The following is excerpted from Allie Pleiter’s and Cathy Fyock’s forthcoming book, Writer Crisis Hotline, due in October 2023.
Dear Allie and Cathy:
Every time I get ready to write my book, I feel overwhelmed. There are so many words to write, so many ideas to organize, and so many aspects to book writing, publishing, and promotion to learn. How can I approach this project without getting overwhelmed?
When we think about ALL there is to accomplish with a book, it can seem overwhelming. The trick is to break down this huge task into small, bite-sized pieces.
Here are some ideas for keeping a single focus while we write so that we can ramp up our productivity (and finish our books!).
Don’t mix creative writing with editing. Brain science tells us that writing and editing are two distinct brain functions. You will wear yourself out trying to write and edit simultaneously. Write, write, write! Don’t edit. Don’t stop. Just keep those fingers moving and save the editing for later.
Develop a very detailed table of contents. Set a goal of only on a tiny segment of the outline at a time. By focusing on very distinct, tiny chunks of writing you can move quickly through the outline and achieve higher productivity in your writing.
Keep your files for your book together in one place. You might even need to catalogue your various articles and blogs from which you’ll reference your writing. Still, having it together in one place will allow you to both repurpose your writing and eliminate time in searching for that article or detail.
Clear all distractions. File away the papers on your desk. Turn off email notification. Hold your calls or turn off your phone. Close your office door. Remember, you can only do one thing well at a time.
Work on one section at a time. This lets you stay focused and get it checked off your list. You’ll feel good about achieving this milestone, and that will keep you fueled for more successes.
Store unrelated ideas for later. When you have an idea that doesn’t go in the piece you are writing, make a quick note of the idea in a central place (perhaps one you’ve designated for such purposes) and let it go. You might consider Evernote, a designated file folder (electronic or physical), or a Notes app on your cell phone. Remember that you need to work on one piece of writing at a time.
When you schedule time for writing, write. Don’t conduct interviews, schedule research, or organize your chapters. Writing time is for writing. And nothing else but writing is writing.
Set a time each week to plan for your writing. You may not be able to write every day, but you can always write some days. Decide which days and block off chunks of time, prioritize your writing tasks, and put the specific assignment on your calendar or that day’s to-do list.
Create a back-up plan so you don’t give up if you miss a few.
Remember, you will become a far more productive writer if you keep a singular focus and forget about multi-tasking. Stay focused and get it done. One. Word. At. A. Time.