writing

I get my best ideas while walking

As I explained in an earlier post, I do my best writing in the early morning. When I’m finished, I put it aside and do something else until the following morning.

I walk two miles each day, weather permitting. Since beginning my novel, I’ve found that this daily forty minute constitutional gives me ideas that send me scurrying to a notepad when I return home. I’ve invented dialogue, discovered character traits, and found plot twists that would never have occurred to me if I’d just been sitting around.

My mornings are the best time to write. My afternoon walks are my best time to think.

When to write?

Writing coaches advise aspiring authors to develop a regular work habit, a routine that ensures that there is time set aside each day for writing. Stephen King claims that he writes every day except Christmas and his birthday, to which a friend replied that King was lying, that he writes on Christmas and his birthday as well. (His output is 2,000 words a day. I’ll let you do the math, since it’s an easy one and helps to explain his abundant output.)

The question becomes when to write. In looking at work on my novel-in-progress over the past two months, I’ve discovered that my sweet spot is the morning hour. And not just any time of the morning, but first thing. I’ve been arising at 5:30 or even earlier and making significant progress toward my daily goal of 1,500 words before breakfast. (Not before coffee, however.)

This early hour increases the volume of my writing — what’s the benefit if the product is drivel — but the quality. I make fewer typos at that hour, and the quality of my writing seems to flow better than at any other time of day. This means more time spent writing and less making repairs.

Why? It may be as complex as my biorhythms or as simple as an absence of distractions at that hour. Whatever the reason, this early bird gets the words.

Your mileage may differ, so let me know what works for you.

Scrivener

A few years ago when I was still consulting, I discovered a writing program called Scrivener. It was then available only on the Mac operating system, but has since been ported to Windows. I used it to develop complex client reports and, as I began working on my forthcoming novel, wrapped it around me.

Scrivener is not just a word processing program; it is a writing environment. You prepare your document in it and, when finished, compile it to virtually any popular format in use. Use it to create a pdf, a word document, an ebook, formatted paperback, publish directly to the web, or all the above from one master file. Producing the finished product takes minutes.

It is extremely flexible. A “pantser” can spill his story onto the screen, making changes and self-edits as he goes. “Plotters” like me outline their story in advance, building character sheets, describing places where elements of the narrative take place, and collecting research. You can drag images and websites into the character, places, and research folders to support your writing.

Using the outline approach, a plotter can build a novel scene by scene, writing them out of order if desired, rearranging them to change the dramatic arc, and moving them between chapters. Scrivener integrates with Aeon Timeline to keep track of dates and sequences within your narrative and ProWriting Aid to help edit and analyze your writing.

I was surprised at a recent meeting of my writer’s club to learn that I was the only person using this tool. Scrivener has moved me from years of starting novels that I could not find a way to finish to having my entire plot outlined and being within days of completing my first draft.

If you do any type of writing — creative, business, or technical — I recommend that you give Scrivener a try. It’s free to take for a trial run and only $45 if you decide it is for you.

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