Write More: 7 Tips for Dealing With Writing Distractions

Self-publishing authors have a lot to think about: writing, revising, editing, formatting, marketing, platform building, and the list goes on. In all of this flurry of activity, it’s entirely too easy to remember the task that is most important: writing!

Authors know this, but it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to focus on writing with everything an author has to juggle. Like the emperor with no clothes, authors are in danger of having no books!

Many authors are beginning to speak out about the implications of distractions on creativity and productivity. Here are some authors’ tips for staying on track with your writing.

1. Use old tech.

To keep him from being distracted by social media tasks, Bryan Cohen, author of Writer on the Side: How to Write Your Book Around Your 9 to 5 Job uses “old technology” with no Internet connectivity while writing.

He uses an Alphasmart Neo 2—a designated keyboard with a tiny e-ink-like screen that only allows for writing. It’s less than two pounds and powered by triple A batteries for hours of power, so it can be easily toted into a distraction-free zone.

Similarly, George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones, has been ribbed for using a “writing computer”—1 an ancient DOS machine loaded with WordStar 4.0 software from the ’80s to write his books. Have you seen the page count for the Game of Thrones series? Who’s laughing now?

2. Set limits for online time.

If using old tech is a bit too hardcore for you, consider social media timing tools to help you prevent social media time suck. Rescue Time will keep track of how you spend your time online and furnish you with a data report of your online activities, if you’re brave enough to go there. The free browser plug-in Stay Focusd can block websites for you when it’s time to get down to work, or enable you to set time limits for your social media time.

3. Do your two most important tasks first.

As an author, one of your two most important daily tasks is writing, right? Tim Ferriss, the author of the Four-Hour Work Week, does his two most important tasks before 11:00 a.m. each day. These tasks do not include checking email.

In fact, Ferriss does his to best to avoid checking and responding to email more than twice a day. Instead, he has an autoresponse message for his email account, indicating when he’ll be checking mail, so people know that his response won’t be instantaneous. He then batch processes his emails offline using Boomerang for Gmail and in the past, The Email Game. These tools can help you organize email messages by priority and set time limits for processing email.

4. Pare things down.

In an effort to determine what will work for author branding and book promotion, J.F. Penn, author of the Arkane Thriller series, has tried a wide variety of social media platforms. She often works 11-hour days to fulfil her “authorpreneur” tasks. In an attempt to carve out more time for writing, Penn has decided to let some of her social media platforms go, and has chosen, instead, to focus on the ones that bring her joy—her blog, The Creative Penn, her podcast, Twitter, and Google+. This is still a tall order for most of us, but the lesson here is that you can’t do it all—even if you’ve committed to 11-hour days.

5. Be strategic.

If you’re not sure how to pare down your social media engagement, Jason Matthews, social media consultant and author of How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks, All for Free believes in focusing on the “big three” social media plaftorms—your Amazon author page, Google+, and writers groups on Facebook. Social media sites constantly shift in popularity, and while Facebook appears to be falling out of favour with some authors, Matthews’ point is this: choose three social media sites to spend your time on, and make sure those sites will allow you to connect with your prospective readers.

You can be strategic about when you use social media sites, as well. For example, according to Pam Dyer, a top-50 social media power influencer at Forbes, Twitter users are more likely to see tweets on weekends between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m., so why not schedule important tweets during these times? Dyer lists popular social media sites with suggested times for using them at the Social Media Today blog.

6. Outsource.

If you’ve pared things down, become more more strategic, and find you still don’t have the time you need to write, take a page from Joel Friedlander’s book. Friedlander is the author of the popular self-publishing blog, The Book Designer, and he’s everywhere. How does he do it?

Friedlander has hired a virtual assistant, or VA, to help him with time-consuming social media tasks, like organizing guest posts and formatting and posting blog posts. J.F. Penn and Pat Flynn have also hired VAs, and Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen, hosts of the Sell More Books podcast, often make use of Fiverr for photo editing or ebook cover tweaking. Tim Ferris estimates that he saves 10 hours a week on minutia by using Task Rabbit to outsource tasks.

The Indie ethic is most certainly a DIY ethic. But DIY doesn’t mean DIA—doing it all.

7. Be accountable.

How do you know if you have enough time to write? One of the best ways to find out is to keep track of your daily writing progress. Women’s fiction author Jamie Raintree has designed a lovely Excel spreadsheet that can help you keep track of your daily word count. It’s free when you subscribe to her email newsletter.

Well known traditionally published authors produce on average between 250 and 5,000 words a day, and high achieving self-publishing author J.F. Penn will clock in at 2,500 words in a two-hour window of writing. Set your own daily or weekly word-count goal, and if you don’t achieve your goal, it might be time to try some of the steps described above.

There’s a prevailing theme here, isn’t there? Social media, email, and all things Internet, appear to be some of the main barriers to writing. I’ve managed to priortize my writing, at least for today. But it’s after 11:00 and my email beckons…

Image by Adventures of Pam & Frank

How to Write a Quality Book Fast

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by Corina Koch MacLeod
@CKmacleodwriter

There has been a bit of buzz recently about authors who can write a book collaboratively in six weeks or by themselves in nine weeks. How do they do it? 

