Do You Have A Writing Strategy?

writing strategy

Having great ideas and good intentions might be the baseline of your writing efforts, but having a writing strategy can help you get your book written.

When I wrote my first book, I didn’t have any kind of plan or blueprint to guide my journey to completing my project. I pretty much just relied on my homegrown “ation” strategy.

What’s an “ation” strategy? I’m glad you asked.

  • It starts with inspiration. Creating content that interests me, and hopefully my potential readers.
  • The job of writing takes perspiration. It’s work — damn hard work at times.
  • I’m prepared for those inevitable periods of exasperation when I’m sick and tired of the whole endeavor and I take (brief) breaks from the process.
  • Ultimately it requires determination. Keep your eyes on the prize and get across the finish line.

Following this strategy produced a 50,000-word nonfiction book cranked out in fits and starts over an eight-month period. I learned a lot about the book-writing process during that experience. I’ve learned even more from talking to BookBaby authors about how they covered their own journeys. Next time around I’ll be better equipped to do the job, whether its putting C. Hope Clark’s advice to work, or establishing a routine that makes the most of my available time.

Here are some of the writing tips and ideas I’ve collected since my first attempt at writing a book

Location, location, location

Find your writing place. Sure it’s possible to be creative anywhere — sitting on a park bench or standing in a line — but for the long haul and more consistent creativity, your best work will come out in a space where you regularly write. That primes you to get into the right frame of mind as soon as you sit down. Or maybe it’s more than one place. I have three: a secluded corner in a local library, a local coffeeshop, and a home writing nook. Set aside a particular place where you do nothing but write or create and you can jump-start your creativity.

What time is good for you?

Perhaps more important than “where” is “when.” For me it’s probably going to involve getting up 45 minutes earlier and writing a few paragraphs before work. Forcing yourself to write at 5 am isn’t the solution for everyone. It works for me because I have nothing else to divert my attention in those early dawn hours. There are all types of writers — after-hours writers, lunch-break writers, mini-block writers… Track your time and energy for a week or two to find what’s best for you — and then block out that time on your calendar as an appointment with yourself.

Add interval training to your writing

Some writers I know incorporate short sprints into their writing routine. Here’s how: Use a simple kitchen timer to force yourself to just flat-out write. Set it for ten minutes to write as much as you can. You’ll censor yourself less if you just write whatever comes naturally and edit later. It’s not about quality during this brief burst of keystrokes. Give yourself permission to write a few lousy paragraphs or pages. You’ll have plenty of time to go back and edit later.

Read if you’re not writing

The Do's and Don'ts of Planning a Book LaunchLike many writers, I feel inspired when I’m playing the part of reader. Instead of turning on the TV when you’re on a break from writing, spend your time reading the work of others. The more “I wish I had written that” pieces you come across, the better your work will be and the more motivated you may be to produce something worthwhile. Some authors find other art to be inspiring — paintings, movies, photography, etc. Soak up all the creativity you can when you’re not actively writing.

Don’t break the chain

His television show was “about nothing,” yet legendary comic Jerry Seinfeld’s method for success is very much something — and visual. Each January, he hung a large year-at-a-glance calendar on his wall and, for every day he wrote new material, he earned the right to draw a big red “X” over that day. Drawing those Xs got to be pretty fun and rewarding. Eventually, he created a chain of red Xs. The idea was to never break that chain. This simple pleasure can turn into a surprisingly powerful motivator.

Never miss twice

You can give yourself a very small cushion and still be successful. Let’s say you have your new routines and habits in place, your alarm set to signal your writing time… But one day you wake up and simply don’t feel like writing.

Take the morning off. Don’t beat yourself up about it, but don’t do it two days in a row. It’s inevitable you’re going to miss a writing session, but use the “never miss twice” mindset to get back on track.

Be flexible

Your writing schedule might change. Life events will throw wrenches in your plans, but you can plan a new schedule. Once that’s done, stick to it.

