Friday, September 6, 2013

The Secret to Keeping Focused on Your Novel

Many of us struggle with keeping focused on our novel. How do we fight the many hundreds of ideas that pop in our brain and direct our concentration on the task at hand? But they’re great ideas, we say. If I don’t stop and give them attention, I’m going to forget them and they’ll be lost forever, we say. There’s a difference between jotting down an idea, and actually getting side-tracked by it.

Your main focus should be on the novel at hand. If you spread yourself thin by working several projects at a time, chances are you won’t be able to get the book published, or at least not within a reasonable time period. Remember, you have competition out there in the big, bad world of writing, and I bet your competition is completing their novels and getting them published.

So, what’s the secret? Discipline. Yep, good ‘ole fashioned discipline. You have to discipline yourself to become accountable to your project. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:


o Organize your schedule: Set specific writing time. I mean genuine writing time, not research, social marketing, or anything else that takes you away from writing your novel.

Here’s where some real discipline comes in: If you absolutely must go on the internet to research a bit of information, do so quickly, get what you need, then close it out immediately. DO NOT check email, DO NOT check Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, or any other form of social media. Nothing, nada. Get back to work!

o Organize your social media time: This is the time you use for your novel, not personal time. Use it to do marketing, advertising, announcements, connections, etc., but DO NOT use it for personal use such as simply chit-chatting with friends. You can do that when your work time is through.

o Organize research time: Make a list of things that need to be researched for the book and then set the time aside to do it. Again, stay focused on the research. Don’t let anything else pull you away from it. Get an email while you’re in the middle of research? Well, why the hell are you checking email! You’re supposed to be researching. Close that program, NOW! (Didn’t think you’d get caught, did ya?) Research time is for research. Nothing else. Remember… DISCIPLINE.

Next, to reinforce the discipline, you need to do the following:

Milestones: Set milestones to reach. Achieving these milestones will help you feel a sense of achievement along the way and will keep you motivated. Example: “I’ll complete 2000 words every day” or “I’ll commit to two hours of writing each day”, etc.

Goals: Set achievable, yet challenging goals to reach. If you can accomplish reaching the milestones above, you will meet your goals, again reinforcing your commitment to writing and building your self esteem and motivation to continue on.

PENALTIES: Make them strict! Something that will hurt; i.e., for me I set penalties such as having to pay someone $50.00 for a goal not met, or not going out to dinner on Friday night, or buying something I’ve wanted . Choose a strict penalty and write it beside each goal. If you think you will be disciplined enough to pay the penalty yourself without the interference of another, fine. However, if you don’t think you will pay the penalty on your own, make sure you bring in someone – a friend, spouse, partner – anyone who will help reinforce the penalty.

These are just a few ideas that have helped me complete two books and work on a third while maintaining a full time job, a house and family, and all the other obligations that go along with life. Without discipline and accountability, I don’t think I could do it. It isn’t easy, but it is necessary.

Until next time, I wish all the best success in your writing. 

Dee Ann