Five More Writing Hacks

We’re all looking for the shortcuts in life. Can we maybe only do 30 minutes on the treadmill vs. 40 minutes on the bike? Can we microwave the dinner rather than bake the lasagna? Maybe I can fast forward through the commercials instead of watching them during the NFL game I’m currently trying to enjoy.

Writing is no different. There might be as many opinions on how to write as there are writers living and dead combined. We all have a way of making the words appear, and we definitely aren’t shy about letting others know about our breakthroughs.

I try to do right. I try to use many of the Writing Hacks I’ve encountered because I’m ultimately hoping they will be the difference between a good manuscript and an excellent one. I fully believe that we have to keep learning in order to get better.

So what follows are a few things I’ve either tried or am actually currently doing.

1 – Using a Timer

Want to add some speed to your writing? There are about 1 billion potential distractions waiting for you if you aren’t careful. Someone sends you an email, maybe you need to check Facebook for something, oh, don’t forget to Tweet something today, and so on and so on.

The timer forces you to forget all of that other stuff for 10 minutes. For 20 minutes. For 30 minutes. You’ll be amazed by the output increase in that stretch. And then, as a reward, maybe you spend 5 minutes doing one of those other things before you set the timer again.

2 – Don’t edit while you write.

Instead, treat that first draft like what it is: the first draft. There is power in reaching a “The End” even if you aren’t done with your edits. When you edit in the middle of creating, all it does is put the finish line that much further away.

3 – Wait to edit.

In On Writing, Stephen King talks about how when he finishes his first pass on a book, he sticks it in a drawer and doesn’t look at it again for 6 weeks. It turns out that by waiting a little while before beginning the editing process, he doesn’t feel as beholden to those words on the page. Instead, he is able to take the knife, the hatchet, and the chain saw to his manuscript if it requires it.

4 – Don’t have your characters’ names start with the same letter.

Think about it. Especially in the first part of your book, story, whatever, we’re still trying to get a handle on who everyone is. Now you go and call one guy Steven and the other one Sean. Yeah, they’re completely different people, but by having that same letter at the start, the reader is going to assume one guy or the other. I’ve done it when reading books, and I know I’m not the only one.

Look, there are 26 letters to choose from. If you have more than 15 major characters, call them whatever you want, because that sounds like the least of your problems…

5 – End your current session in the middle of a thought.

Sometimes the worst thing is to open up the document and be faced with a blank screen day after day. And that’s effectively what happens when you finish the chapter the previous day. So if the hardest thing is to start, wouldn’t it be reasonable to think ending in the middle of a chapter… hell, in the middle of a paragraph or sentence might be the best potential option?

I’ve had mixed results with this one, but when it works it works amazingly. You’ll end up with another thousand words extremely quickly. When it doesn’t work I spent too much time trying to remember what the heck I was thinking during the previous page and things bog right down.

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What writing hacks work best for you?

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list to learn about the upcoming The Gilded Age Kickstarter.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

About John McGuire

Writer of comics and novels. In 2006 his first short story "The God That Failed" was published by Terminus Media in their debut comic Evolution Book 1. Since that time he has had stories published in Terminus Media's Evolution Book 2 and Evolution Special, Kenzer and Company's The Knights of the Dinner Table, and Four J Publishing's The Burner #3. Currently he is eagerly awaiting the digital publishing of his first creator-owned comic The Gilded Age #1 to be published online as well as his first novel The Dark That Follows later this year.
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