Staying Focused

For the last few weeks we’ve been discussing how to deal with various disturbances in your writing. We’ve discussed family interruptions, technological interruptions, school/work interruptions and even writer’s block.

Today we’re going to discuss one of the most important things any writer can do, especially when working on a book length project: staying focused.

For most people, staying focused–especially for the amount of time required to complete a novel–is no easy feat. In a world that’s all about instant gratification, it’s hard to keep your focus and to stick with a project that might provide no gratification at all. But as writers, that’s what we have to do. If you don’t want to hunker down and get focused on a project that admittedly might never make you a dime or see the light of day, go do something else.

So how do you stay focused? I use a simple three step process, and while it’s not perfect, it keeps me on track most of the time.

1. Figure out your focus. Choose a project to work on and commit to finishing it by a certain date. Be specific. Is this going to be a novel-length project or a series of poems? Often a lack of focus is a symptom of being too vague about your goals. As any motivational writer will tell you, it’s much easier to stay focused on a specific, measurable goal. So be as specific as you can when choosing what you’re going to focus on in the coming months.

2. Make a plan. Now that you know what project you’d like to focus on, make a plan to complete it. Take a look at the deadline you’ve specified and how long you want your project to be. How many days between now and then do you have? How much would you have to work on the project each day to finish it by the deadline? Is it a reasonable amount of work? If not, you might have to adjust your deadline.

Make sure that you include all kinds of work in your estimate. If it’s a first draft, writing might be the only thing you need to do, but on the second draft you might have to write some new scenes as well as edit the old ones. If it’s an ebook you plan on self publishing or a website you plan on launching, you’ll probably want to do some advance marketing.

Give yourself a reasonable deadline based on how much work you can be expected to do each day, then start planning your time. Are you going to spend an hour a day editing your novel? Or are you going to spend one day editing and the next marketing? Decide how to organize your time and write down your plan.

3. Eliminate distractions. This is actually what we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks, and it is perhaps the most important thing. Now that you’ve carved out time to work on your project and figured out how to use that time, it’s your job to defend that time. This part involves saying no to people and creating strategies to deal with the distractions you’re most susceptible to.

The easiest way to do this is by scheduling time to work on your chosen project each day and making sure nothing interferes with that plan. Make it a habit to write at the same time every day. That way it’ll become routine and soon you won’t have to think about it, you’ll just write at that time each day.

Conclusion

This may seem like an over simplification and maybe it is, but I think keeping the focus to finish a project depends entirely on these three things. In fact, I argue it could even be simplified to two things: make a plan and stick with it. It’s a simple concept in theory that becomes incredibly complex when you try to implement it, but if you follow those two rules–no matter what it takes–sooner or later you’ll have a finished project.

And that will be worth all those hours of hard work, right?

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About Dianna Gunn

I am a freelance writer by day and a fantasy author by night. My first YA fantasy novella, Keeper of the Dawn, is available now through The Book Smugglers Publishing.

Posted on April 8, 2013, in Goal setting, Inspirational, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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