7 tricks I use to make myself write.

It’s hard to explain why people like me, who want to write lots of books, sometimes find it so hard to write a sentence. In honour of National Novel Writing month coming up in November, here are 7 things that help me:

  1. Planning when and what I’m going to write ahead of time.
  2. Breaking every enormous task into smaller units: drafts into acts, acts into chapters, chapters into scenes.
  3. Using a spreadsheet to track my progress. Assigning each scene or job a row, and watching the sheet change colour as I work through my draft. (Thank you, Rachel, for introducing me to this joy.)
  4. In Britain, we have a gameshow called “the Cube”. Contestants are given a series of difficult tasks and so many tries to get through all of them. They are allowed to simplify one task if they’re stuck. I pretend I’m the producers. How do I simplify my problem to give myself the best chance of moving to the next stage?
  5. Sometimes the question isn’t what is my next sentence? Sometimes it’s something technical you can look up or a place that exists in real life and you can find a picture.
  6. If I don’t feel like starting in the first place, I tell myself my first job is to turn on my computer and open my file. My next to write for just fifteen minutes – ten minutes if that feels too much. I set a timer. By the time the alarm goes off, I’m usually deep into my draft and happy to continue for a couple of hours. If writing is one big confidence trick it can be broken down into a set of individual slights of the hand.
  7. If I’m struggling to revise a scene, I can get it right later on. This pass, I just need to make progress.

There you are. I don’t have many more writing secrets than that. Good luck to everyone taking part in National Novel Writing Month.

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