BY JOANNA C. VALENTE
The biggest secret to writing well is that there aren’t any secrets. Maintaining a blog or writing a book takes the same type of skill, and that’s organization. That means, creating a schedule, an environment, and taking the time to research. When we talk about writer’s block, we are really talking about disorganization and waiting for those “idea” moments to happen. Like lightning, inspiration does strike—just not often and fades before our very eyes.
Trust me, I don’t love making lists and drafting outlines for novels or projects. Yet, I do it because I know it works. It also encourages me to continue, and makes me feel a lot less crazy and overwhelmed. As a result, I have more time to spend with my friends and family. What’s not to love about that?
1. Outline the ‘Big Picture’
Whether you’re writing a novel or starting a blog venture, it’s crucial to think ‘Big Picture’ before you can iron out those pesky, little details. What do you want to accomplish, who is your audience, what can you offer that no one else can? Where do you want to be in five years? If it’s a novel, create an outline for each character, right down to their favorite color. Even though these details are extraneous, they help create an atmosphere.
2. Create a happy writing space
Some of us have different techniques that help us get in the groove. While we can’t all have writing offices in our homes, we can create that proverbial space on the go. Create a writing playlist, carry a device that you can write in (a notebook, laptop, etc!), and bring coffee & snacks! I personally love to write in a place that has an enormous amount of lovely, natural light, so I try to find coffee shops that utilize their space well.
For me, environment is everything. While I can’t always control the space I’m in, especially as I utilize my commute for writing time, I carry around my ipad wherever I go in order to pick up where I left off. One of my biggest pet peeves is having to write in multiple documents, and then copying and pasting into the master doc.
3. Schedule 15 minutes (or more!) writing time daily, like a coffee date
I tell this to everyone. That fifteen of minutes a day is better than none at all. Most of us don’t have the time to spend hours writing our novels (which is a dream.) If you treat that time as though it is just as important as a doctor’s visit or a first date, which it is, then you’ll get in a long-lasting routine. You’d be surprised how much you can crank out in such a short amount of time.
4. Create a weekly schedule
I don’t do this as often as I should, but creating a weekly schedule is incredibly helpful with scheduling writing, work, and play. If you are a visual thinker, don’t just use your smart phone—get a white board or a cork board, and update it weekly. Having something tangible makes it feel more real.
5. Edit for 15 minutes
Besides writing for fifteen minutes, editing is just as necessary, if not more so. Editing allows you to spot any easy grammatical errors and contextual consistency. Sometimes our diction and syntax aren’t always top-notch on the first round, which is why the editing stage exists.
Editor's Note: This article appeared on our old site.
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (2016, ELJ Publications), & Xenos (2016, Agape Editions) and the editor of “A Shadow Map: An Anthology by Survivors of Sexual Assault” (CCM, 2017). They received their MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, as well as the managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine and CCM. Some of their writing has appeared in Prelude, The Atlas Review, The Feminist Wire, BUST, Pouch, and elsewhere. They also teach workshops at Brooklyn Poets.