On track writing

One of the hardest parts about writing is sitting down at the desk and actually writing. Unless you schedule it into your diary, it may end up on the bottom of the to-do list.

Depending on the intention of your writing, your priorities will be different. If you’re dabbling in writing a novel but work full-time, you may not be able to give it your full attention. Because of this, many people struggle to write the book they dream about.

What are the excuses? Many say there aren’t enough hours in the day. Some say that family, work or partner gets all of their attention. Others that they’ll get around to it when they retire, when they have time.

Let’s look at the hours in our day. How many are used affectively? How many times do you check Facebook, emails, Instagram or LinkedIn? How much TV do you watch? Is it more than 15-20 minutes? Two hours? Why not grab just 20 minutes per day to devote to your writing.

Put it into your diary.

This is what I did every day for nine months in order to write the first draft of my novel. I had spent ten years writing the first 20,000 words of my novel. It took nine months to write the remaining 50,000 words and rework the earlier draft. I did this on the advice of my writing mentor who suggested that I put aside 15 minutes per day. I set my alarm 30 minutes earlier than usual to do this. I can’t tell you how good it felt when I hit ‘save’ on that last day. I no longer listen to people like myself who say that working six days per week is an excuse.

Here are my tips for keeping on track:

  • Use your diary/planner to schedule in your writing time and keep it regular.
  • Find a writing buddy or mentor to keep you on task.
  • Make writing a priority.
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The Australian Writer’s Companion

 

Mining for Precious Metals

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Cartoon by Kev Howlett

There are many similarities between your life and mine. We are born, we go to school, we get jobs, maybe get married, have kids and so on. But each of us has our own experience within those similarities. And not everyone gets married or has kids. Or they may get married, then widowed or not be able to have children or choose not to have children.

So how does a writer tell their life story without boring the pants off the reader? Do I want to hear about your life if it’s been similar to mine? Maybe yes, to a degree, because we all like to connect with someone with a shared experience. But I don’t want to read a blow-by-blow description of your life from the day you were born to now.

Think about your life, or the part of your life you’d like to share with the reader. Are there aspects of it that stand out and have a common theme? You may not discover this until you have started writing. That’s okay. Writing a first draft isn’t going to produce the gold that will come when you rewrite.

Have you noticed the metaphor here? I’m comparing writing to mining. The use of metaphor can make your writing more vivid. At first, when getting out your first draft, you’ll feel like it’s very rough and maybe not even worth pursuing. But don’t give up. There will be a diamond in there waiting to be polished up. Have you heard the story of the miner who gave up digging for diamonds, not realising that a fortune could have been had if only he had chipped away at another few metres of rock?

We dream in metaphor. Often when we wake we try to decipher the strange messages that our unconscious mind has been trying to give us. It stands to reason that the use of metaphor in writing appeals to the unconscious mind.

Relating your life to metaphor will help you create links and images that will appeal to the reader. Has your life been like a box of chocolates? Has it been crisis after crisis, ending as one big train wreck? Or maybe, despite many hardships, you feel blessed with everything that you have and it has been a fortunate life?

Here are examples of memoir/biography that have used metaphor to create a theme in their book:

Open by Andre Agassi
Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel Smith
Reckoning: A Memoir by Magda Szubanski
Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement by Michael D’Orso and John Lewis

Finding that metaphor to describe your life could be the gem you need to create a compelling read.

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