the best time for me to write, before anything else clouds my brain. What I write before noon is usually my best work, and the most I’ll complete all day. But do what works best for you. If you’re a night person, write at night.
- Write rested. Whether you’re a morning person or a night person, both, or neither, write when you feel most rested. But don’t wait until you’re completely cogent, coherent, and inspired or you may never get to the keyboard. You get better by flexing those writing muscles.
- Set daily milestones. I know how many pages I need to finish each day to make my deadline. If you keep track by number of words, fine. But monitor your progress for that satisfying sense of accomplishment—and, more importantly, to stay on a pace that keeps your deadline sacred.
- Tap into your muse. Ideas seem to hit me most often in the shower. Maybe the water stimulates my brain. I learned years ago to trust what some call the Muse. My muse is spiritual, that vital part of the creative subconscious I surrender to God. Foreshadowing and plot threads appear as I write. I may not be sure at the time why I include certain things, but later in the manuscript, the reasons become obvious. Whatever serves as your muse, learn where it resides and access it.
- Talk out your story. Many writers, primarily novelists, fear losing their creativity if they utter even a word of their story before getting it down. I find, however, that when I tell my story to someone I trust, I tend to expand on it, embellish it, flesh it out. See if that works for you.
- Jump-start the process instead of staring at a blank screen or page. Like stretching before exercise, I start my writing day with a heavy edit and rewrite of my previous day’s work. That seamlessly catapults me into today’s writing.
- Turn off your internal editor. Once you’re into the new day’s writing, leave its revision to the next day and get that first draft produced. Consider it a hunk of meat that can be carved later. If you’re editing while trying to create, you might stifle your creativity.
- Know when to stop. If things go well and I reach my goal before noon, I resist the temptation to try to knock out another batch of pages to make the next day easier. That’s it for the day. But on the other hand, if for some reason it takes till midnight to finish my pages for today, I stay with it. I don’t want to fall behind and be forced to write more tomorrow.
- Stay at the task. It’s easy to beat ourselves up for falling behind or not producing at the level we (or our editors) expect. The solution? Get your seat back in that chair and tell yourself yesterday is gone. Today is spilling over with fresh, pristine hours, and nothing—I mean nothing—will feel as good as actually doing the work. Poet Mary Oliver says, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I plan to write. How about you?
(c) Jerry Jenkins
Jerry B. Jenkins is a 21-Time New York Times bestselling novelist (including The Left Behind series) and biographer (Hank Aaron, Walter Payton, Billy Graham, and many others) with sales of over 70 million copies. He shares his little-known writing secrets with aspiring authors at JerryJenkins.com through in-depth guides (like this one on how to publish a book).
About Dead Sea Rising:
Nicole Berman is an archaeologist on the brink of a world-changing discovery. During her first dig in Jordan, she believes she has found concrete evidence of a biblical patriarch that could change history books forever. But someone doesn’t want the truth revealed. While urgently trying to connect pieces of an ancient puzzle, a dangerous enemy is out to stop her.
Order your copy online here.