Five Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Writing Sessions

This guest post is by Tina Blain, a writer who lives in England. Tina is the author of the email series, Story Simplicity, which helps writers finish their projects. You can also follow her on Facebook. Thanks for joining us, Tina!

I can’t tell you how many times I have started a story and not finished it.

Now, I don’t expect to finish absolutely everything that I start because ideas fade and change and “better” ones come into play. However, I do think that not making the most out of my writing sessions has been a hindrance to my writing.

So, I’ve come up with my own little check-list of questions, which if I can answer yes to all,  helps me to be a more productive writer.

Writing Plan

Photo by Marya

#1 Am I committed to this piece of writing?

I’ve come to understand that if I’m not 100% committed to exploring my idea and finishing the piece, then I rarely finish it.

Are you 100% committed to what you’re working on at the moment?

#2 Am I in a good writing spot?

I have two favourite writing spots which I find very comfortable and allow me focus solely on my writing. One is a cosy corner in my house where I have my desk and writing clutter. The other is in a café around the corner between 14:00 and 16:00 on the weekdays.

Do you have a favourite writing spot?

#3 Have I minimised distractions?

To really focus, it’s good to find a place where you have as few distractions as possible.

My main distraction at home is access to the internet, where one quick search for something leads me into an ‘internet fog’ where after 30 minutes I suddenly realise I’m looking at nothing in particular. So I close all my browsers and only have my word document open for my writing session.

Do you make a conscious effort to minimise distractions before you start writing?

#4 Do I know the objective of my writing session?

For me, one key to my productivity is having a clear idea of what I want to achieve by the end of my writing session before I begin e.g. finish chapter three.

Through practice, I now know how long on average specific tasks take me to complete and this helps me to better plan my writing time. For example, it usually takes me 1 hour to get a good first draft of a plot. So this I know I  can fit into a short writing session in my local café. Tasks that take me longer to complete probably wont be a good choice for a session in this spot.

#5 Will I need a break?

I know it may seem obvious but taking regular breaks from writing can be really beneficial. For me, intense, marathon writing sessions do not always result in my best work!

How do you get the most out of your writing sessions?

PRACTICE

Make a plan for your next writing session.

Make a list of the next few things that you want to work in with your work in progress (e.g. make a plot outline, brainstorm personality traits for your main character, or write chapter three). Then, before you begin, ask yourself the five questions above before you start and see if they help you to focus and get more out of your writing session.

If you’d like to share your plan in the comments section, please do!

About Tina Blain

  • Marianne Vest

    This is a great thing for me to read right now. I’ve decided to try a novel (it scares me to even write that). I’ve got most of a plot (my achilles tendon) and am trying to decide weather to write for a certain amount of time per day or a certain amount of pages (leaning toward words to overcome #3 above.

    • I believe in you, Marianne. Just write a little bit every day. Before you know it, it will be done. I’m excited to read it when it is 🙂

    • Steph

      This is wonderful news, Marianne! I believe in you, too! Go get ’em!

  • This is so common sense it’s hard!
    I’ll need to hand this on the wall or tape it to my desk.

  • Cynthia

    Turns out setting a goal for thecwriting session works great. I find I can be more productive knowing the end game. Excellent ideas, Tina & Joe. FYI “secrets” post rocked!

  • I have learned (the hard way) that for me “break” MUST me “walk across the coffee shop and buy a drink” NOT “check Twitter.”

    Katie

    • YES. Agreed. I take too many of the wrong kinds of breaks some days.

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  • Meraz Al mamun

    This is a great blog posting about “Five Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Writing Sessions” . It is very enriched and very helpful information for all . By this article writing skills can be developed very much.
    So many many thanks to Tina.

    • You’re welcome. I’m pleased from the comments that the tips are useful!

  • Kathryn Vaughn

    This is so helpful. The story I am working on requires research into communal lifestyle of the 60’s. I have dedicated at specific amount of time for reading, followed by a period of writing interactions between the various characters. Then I plan to fuse all the parts together to create a young adult novel that compares that era with our current circumstances.

    • Sounds like a great and well thought out plan. I’m glad the post was helpful and all the best with your novel!

    • That sounds like a really well thought out, focused plan. Good luck and I hope it’s going well.

  • LKWatts

    Hi Tina,

    I am between books now – I finished my second one last week so now I need to polish it as much as I can before I send it off to a copy editor. As for starting my third book, I am a little nervous about that as I dread that part the most. Working on a book is great if you’re half way through or something but I find it daunting to actually magic one up out of the blue.

    • Wow. Congratulations for finishing your second book! That’s so exciting.

    • I second Joe’s comment – congratulations on finish your second book. I hope you’re proud of yourself 🙂 you deserve to be!

      I wish you all the best with the third too. I’m sure you have loads of good ideas in that head of yours… and it can be daunting to take the first step but I’m sure you can have fun teasing those ideas out!

  • Steph

    I have been thinking about this post for a while now. Numbers 3 & 5 seem to be my obstacles. Life, lately, is a distraction, which leads me to believe that a break may be in order. I am about a third of the way through my second novel. I am committed to the characters and the story, but I am not in the place to write regularly on it right now. So instead of beating myself up over something that I can’t control, I am going to shift my focus to my other goals of 1) continuing to practice as often as possible at this site (after all, I can usually find 15 minutes!) 2) enter every “Show Off” contest, for better or worse and 3) keep chipping away at the novel as time permits. The plot is outlined, the characters are developed, the book is there, but I don’t want to be absent from life in my pursuit of nailing it down.

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  • Mara3470

    What do you do when the writing distraction is your job? My job exhausts me to the point of not writing, which is really beginning to discourage me. I know, we all have our crosses to bear….

  • Julie

    I’m in trouble. There are at least thirty stories which need fine tuning, and I have a great idea for a new story. I don’t need NEW. I need OLD going out to reviewers/publishers or chapters concluded. Here comes the hard work. Is this dedicated practicing? So, every morning if I can’t write (that an excuse—I can write), I ‘edit’. You see, there’s a lot of unfinished business in Storyland. It’s like ironing: picking out the easiest piece to iron and leaving the three-foot pile until tomorrow. I find the most neglected story, and give it a good read. Most of the time I say to myself, “This is good!”

    Of course, it’s not good, or kind of good, and I don’t want to go back to my ‘chemo’ and ‘radiation’ days. But if humorous, it could work. I bring up my trusted, thesaurus site. Then in Word, I go to the ‘FIND’ option and type in the first,
    horrendous, passive verb I read – ‘had’. SIX in a 500-word-story. Unless
    it’s in dialogue or speaking about the dead, the ‘hads’ go. I continue the process which includes, ‘has’, ‘was’, ‘been’, ‘look’, ‘walk’, –you get the gist–all the lazy, passive verbs. I find this the hardest task in writing, and it often ends up with a lot of rewriting. My next mission is to delete all the rip-roaring ‘ly’ adverbs. I’m thinking if I get one story closer to ’finished’ then a reward tomorrow will be to start a new story.

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  • Jaye

    The internet is my biggest distraction. I’ve partially solved this by handwriting my first draft, so as to remove the internet entirely. Once I get to phase two of typing the handwritten draft, I may still get distracted online, but it’s less problematic since I already have the draft written…and by typing it out, I find that I’m editing as I type. The first typed draft automatically ends up as draft #2. Of course, what works for me may not work for other people. I also type by timed sessions, instead of trying to aim for a word count. Twenty minutes of writing will generally yield about 400-600 words for me once I type it up.

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