Six Secrets to Prolific Writing

Six Secrets to Prolific WritingPhoto license

Every writer would like to write more material of higher quality in less time. I’ve seen my own writing go from around a year to produce 10,000 words down to a couple of weeks. This first overview of how to write more comes from 25 years of writing off and on. After more research and many writing experiments, I’ll write another post like this.

What are the secrets to prolific writing?

1. Journal Daily

Set a word count goal of at least 1000 words a day. Make it higher if you can. If you have even the slightest desire to work on some writing other than your journal, do that instead. Even if the desire isn’t there and you start with journaling, be ready to jump ship at any time. If it’s a file you already started, go there. If not, let your journaling go off in the direction you want to write and then port it over to a new file when you’re written out.

2. Use Multiple Drafts

If you’re writing short pieces like magazine articles or blog posts, having several at each stage of the writing process gives you something to work on no matter what your mood.

Are you loaded with ideas? Add to your Writing Ideas or One Liners file.

Are you feeling talkative? Turn ideas into first drafts and work on those that are in progress.

Are you ready to work but your imagination isn’t on board? Work on second drafts. The material is already there. You only need to add and cut.

Have you been in a critical mood lately? It’s final draft time. Correct spelling, grammar, sentence structure and flow.

If you’re working on a book, the multiple draft process still applies. Many writers say you should pound out the entire first draft before doing any second draft work. The reasoning is that you’ll get bogged down perfecting your early story and never get the book written. That’s a good point, but if your imagination isn’t working for you what you’ll produce is imitation of formulaic writing.

A better way to tackle multiple drafts within the context of a single book is to always begin at the (current) end and do a bit of first draft work. If it isn’t kicking in, go to your second draft bookmark. I go low tech for file bookmarks and just insert “<second draft bookmark>” within the text. If that isn’t working either, go to the final draft bookmark and be the editor.

3. Shun Perfectionism

Nothing will kill your ability to be a prolific writer faster than trying to perfect your work before moving on.

When all of the basic ideas you wanted to write are in the file, call it the first draft. It doesn’t matter if it’s out of order, full of mistakes and notes, or the wrong length. Those are issues for other drafts.

Once your piece is in a sensible order and all of the ideas have been explored as far as you intended, call it the second draft. Editing is for the final draft. It’s at this point that I add the year to the file name for articles. They’re short enough that I can do the final draft editing when it’s time to submit them. It also prevents the final draft from dragging on and on.

The final draft is the easiest one to drag out. You can keep editing forever if you don’t put a limit on it. Once you’ve gone through your writing a couple of times looking at the details, do a final edit for flow. Decide in advance that it’s the final edit. Read it quickly to make sure it’s easy to read, correct any additional errors that jump out at you and call it done.

4. Boot Your Drafts Up the Line

This tip applies only to articles. Pick a minimum number of articles you want to have at each draft level and work on keeping above that goal. I’ve already mentioned that I promote articles to final draft status before they are quite there. The same can be done for second draft articles.

When you need more second draft articles, do what you can with your Writing Ideas or One Liners file. If you’re not at all inspired by the next idea in the file, copy and paste it into a new file and call it a second draft. It’s not, but it will be there when the time comes that you’re in the mood for working on second drafts.

You shouldn’t have any trouble keeping your count up in your Writing Ideas or One Liners file. That’s the next tip.

5. Always Be Ready for New Ideas

No matter what you’re doing, be on the alert for writing ideas. Whether you’re reading, writing, researching, working or playng, writing ideas will come up. Get them written down somewhere immediately. You won’t remember them later.

Stupid ideas you add can always be deleted later. Good ideas you don’t add are gone forever. Mostly. And you can never be certain which ideas will be good or bad.

6. Use Martin Caiden’s First Draft as Final Trick

Martin Caiden claimed that he sat down at his typewriter and wrote the final draft straight through in one week or less with no revisions. An associate has written that he saw Caiden do exactly that on more than one occasion. He sent those one draft books off to publishers and 80 of them got published. Many were made into movies and one became the Six Million Dollar Man TV series.

I believe the secret is being willing to throw away one draft articles (or books) that don’t make it. If we write enough of them, it’s a possibility. It becomes an even stronger possibility if we write one draft articles for all of our writing ideas. I know my own ideas file gets so big sometimes that I need to go through it and delete the least appealing ideas. Those would be good ideas to practice with.

Those are the prolific writing tips that come most easily to mind for me now. I’ll keep learning and practicing. So should you.

Article by Ivan Izo.


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