Get your strategy together and get writing. Remember, November is NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month — maybe a 30-day challenge is what you need to jump-start your writing efforts.

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Steven Spatz is a writer, marketer, and President Emeritus of BookBaby, the nation’s leading self-publishing service provider. After a successful career with companies including Mattel, Hasbro, and Pinnacle Orchards, Steven joined AVL Digital in 2004 as Chief Marketing Officer, leading the direct-to-consumer marketing teams for music industry-leading brands Disc Makers, Oasis, and CD Baby. The native Oregonian was tapped to lead BookBaby, the company’s new publishing division, in late 2014. BookBaby’s growing book-printing operation is located outside Philadelphia, PA, and employs over 100 book-publishing experts across the United States to meet the printed and eBook needs of thousands of self-publishing authors around the globe. Steven retired as brand President in 2022 and continues to contribute via weekly emails, industry guides, and posts on the BookBaby blog. He’s in the process of relocating full-time to southern France in early 2023. Steven loves to hear from authors, editors, and publishers in the BookBaby community with tales of publishing trials and triumphs. To tell him your story, write to steven@bookbaby.com.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Steven. Maurice, Irish guy here. I listen to music, that revs up the mojo, then I write an opinion, usually on a YouTube video or article I’ve read, in which I often give vent to my anger at certain things I vehemently oppose. I find that this gets me in touch with my deeper self as I lash out creatively at the perceived injustice. Then, after my rant, I’m good to go on my fiction. For that, a plan of the story, beginning, middle, end is essential. I have the skeleton then. I hang the meat on that as I write.

    Best wishes
    Maurice, in Ireland. Next, Dublin, then Berlin.

  2. Great ideas are lost when writing them down is an obstacle…like in my case. An outline is a big help to me. Some pictures are a great way to key in my thoughts. Stuart Resor Architect

  3. Yes! This is pretty much exactly what do. Thanks for getting it down in a great blog.

    I am in the process of deep editing for a “finished” novel. My goal was to edit/improve 4-5 chapters each morning – my best time of day, in the same location, my quiet front porch, when weather permits. I am up for several hours before any of my family members are awake. Writing bliss!

    Gratefully,

    Ned Andrew

  4. Good Saturday Mr. Steven Spatz,
    I learned most of my writing skills from raising my two children. They are grown and now they do amazing things. I started writing when we lived in South Carolina after coming home from Germany. Their father was in service there. I started writing after getting a newsletter and in it there was an opportunity to send a story to them to see if I had the skill to write. The story I sent to BookBaby to make a hardback book was the first story I ever wrote. My swim coach’s son edited my book and had a friend illustrate it for me. Now one of my sons is illustrating the next book I wrote. I thank BookBaby for making my book a hardback.

  5. these are some practical and tactical pieces of advice. Both your professional and personal journeys have been great examples. I love the tip about using other writing, and art, for inspiration. I’ve found free writing while listening to music has been surprising in what was created. Thank you for encouraging all writers, all stories. :-)

  6. Your creative wisdom inspires me to write you. I liked writing as a teenager, many inspirations came after bedtime, I’d get up to write. I kept a journal for many years. I am an award winning artist, professional musician/composer, writer-published in local newsletters. Moved 31X as a military wife, 7X after retirement. Military pay $77.10 a month when we married. I worked to support us; I started as exe. secretary and blessed when hired for work I had no experience or college, yet I taught high school and grade school, Dept.store manager, Worked for lawyers, Taught a Life Writing Class until the pandemic. The Coast Guard offered no housing, medical care or any other perks available to other services unless we were near one of their Bases. I am currently writing A MILITARY WIFE’S JOURNEY-impossible challenges resolved credited to God’s miracles. Messages received: clairvoyant, inner voice impressions-warnings, guidance regarding money, when dreaming, I asked God where will I live? He said Grand Pointe. There was no such place until months later I read, GRAND OPENING GRAND POINTE and bought a house there.

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