Writing Tips – Actually Getting Started

Or, stop procrastinating and start writing

I received a blog comment asking me how I clear my mind and centre myself before I start to write… which got me wondering what exactly it is that I do.

Here are a few ways in which I get inspiration to start writing when I sit down at my laptop or notebook.

Keep a writing notebook

Whether you like pen and paper, your phone, or an app, I have found that making notes whenever a thought pops into my mind is extremely helpful when I later sit down to write. This is especially true of blog posts and flash fiction.

Music and moar music!

I always play music when I’m writing. The difference usually comes in depending on what I’m writing. For instance, am I writing a battle scene or a bittersweet goodbye? Or just a blogpost?

Some of my favourite artists to write to is BrunuhVille, Adrian von Ziegler, Two Steps From Hell, Audiomachine, Gothic Storm, and Songs to Your Eyes. Other music and songs I find by keeping an eye on the “Epic music” playlists on YouTube (like on the channel Epic Music VN).

I am also a big fan of Medieval and Renaissance music – one of my favourite groups is Anonymous 4 — whom I can highly recommend if you need something calm to listen to (or to edit to).


Start by writing… well… crap…

One of the other things I have found that can work really well is just to start by writing crap. Don’t worry about getting the perfect opening line or the like, just start somewhere.

Not sure where your story is going, but you have a great idea for a specific scene? Write that scene to get into the groove of writing and then return to where you ended the last time you worked on the piece. (This is also where an outline can be really helpful instead of just pantsing the whole piece.)


Deadlines – even if they are self-imposed

When I started to write flash fiction for the weekly competitions it took me hours. Then I tried writing the first draft of the story during my lunchtime instead of only after work. Putting that pressure on myself meant that I needed to brainstorm fast and write fast if I didn’t want to get stuck in the middle of the story when lunchtime was over.

Soon, however, I was able to write a 300-word story and edit it during my lunch hour!

I now try and give myself deadlines for specific parts of my writing (especially the longer pieces like The Box of Secrets).

You can also use the app “5 000 words per hour” if you have an iPhone. Otherwise just use a timer, or make use of the pomodoro technique (www.mytomatoes.com is quite handy).

Get into a writing habit

By now you’re probably tired of hearing things like “write every day”, but it really does work. Even if you can only write on a Saturday, but you write every Saturday and not once in a blue moon it counts as a writing habit in my book.

But you also don’t have to have hours every day in which to write the next great >insert country you are from here< novel. I have found that writing during my lunch hour can actually reset my mind for the afternoon’s work.


Get different writing spots

When I’m not writing at home, I prefer to write at a specific local coffee shop.

By now the waiters know me well (and also know which table I like to sit at and which coffee I like, which is awesome). So it doesn’t feel completely foreign, but it’s still not me being cooped up in my own home when I can’t sit at the desk or on the bed and write.


When all else fails

If this doesn’t work, set a timer or alarm for say 20 minutes and go for a walk or a run, do the dishes, vacuum, anything that will give your brain “nothing” to do. Then use that time to plot stories, patch up plot holes, or think about what your next blog post will be about. Although I suggest not doing the vacuuming late at night as your neighbours will hate you — rather stick to doing the dishes.


By Carin Marais

Bibliophile, writer of speculative fiction, non-fiction, and maybe-fiction, language practitioner, doer of stuff.


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