Smarter Writing? Try these Writing Hacks.

I turned to my fellow Miss Demeanors to find out what their favorite tricks of the trade are. Here’s what they had to say. (If you’re counting, you’ll see we have one new member…stayed tuned for more about the fabulous Connie Berry).

Tracee: Tiny hacks here. First, if you’re stuck, just type or write something. Literally anything. Write “I don’t know what to write.” Over and over… eventually the real words will come. Second, take a look through your notebook or box of ideas or anyplace you keep “things that you can’t use right away.” Maybe now is the perfect time to trot them out and put the ideas to work.

Robin: I write first drafts by hand in the morning, transcribe to my laptop at night, at which time I may do a lot of editing, too. So I kind of write the first and second draft at the same time. Or maybe it’s draft 1.5.

When I’m writing or editing an action-packed or really intense scene, I stand up. It wasn’t a conscious decision, it just sort of happened and I keep doing it so I guess it works for me. I move out from my home office and out to my kitchen counter for that. I need to get one of those desks that move and down.

I work full time so I adhere to a schedule of day job time vs. my time. Day job time = my regular business hours (it varies, depending on meeting schedules). My time = any time before or after I either get to my office or log in remotely. My time includes time on the train to and from downtown San Francisco, or coffee and breakfast at home. I’ve been known to linger in a subway station to finish a thought after I get off the train.

Like Tracee, when I pick up a pen or sit down at my computer to write, I just write. Even if I know it’s garbage. I plow ahead and throw words on paper, knowing I can fix it later. The point is to keep that muscle flexing.

Connie: I’ve developed two habits that help me write. First, I keep a detailed spread sheet of every scene, including the date, location, participants, action, and page numbers. This saves me tons of time when revising since I can see the plot flow.

Second, since cold writing is very difficult for me, I begin each writing session by polishing the last written scene. That eases me back into the story and propels me forward.

Susan:  I always write first thing in the morning, whenever possible, and I always try to make it possible. Anything I write between 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. is always better than anything I write later in the day. Plus it’s a great feeling to know that I’ve got something done at the start of the day because that gives me a boost for the rest of the day. I also spend a lot of time giving my students writing exercises and I like to do those exercises along with them. It always shows me something new.

Michele: Here’s my “hack” for rebooting my story. As a panster, I occasionally write myself into a corner and panic I’ve hit a point of no return, wasted my time, and have no business writing. I feel guilty that I’ve tortured my protagonist and taken her to a point where I fear I’ll have to abandon her.

I take a day or two off from the book. Then I sit down with it with a cup of coffee in a spot where I enjoy reading and read what I’ve written so far as if it’s any other book. I’m usually surprised and pleased that the book isn’t as awful as I thought and get a new perspective and fresh ideas.

Cate: I am a big plotter and outliner. I know where the story is going, usually. Though my characters sometimes to develop where they won’t go where I’d like and then I have to re-outline and re-plot. Any trouble I get into with a story can usually be solved by more research. Something surprising will come up about the topic that will lead me In a direction that works better.

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