Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed . ~ 2 Timothy 2:15

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How to become a more productive writer

I wasn't going to take the late night workshop. Two full days into the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, my brimming brain and tired body wanted only a comfy bed. I looked at the workshop title, "Top 10 Strategies for Becoming a More Productive Writer." I thought of all the time I wasted on Facebook and checking my email every few minutes.

"It's only and hour," I muttered, So I postponed jammies and a cup of "Sweet Dreams" tea and headed for the elevators. I was glad I went.

Presenter Joseph Bentz, author of seven books--three novels and four nonfiction--and full time professor, took away all my excuses for not doing what I sit at the computer to do: write.

Here are his tips, fresh from my notebook:

1. Make yourself sit at the computer even if nothing is happening. He called this "Winning the Battle of the First 20 Minutes." Setting rules for this time is crucial:
  • No email
  • No Internet
  • No Facebook 
  • No phone
  • No getting up
2. Let yourself play with ideas before you begin the formal writing.

3.  Start writing at the point in the project where you have the best ideas and feel the most confident.

4. Set reasonable goals and stick to them.  Determine a number of pages per day or hours per day that you will write. Make it a low number at first.

5. Write to discover your ideas.  Don't wait until you already know what you want to say to start writing. In this way, you can write your way through difficult areas.

6. Write youself a note at the end of you writing to indicate what you would have done next if you had continued.

7. Read as much as you can.  It will improve your writing.

8. Write down ideas as soon as they come to you.

9. Ignore the market.

10. Pay attention to the market.  The idea behind this apparent contradiction is that we writers, especially those of us still waiting for our first book contract, can get discouraged by the current market conditions and say, "Why bother?" But the stories within us beg to be told, and we are slave to the story that's wiggling, squirming, screaming to get out. At the same time, we must be aware of what's selling and shape our proposals and projects to fit the market's needs. Respond to the market, but don't let it control creativity. That was my interpretation, anyway.

OK, he gave more than 10:

11. Cultivate an "obsession" with your work-in-progress. Be with it everyday or it will start to fade, die, lose its edge. You'll lose the story world. Like a carbonated beverage that's been left open too long, it'll lose its fizz.

12. Let God do in you what each book is supposed to do.

13. Don't follow false deadlines. What are "false deadlines"? Those other authors set for themselves that don't fit you.

14. Don't waste time on envy of other writers.

Thank you, Professor Joseph Bentz, for your timely and practical tips. I enjoyed your workshop immensely. 

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