Want to sell more of your writing? Common sense suggests that you can only sell what you’ve already written. So let’s look at ways in which you can write more.
Firstly, it’s important to understand that writing is a craft, art, and skill which develops with practice. Just as the rich get richer, people who write consistently develop the capacity to write more. The flip side is that if you don’t write, you’ll find it increasingly difficult to write; all this means is that you’re out of practice.
To write more, all it takes is practice.
Your “write more” practice: build a habit
I have days when, if I paid attention to how I feel — woolly head, no ideas, bored with writing and with myself — I’d write very little.
Fortunately, I’ve developed habits which help me to write, even when I don’t feel like it. I have a list of projects, with deadlines, so I don’t need to force myself to write; it’s just something I do, without arguing with myself.
Let’s look at some tips which will help you to write more, and sell more.
1. Expect that your writing habit will take time to develop, before you happily write more
Years ago, I wrote little. In those days, I was a slave to my moods. I’d look at my list of projects and deadlines, and would tell myself that I didn’t feel in the mood to write. I had too much else to do. So I got busy with everything else — I told myself that I was clearing the decks so that I could write.
This went on for years. Finally, I developed my DDT mantra: Do, Don’t Think. I ignored the voice in my head which told me that I couldn’t write because I didn’t have an idea in my head. I wrote anyway — and magically, got ideas.
A revelation! I realized I didn’t have to be in the mood to write, or inspired. All I needed to do was sit at my computer, and write. Inspiration quickly followed.
2. Write in batches, in clearly defined stages
The writing process has three or four stages – planning, writing (as in first draft writing), revision, and rewriting.
New writers, and some established writers who write very little, have never learned to write in stages.
New writers try to do everything simultaneously. They want to “write” in a single draft. They don’t realize that professional writers use several drafts — and sometimes many, many drafts. The number of drafts doesn’t matter. What matters is WRITING.
Separate the stages of your writing, always. For example, on Sundays I plan most of what I intend writing in the following week. I research upcoming projects and books, create mind maps, write titles, and create mini outlines. I may do some planning during the week, too, if I’ve just been commissioned to write something.
If you remember to write in stages, and separate the stages by at least a day, you’ll write more automatically, because you already know what you’re writing: your prewriting and planning has primed the “writing” pump. I do a lot of writing in strange places: while waiting anywhere and everywhere, while walking, and while relaxing with a DVD or Netflix. I can only do that because I can access Evernote on my phone. I browse through my drafts and add a few hundred words here and there. It’s a habit.
2. Everything changes: 11 minutes to writing more
In the days when I was writing under contract and found the project both boring and depressing, I always put off the day’s writing stint as long as I could. Finally I forced myself to sit down and write because the deadline was rolling at me.
This experience taught me something important: not to be swayed by my emotions or moods. If you force yourself to start writing, no matter how unwilling you are, inspiration will kick in at around the 11 minute mark. From then on, you’ll be engrossed with your writing.
Therefore if you don’t want to write, or feel you’re blocked, give it 11 minutes.
Sit down at your computer, and write anything — your name if you like — for 11 minutes. At around the three minute mark, you’ll start writing, and you’ll be happily engrossed in your writing ten minutes later.
Remember “11 minutes” when you truly don’t want to write. You may hate your current project, but you can stand anything for 11 minutes. Sitting down and starting, and staying put for a few minutes, is all it takes.
3. Set writing goals — even if you know you can’t achieve them
Put yourself under pressure. Set writing goals, and get as many writing jobs as you can. Create your own projects. When you have goals, and when people are waiting for you to complete writing projects for them, you’ll write more.
Unfortunately, some writers wilt under pressure. If this is you, you already know this about yourself. You may have reacted badly to exam pressure when you were at school. Meditation will help; take a meditation class, either in person, or using an online program. (I love Headspace.)
Meditation helps you to get comfortable with stress. You learn to allow emotion to dissipate, and to develop a relaxed focus.
Writing more is only a habit, and so is selling your writing
It took me many years before I realized that your success in writing depends on the habits you develop. Those habits gave me the patience to write even if I was convinced that the work I was doing on a project was pure JUNK. I wrote anyway, and the project always turned out fine.
Write more, and then, use the same process to sell more. That’s just a habit too.
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