Getting a book from idea to ebook can happen fairly quickly, particularly if you know how to create an efficient writing and publishing workflow (I wrote the first draft of the book on the left in about 10 hours and completed the rest of the process in nine weeks).

1. Have a System 

To get a book to publication quickly, it helps to know the essential steps in the idea-to-ebook process. As both an author and editor, I’ve discovered a few efficiencies that can save you time in the writing and publishing process.

Here are the steps as I follow them:

  • Collaborate (optional)
  • Brainstorm
  • Research
  • Organize
  • Draft
  • Revise
  • Edit
  • Add Images (optional)
  • Clean Up
  • Format
  • Proofread
  • Create a Cover
  • Publish

You don’t always have to follow these steps in order, but if your steps are orderly and logical, it’ll help you to be more efficient.

2. Use Efficiency Tools

You’ll be more efficient at writing books if you use the right tools for the job. Scrivener, for example, is a wonderful drafting tool that can help you organize a potentially unwieldy book. Trust me, it’s never good news to discover at the editing stage that your book’s structure isn’t working. If you use an organization tool like Scrivener early in the process, you can sort out any structural issues at the beginning, long before the editing stage (where they can become costly). Scrivener can benefit writers in other ways, too. (See Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast for more details).

It’s also worth noting that Microsoft Word is currently the best tool for the editing stage of your publishing process (I’m hoping that the creators of Scrivener will remedy that). You may not agree with me, but in Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast, I think I make a pretty good case for why you might want to have Word in your writer’s toolkit. I also recommend over 30 free and inexpensive tools that writers can use to create quality books efficiently.

A Caveat

It’s one thing to publish quickly, and quite another to publish well. Quality matters, and it’s important that you don’t sacrifice quality for speed. Your readers won’t care how long it took you to produce your book—but they will care whether your book is good. I believe that creating a quality book fast is within every author’s reach. Your “fast” might not be my “fast,” but there are ways to create better books faster.

Want to know more about how to create a quality book efficiently? Curious about how Scrivener and other tools can help you do that? Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast is a quick read, and you’ll find it on Amazon and  Kobo for $0.99 during NaNoWriMo. 



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Ramping Up to Writing: Dealing with Procrastination

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by Corina Koch MacLeod 

@CKMacleodwriter

SARK’s micromovement wheel

For anyone who suffers from writer’s block, timed writing is an effective technique for overcoming it – if you can actually find a timer, sit yourself down, take a deep breath, get your pen or fingers in the ready position and hit that metaphorical start button. But what do you do if you have a difficult time setting yourself up for writing? Will you do almost anything to avoid getting down to work?

Take heart. Most writers face the same struggle at one time or another. Many of them work at home with abundant distractions. Drab everyday tasks begin to look inviting when there is a blank page to face – there is always dish to wash, a floor to sweep, or a social media site to get lost in.

Why Do Writers Procrastinate?

What’s going on? Why do procrastination and writing often show up together? I think that every writer – novices and professionals alike – know that writing is hard work. Beginning means that you’re committing to a process that will occupy a reasonable chunk of time and a great deal of effort and discipline. However, distracting yourself with seemingly purposeful tasks (yes, that dishwasher does need emptying at some point), only delays the inevitable. So what’s a writer or a student of writing to do?

Make Procrastination Work for You

SARK, author of Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper suggests that writers need to create space for procrastination in the writing process. Rather than ignore the need to procrastinate (and then feel guilty by falling prey to it), writers need to find a way a way to make procrastination work for them. Her tool, humorously named the Micromovement Wheel of Delight, enables writers to identify and capture those tasks that help writers ramp up to writing. Here’s how it works:

  1. Identify your writing project. Record it in the middle of the wheel (see the image above).  
  2. List five or six tasks, or “micromovements” that relate to your writing project between the spokes of the wheel. This is key. Tasks like taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn or texting a friend do not relate to your writing project. Sharpening a pencil or doing a quick Google search on the writing topic do. Each task must be on topic and should take no more than five minutes.
  3. Pick any task and do it. Micromovements are small. Anyone can commit to a two-minute task. Continue until all the tasks are done. You are now closer to completing the writing project. If you have completed a wheel but you haven’t finished the writing project, create another wheel with six more tasks to complete.

Make it Manageable

SARK’s approach to dealing with procrastination acknowledges the psychology of the writer. Writing is a monumental task, yet every monumental task can be broken down into tiny movements. Writers can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment as they knock off those smaller tasks – all of which are designed to chip away at the bigger task. By thinking in terms of micromovements, you create, well, movement. Movement in the right direction.

You can use SARK’s micromovement wheel for nearly any task that seems too big to consider right now. If you learn to think in micromovements, you’ll have a valuable tool for conquering procrastination in all areas of life.

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