August! A time for vacations, quality family moments, and maybe even some progress on the book you’ve been working on. With its leisurely pace, summer offers the perfect backdrop for your creativity to flourish. But here we are, already at the end of summer, and the days are slipping away. As all of us in publishing gear up for the fall season, I thought it would be the perfect time to talk about how to keep your writing momentum alive. So, let’s dive in to one of the most requested topics from writers: productivity!
Writing a book is monumental. But let’s debunk a myth right now – you don’t need to dedicate entire days or hours on end to the cause (although if you can, my hat’s off to you!).
We all have our rituals – the perfectly brewed coffee, the cozy desk area, the mood lighting – that we set up when we want to get some “serious” writing done. Naturally, we’re often interrupted by the knock on the door from a child or the ring of a boss’s call. Sound familiar? You’re not alone. The key is understanding that you don’t need to clear your schedule for a writing marathon. In fact, our literary agents have witnessed authors making substantial strides in just a handful of minutes!
Got 10 minutes? Try this out…
Reverse outline your material: Take a step back and outline your book’s narrative arc or plot points. Break it down chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, or section by section. Each point should capture the essence of the main idea. Then, assess how smoothly the sections flow and connect, building up your story or argument. Need more outlining advice? Check out our article here.
Pen a paragraph: Don’t underestimate the power of a single paragraph. It might evolve into a chapter that dazzles in your proposal, catching the keen eye of an agent. Or it could simply add a layer to your book – remember, every small step counts. After you’re done, read it aloud and fine-tune it based on what your ears catch.
Ping a trusted reader: Shoot an email to a friend, asking for their honest thoughts on your book. Alternatively, reach out to someone in the industry who can offer valuable insights. Remember to always make the “win-win” clear (AKA what benefit you can lend to this trusted person as they review your work) when you make the connection.
Only have 5 minutes? Give these a shot…
Jot down the main action points (for fiction) or key takeaways (for nonfiction) for the chapter you’re tackling: Don’t stress about perfection at this stage. Just get the core ideas down on paper!
Hunt for a “comp” (comparable book): Hop on Amazon and scout for recent titles in your genre. Spend five minutes exploring – you might stumble upon a gem that enhances your book proposal or even sparks fresh ideas you never considered before.
No more than 3 minutes? Here’s your go-to list…
Pitch your book to yourself: Whether you’re walking the dog, tidying up, or doing a plank, practice pitching your book in 2 lines. You can use this material to start piecing together a full elevator pitch; this is an essential item you’ll need whether you’re next querying agents or presenting your work to outlets like NPR for a potential media interview. Try to get right to the meat of your project: What’s the essence of your narrative or your book’s message? Why should readers care? How will it captivate your targeted audience? Picture yourself explaining it to someone new to the genre or a seasoned enthusiast. These mental exercises can lead to eye-opening revelations about your audience’s needs.
Envision your characters in everyday situations: For fiction writers, let your characters tag along in your mind. Picture them at a coffee shop, ordering their favorite brew. Imagine how they’d react when faced with a challenging task. These vivid characterizations can help you breathe life into your creations on the page.
Remember, progress isn’t confined to those moments hunched over a laptop at your desk. Embrace the idea that your best ideas can strike when you least expect them. Elevator rides, showers, grocery store queues, laundry folding – these seemingly mundane instances can become opportunities to move your book forward. So, shift your mindset, and always carry your book with you in mind. You are making progress – I assure you!
Happy writing, and watch out for new announcements about our upcoming events this fall!