Novel Writing

One Simple Way to Increase Writing Productivity (but you probably won’t like it)

If I told you there was a magic pill that increased your concentration, sparked the imagine and improved perseverance, would you take it? I bet you’d do it, I certainly would!

What if I told you that exercise could do all those things for you? I can hear your groans, and feel your annoyance. Irritating isn’t it? 

Most of us would rather not need to exercise. We’d rather eat what we want and have the perfect, slender, magazine ready body, without having to slip on our trainers. What a wonderful world that would be. The sad fact is that to keep our bodies healthy we need to exercise. It’s a non-negotiable (trust me I tried to negotiate my way out of it for years).

I never loved exercise, couldn’t catch without shutting my eyes and was hopeless at running. I hid in the shower room during PE. However, after avoiding exercise until the age of twenty-four, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness where the primary treatment was exercise. Every time I stood up the room span, and I almost fainted. The only option for me was to start exercising lying down until I grew strong enough to stand and exercise without fatigue. It was hellish, to begin with, but now I am the fittest I have ever been and have found whole hosts of benefits I would like to share with you. (Also my condition is completely managed, and I can live normally again – Hooray!)

Exercise increases your energy levels – It’s counter-intuitive isn’t it? I previously assumed that since you expend energy during exercise, that you are tired out from it. While that is true in the short-term, in the long run, you are more energetic. Early mornings are easier (potentially late nights for others). Finding time to write gets easier if you have more energy.

Exercise improves your sleep quality – Perhaps one of the reasons you have more energy is that you sleep better. Tiring out the body helps sleep and sleep produces a clearer mind. Hello clarity, nice to meet you, please come and assist me in my writing.

Exercise allows imagination to flow – When you are peddling away on an exercise bike or stomping your way on the treadmill your body is occupied, but your brain can wander. You are a captive audience. You can’t remember that urgent chore and go away and do it. You can’t phone that friend you’ve forgotten to contact. Your mind can soar into the realms of creativity and imagination, and your practical body is occupied – it can’t drag you away.

Exercise gives you confidence – I’m actually not talking about body confidence here, but confidence in your own mental strength. There is something incredibly satisfying in achieving something you never thought you could. It takes dedication, commitment, and, let’s be honest, pain to get physically fit. We need all those things in writing, and the skills learnt in exercise do translate over.

Exercise prevents “Writers Neck” – Is it writers neck or back for you? I get neck pain when I type for too long. Exercise keeps our backs healthy (especially pilates) which is a real bonus for those of us who write for extended periods of time. The pain may be manageable now, but we want to write long-term, don’t we? Exercise is one way to secure our future as writers.

The most important thing I would like to say is that this post is not meant to guilt trip anyone. I would hate for anyone to read this and leave feeling condemned because they don’t want to exercise. You be you, and what works for me may not work for you. There may be some out there, however, who are missing something and may want to give exercise a try. 

I would love to hear from you in the comments section whether you agree or disagree. I love a good discussion!

Novel Writing

The Importance of Empathy when Writing Fiction

You can’t write a book unless you are empathetic. 

I bet some of you adamantly disagree with that statement. Of course, you can write an instruction manual or perhaps Non-fiction, but can you write fiction without empathy? I don’t think so.

The Oxford English dictionary described empathy as –

The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

What have feelings got to do with writing fiction? Well, if you think about it, quite a lot.

The old saying goes “write what you know”, but as I’m sure you’ll be relieved to find out, most thriller novelists don’t know what it feels like to murdered in an alley. They haven’t been in a high-speed car chase, and they certainly haven’t lived the life of a serial killer. So how are they able to write about these topics?

They have empathy.

Many people think that this is a wishy-washy, bleeding-heart characteristic that isn’t of any real value unless you are a counsellor or a priest. Empathy is actually incredibly useful in many situations, especially in fiction writing. You can imagine and understand how your characters would feel in a situation you have never been in.

So next time you read a novel about violent murders or abuse, don’t panic, you are only reading the result of the writer’s empathy, not psychopathic tendencies. If you are a writer, I would advise one of the best ways to create authentic characters, is to learn to empathise with as many people as you can. It will transform your prose.


Novel Writing

Can you really Write your First Draft in Three Months?

Any of you who have read Stephen King’s book “On Writing” will know that he makes some bold statements in this fascinating book. It’s a cross between an autobiography and advice on how to write well, it’s an entertaining read, and I’d recommend it to anyone, aspiring author or not.

One part of the book which left me opened mouthed was his advice on how long it should take to write the first draft. He advises that it should take no more than three months to write.


Three months? That’s impossible!

I’ve been working on my first draft since August, so I’m coming up to the ten month mark, nearly three times over the advice that Steven King gives.

Does this make me a failed author before I have even finished my first draft? I thought so when I first read that advice, but since then, I’ve realised it probably doesn’t. A huge proportion of the last ten months has been spent learning how to write. I don’t mean the basic skill of putting pen to paper, but the ability to weave a, hopefully, interesting story out of words.

So, why would Stephen King give this advice? Here are some the reasons I think this could be a brilliant strategy –

  1. You don’t get bogged down by technique.  It’s easy to forget that you are telling a story when your mind is constantly focused on adverbs, or passive voice, or sentence starters. It’s exhausting! So getting stuck up to your elbows in the story and barreling on without regard to technique could be the key to unlocking a cracking story.
  2. It prevents self-reflection. I often find that partway through a writing session a thought will pop into my head telling me I am a rubbish writer and no one will ever want to read what I have to say. If the purpose of your first draft is to get it down on paper in whatever format it comes in, as quickly as possible, then you don’t have time to worry about whether or not you are good enough. You are simply telling the story to yourself, and hopefully loving the process.
  3. If something doesn’t work, it is easier to say goodbye. I am on the last version of my first book idea. I have written it in so many different tenses, points of view, and orders yet I have never finished it because each time I can see it’s not working. If this current POV and tense structure don’t work, I will have to say goodbye and start on a new fresh idea. If I had been working on this for a month, rather than ten, the process of goodbye would be a whole lot easier.
  4. No more boredom. I think most authors get bored of their books at some point. It’s blinking hard work, and pretty repetitive too. This approach will keep the boredom at bay, at least for the first three months.

What are your opinions on this strategy? Have you written a draft in three months before? If so I would love to hear from you in the comments session.