Monday, 31 August 2015

A Roadmap of Action

I’ve had what feels like an unproductive week. When I say unproductive, what I mean is that I’ve not written many words. That’s the problem with writing. A good measure of whether you’ve done any writing is to count how many words you’ve written. The more you’ve written the more productive you’ve been.

Of course, quantity does not equal quality, but at least with quantity you have the opportunity to edit your way towards some quality - that’s the ethos behind the ever-popular NaNoWriMo event held every November. (Get 50,000 words written during the month of November and you’re a good two-thirds of your way into the first draft of a novel - so you’re more likely to finish the first draft, giving you something to edit.)

But, even though I’ve not written many words this week I have still been busy. I’ve been planning. I’ve been:

- researching who to ask for help for my next article in my Business of Writing column in Writing Magazine (and then I’ve asked for that help),
- reading a biography for a book idea I’m developing,
- researching publishers for another book idea I have,
- processing photos from my Scottish holiday the other week, and identifying any useful images that may help secure some pitches,
- pitching ideas to editor and creating new angles for new article ideas,
- sorting out some workshops I’m running in Leeds at the end of September (there are still places available - check out for more details)
- planning the next few scenes in the current chapter of a novel I’m writing.

It’s only when I stop and look at this list that I realise I have been more productive than I originally thought. All these things are helping me progress my projects further, and get them to a stage when I will be writing something.

The planning part of our writing projects is vital. I’m not just talking about plotting some fiction, or structuring a piece of non-fiction - I’m talking about the practical steps we have to take in order to move our project one step forward.

Every time you start a new project sit down for a few minutes and list the steps you need to take to get started. Perhaps you need to research a subject. Perhaps you need to research potential markets. Perhaps you need to make a few pitches. Whatever it is, be specific. Don’t write: Do research. Research what? Research where? Research how?

Instead, write: go to the library and research which books will be useful to read on the subject of XYZ.

That’s much more specific, which means you’re more likely to do it. And that’s what will get your project moving. That’s what will get you closer to the writing stage.

Planning is the roadmap to completing our writing projects. We don’t like it because it doesn’t feel like writing. But without it we’re less likely to get our writing projects started, and therefore less likely to get to the writing stage, and therefore, ultimately, finished.

Good luck.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I think we're all a bit guilty of not realising we have been busy on the writing front, even without writing any words. This is why I like lists so much, and also have an old fashioned diary to hand, where all writerly tasks are written daily.

    If I'm having a bad week, I look back, and then my logical brain tells me its not been nearly as bad as I thought...