For those that don’t know, November is NaNoWrMo (National Novel Writing Month). Thousands of people will be picking up their pens to write that book they have been planning for years. Maybe you are thinking about starting that first novel or perhaps just want to write more words, more often for your blog or university/school work. This post will breakdown a few tips and tricks that I have learnt whilst doing my PhD.
For the past two years, I have been writing about 10,000 words every six to eight weeks for my PhD supervisions. It can be pretty intense and when I had just started the PhD, I was often rushing to get things done, staying up late, and getting up far too early to meet deadlines. Over time, I have got better at writing by simply learning what makes my writing sessions more productive and less stressful. For more on productivity, check out this post.
1. Know what you want to write
I’m sure everyone’s English teacher at school advised you to plan your essay before you start. It might be boring advice, but it is excellent advice. If you don’t know what you want to talk about or the angle that you plan to take with your blog post/essay/whatever, it is going to be much much harder to write. Personally, I find that my ideas develop as I write – it is part of my process – so I’m not suggesting that you should have every sentence thought out. Just take some time to think ahead and you’ll save yourself hours in the long run.
2. Just write something, anything!
When you are trying to write, few things are more terrifying than the blank page. Although I think planning can really help, at some point you have to start writing so just go for it. Don’t overthink things and just get some words out! We are all guilty of trying to craft the perfect sentence or paragraph, of agonising over every word, of deleting and rewriting over and over again. I try not to re-read whilst I’m writing; instead, I just get as many words out as I can and then edit later. For the first draft, any words are better than no words.
3. Set (sensible) goals
When I have a deadline approaching, everything (even cleaning the bathroom or taking out the bins) seems more appealing than writing. I have to persuade myself to write, and I do this by setting myself a goal for the day. It is important to make the goal acheivable but not super easy: I tend to go for 500 words as I can usually manage it even when inspiration isn’t flowing. Then tell someone your goal, like a friend, colleague, or partner. You’ll then have someone to hold you accountable and to celebrate with! The prospect of writing seems so much less daunting when you know exactly what you want to acheive that day.
For some people writing comes naturally but for others (myself included!), it can take time to learn what makes you a more productive and happier writer. These three tips have improved how I work and made writing a much more pleasent process.