Welcome to the (un)official site for science-fiction and fantasy writer Bryan R. Durkin!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Writing Productivity Tips

I frequently browse the Absolute Write Water Cooler for a variety of reasons, mostly selfish ones (i.e. I want to learn something new that will help me in my attempt to establish a writing career). But every now and then, I find someone who's been in a situation similar to mine, and I get to offer my two cents' worth of advice.

Please note, I'm not claiming to be an expert here. I'm still VERY much learning how to be a good writer, and I don't really have much in the way of publishing credentials under my belt. That said, I've been writing seriously (working toward the goal of professional publication) for several years now, which is longer than many people.

So, in keeping with the theme I've been trying to establish over the past few posts, here are a few tips I offered someone the other day, when they asked how they could measure their productivity and continue to make forward progress with their work. This is by no means "expert advice," but it's worked for me over the years.

"Each person will measure "productivity" in different ways. As each one of us are different people, so each one of us will be different writers. Our level of "productivity" will vary.

For now, don't worry about "getting published." For every writer who's just starting out (and yes, having just finished your first novel, you're still just starting out), that's a long ways down the road. Realizing that can be discouraging. So don't focus on that. Some tips:

1.) You don't have to write every single day. In fact, I would advise NOT writing every single day. Your brain/mind/imagination needs a break every now and then. Holding yourself to unrealistic expectations will burn you out in short order.

2.) With the above in mind, you SHOULD try to formulate some sort of writing schedule. It doesn't have to be super ambitious to start with. Figure out what time of the day works best for you, and allot yourself a certain amount of time to write. Or, you can establish a word count goal. You may not achieve this goal every single time. That's okay. The main thing is, you got SOMETHING done.

3.) Stick to your schedule, as closely as you can with normal, everyday life. If you've already done your writing for the day, don't feel pressured to go back and write MORE. On the flip side, if you haven't done your writing for the day, you really should sit down and hack out at least a couple hundred words. You may not feel like it at the time (I frequently don't), but after you do it, you'll feel better for having done it. Also, you'll likely be more motivated to do it the next day.

Some people disagree with me on this point. "If I don't feel like writing, I can't force it. Whatever I write will be junk." Hey, let's face it, everything we write on a first draft is going to need revision ANYWAY, whether we forced it or we were the most inspired we've ever been. At least now you have it ON PAPER and that gives you something to work with.

4.) Find what motivates you to keep your schedule. For me, I keep track of how long I worked on my WIP each day, how many words I wrote, and how close I am to my final word count goal. Why? I'm motivated by charting my progress. I can SEE that I'm making ground, even when it may feel like I'm spinning my wheels. "Yesterday I was 53% of the way there. Today I'm 55% of the way there." May not seem like much. But don't worry. Tomorrow it'll be 56% or more!

I hope these tips help. They've worked for me. I've finished two novels and am working on a third, not to mention numerous attempts at query letters and synopsis writing. I've also finished a couple shorts. People are reading my stuff, so even though I'm not yet "professionally" published, it's progress!"

That's it for this time. Thanks for reading!


  1. These are good tips. Thanks for your comment on my guest post at Carissa Taylor's blog about YA romance!

    1. You're very welcome, and thanks for reading here, as well!