For several reasons, I’ve had an almost life-long interest in organization and time management. Thus, two published novels about a personal organizer, and work on a third. Of course, this interest bled over into my writing life. It’s a fact: you can save a lot of time by becoming better at what you do. In general, I believe this applies as much to writing as to most other things.
Think about it—you’ve probably spent a few years writing a shopping list, no? Aren’t you a bit faster than you were when you wrote your very first one? I bet so.
I’ll give you some examples for writing other, more complicated things than shopping lists, such as stories.
Learning from others:
- When I first joined a writer’s group after writing a full-length novel and a few short stories, they quickly pointed out three ways I could improve. One was no head-hopping in scenes—stay in point of view. Next up was learn to use active voice instead of passive voice. I began searching for “wases” like crazy. And third, search and destroy most (some say all) modifiers. If I hadn’t joined the group, who knows how long I would have gone on making those same mistakes?
- I have also read quite a few books about writing and the writing life. I can’t list all the things I’ve learned from them, but I know it’s stored in my brain and peeks out to help me when needed lots of times.
- Reading other’s people work, both fiction and nonfiction (since I write both). How does he do such great descriptions? How does she make her points so succinctly? Things like that.
Learned by myself:
Then there’s the actual writing. This is the best way to learn, of course. Almost everyone will get better as they write. I hope I’m better after having written probably around a million words than I was when I first put pencil to paper.
- How to write on a schedule. Seat in chair, brain on fire. Same time every day works best for me, and for lots of other writers I know.
- How to write to length. Tell me to write a 50-word story, and I can do it almost at once, give or take a word or two. Then I can fix it so I hit it exactly. Tell me you want between 2,000 and 5,000 words, I can hit that even better, without going under or over. Give me a novel length, again, I can hit it. This did not happen in the beginning. It took a while, and an awareness of word counts. It probably helped that I wrote a lot of short stories—for a few years I was writing one or two a month of different lengths.
- How to handle different aspects of writing—do better descriptions, for example. I still don’t think I’m great with descriptions, but I have learned a few tricks to make it easier for me to write them. You may have a different weakness that with time and effort will lessen.
Bottom line? You get better and faster the more you write. So, to save time later on, write a lot now. The more you write every day, the quicker you’ll improve.
Jan Christensen grew up in New Jersey and now resides in Texas. Organized to Death is her third published novel. She’s had over fifty short stories appear in various places over the last dozen years, two of which were nominated for a Derringer Award.
Jan mainly enjoys writing mysteries, but every once in awhile steps out of that comfort zone and goes for something else, including non-fiction articles. She has a column about reading in the ezine, “Mysterical-e” and blogs regularly at her website. Learn more from: http://www.janchristensen.com