So you’ve gotten to that sweet spot where you’re inspired, the creative juices are flowing, and you’re writing, writing, writing.. whether you’re in the middle of a writing sprint or doing NanoWriMo or just trying to finish this draft, one of the key things about writing is not to edit when you’re in the middle of getting your first thoughts down. So how do you focus your creative energy? A few ideas to keep from getting distracted by editing, research, and more.
- Leave placeholders for words on the tip of your tongue, or that synonym you’re not sure of. Stopping to think about exactly which word you want or going to go look up a definition can be distracting to the story you’re trying to write. Searching for that perfect word takes time, save this for the editing process, write down your sentence and keep writing. It might look silly to write something like ‘Bob clumsily opened the ‘thingamabobber’ but while your idea is fresh in your head, you’ve gotten ahead and written Bob meeting the antagonist and started a dialogue about the thingamabobber instead of sitting around and trying to figure out what you should call it and then losing focus. Once you figure out what the thingamabobber is called you can always go back and change the name. Another idea is to change the font color of these placeholder words to something that will stand out when you come back in the editing process, like a bright red.
- Use writing aids that won’t let you edit while you type or that will limit your time on distracting websites. ILYS lets you enter a word count target and you won’t be able to edit, let alone see what you’ve written until you’ve met that target goal. StayFocusd (Chrome and PC) and SelfControl (Mac) are great applications that help you stay focused on writing by not allowing your computer to access certain sites for a set amount of time.
- Don’t name any new characters during the flow process. Giving them placeholder names as well is a good tactic, but I find it helpful to give minor characters random plain names so I can attach unique bits of dialogue and description and I don’t get confused between each of them, then later during the brainstorming/ editing process, I can leisurely think about the perfect name for these characters later.
- Set aside time to goof off. It’s going to happen; the alluring depths of the Internet can turn researching a simple question into a spiral of looking at other things and then before you know it hours have passed and you haven’t written anything. A good strategy is to alternate between work and relaxing, setting a goal for either a time or a wordcount you want to reach before you can take some time. I really like the Pomodoro Timer, which automatically calculates an amount of time for work and a corresponding relaxing time, like twenty-five minutes of work to five for relaxing, and it varies the longer you use it. If you don’t like the ticking noise, Time Me is a great alternative with lots of customizable alarm noises, colors, appearances etc, and you can save the timer too.