One of the biggest challenges fiction writers face is self-discipline. Although there’s no magic listicle that will get your novel done for you, here’s a list of things that will empower you on your journey.
1. Make space in your day
Some of the greatest writers historically — such as Sylvia Plath and Anthony Trollope — have risen at 05:00 to practice their art.
This is a popular time of day for writers because it’s quiet and the ‘real world’ hasn’t woken up yet.
If you’re not a morning person, think about other ways you could dedicate a decent amount of time to your writing desk. If you commute, you could spend some time writing on the train.
ApolloPad allows you to work offline and saves your work as soon as you get signal again — so you won’t have to worry about losing anything in a tunnel.
Aside from dedicated writing time, it’s also important to just take meditative time for yourself to think. Consider when you allow your mind to slow down and relax and let ideas spontaneously flow. For me, some of my best ideas crop up in the shower.
Taking time to think about writing is sometimes just as important as getting the words down.
2. Time your writing
Sometimes you need to put a bit more pressure on yourself to get results. Try this — set a timer for 30 minutes on your phone or a good old-fashioned egg timer.
During this time, focus your attention solely on your work and write as much as you can in 30 minutes.
Even if what you’re writing isn’t relevant to your project and most of it’s nonsense, a phrase might jump out and surprise you.
If you’re using that 30-minute burst toward your project, it’s a great way to boost your word count for the day.
3. Screen detox
Here’s a sickening thought — it takes around 25 minutes for your brain to regain its focus on a task after an interruption.
This includes screen distractions. How often do you check your phone when you get a social media notification?
Do you have the TV on in the ‘background’ while you write?
Two of Stephen King’s top 20 rules for writers are to avoid distractions and to turn off the TV. Try putting your phone on flight mode and ditching Netflix for your writing session and see how much focus time you get back.
ApolloPad is your exception to the no-screen rule. With its distraction-free interface, you’ll be able to stay centered on your important writing time.
4. Train your brain to be creative
This sounds like an odd one, but it’s actually possible to train your brain to get you in a creative mood with cues.
Do you have a pre-writing ritual? You might even have one already without realizing — something you do before writing that you just wouldn’t feel right not doing.
Rituals give your brain a cue to associate that activity with the act of writing and get you in the zone.
Maybe, like Toni Morrison, you get up and sip your coffee as you watch the sunrise. Perhaps you get up and do some specific stretches like you’re preparing for a race. Or maybe you simply put on some really good headphones with some music that inspires you to write.
Whatever ritual works for you, utilize it. As Stephen King says, a ritual is “a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon.”
5. Take a notebook everywhere
Every writer gives this advice because it’s true. Making sure you have something to jot your ideas on at all times is one of the most important things you can do as a writer.
I always make sure I at least have a pen and a little notepad kept in my jacket pocket for any project ideas that may come to mind.
ApolloPad works everywhere — on your desktop, your laptop, your tablet and your phone.
It also allows you to have multiple projects, so if you suddenly have a lightbulb moment about a completely different piece, not to worry. It won’t interfere with what you’re currently working on.
6. Learn from your favorites
In a recent update on her website, J K Rowling admitted she has a rebellious streak and she doesn’t like any set of rules that claim to guarantee success.
However, she gave some general advice for things a writer won’t get very far without, and one of the most important points was making the time to read.
If you’re not sure what you want to write, read and notice writing techniques you admire.
Return to an old favorite book and read it actively this time — make some notes in the margins. Notice how they’re using language to evoke the kind of feelings you want to evoke in your readers with your work.
Then try to apply these techniques to your own writing. Rinse and repeat and you’ll notice you start to find your own voice.
If you’ve got the age-old ailment writer’s block, having a break from writing to read and research is also a great way to generate ideas for material. The research stage of your novel is not one to be brushed over.
With ApolloPad, you can make notes in context. This allows you to write your research notes and to-do list and upload reference images right into your text. It will display alongside your work, without getting in the way.
7. Have experiences
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
To be a writer, you have to live. It might feel like slacking off, but not spending all of your free time reading or writing isn’t slacking off at all. It’s giving your brain time to process ideas.
It’s also giving you the freedom to go out into the world and get inspired.
In her inspiring and widely popular book about creativity, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron recommends taking yourself on an “artist’s date” once a week.
This means taking yourself out to do something on your own, once a week, without fail.
You might not get to do this every single week, but keep it in mind as an important part of the creative process. What’s something you keep meaning to find the time to do?
You could go to a life drawing class, go to a gallery, or simply go for a walk in nature. Whatever you choose, sometimes the most productive thing you can do is step back from the page and give your brain some stimuli.
8. Clean up your workspace
I’m sure you’ve had a parent say the phrase “tidy room, tidy mind” to you in the past and maybe you’ve rolled your eyes.
The same principle applies to your workspace. Get rid of those coffee cups with the dark rings on the bottom and the empty packets from your necessary writing snacks.
You’ll be amazed how relieved you feel when you’ve got a clear desk in front of you and how much mental space it clears.
Did you know you can customize your ApolloPad theme however you like? As well as being able to choose from multiple corkboard styles and choose a dark or light theme, you can take even more control with custom CSS.
Your workspace, your way.
9. Get to know your characters
Let’s get psychoanalytical on your characters and bring them to life. Writing analytically about your characters is a great way to ultimately get more done on your project.
After all, it’s the characters who drive the story. A lot of successful writers talk about how eventually, their characters just start speaking to them or almost writing the story themselves.
That’s because their creator knows them really well.
Is there any background behind your protagonist’s name? What do they look like? What are their ambitions, fears and quirks? You can answer all of this and more with ApolloPad’s character profiles.
10. Set a word target and a deadline
A lot of us need to feel accountable for how much we write. You’ll stay on target with ApolloPad with word-counting and visible progress.
It’s great to write when you feel inspired — but, half the battle is having the self-discipline to meet your writing targets every day or every week.
The ApolloPad dashboard will even analyze your performance over time and tell you when your most productive day and productive hour is.
You’ll be able to notice what day you were the most creative and productive — maybe you did something that day that sparked your imagination and you’ll be able to recreate that in the future.
Whatever advice you do or don’t take away from this, we’re rooting for you to get that project done.