9 Ways to Write Smarter, Not Harder

googleimagesMany budding–and established–writers have day jobs that prevent them from dedicating their days to their writing. How can you use your free time to turn your writing into something substantial? What’s the solution to that pressure? Adjust your time management skills to maximize the time you do have to create something you can be proud of.

Control what you can.

Let go of what you can’t.

Enjoy writing and the passion will show through.

1. Outline and plan.

Make a do-to list of unfinished projects or revisions. Check your list regularly and decide where to spend your time. Use a calendar to track your progress and work toward your goals. Sounds like an obvious step, but seeing it written down will help you see the gaps that need to be filled.

2. Prioritize.

80% of your accomplishments will come from 20% of your efforts. Learn to say ‘no’ to things that aren’t getting you closer to your goal. If you want to write a novel, focus on novel writing, not poetry and short stories. Know where you want your career to go and take the measurable steps to get there. There are only so many hours in a day. When you go to bed at night you want to know you’ve done everything you can to feel good about your writing.

3. Set deadlines.

Is there a writing contest coming up that you want to submit to? Focusing on working backwards from a deadline can help your motivation and feel like you are working towards something exciting. Not only will you know someone is waiting to read your work at the end, but you’ll also set yourself up for small ego-boosting achievements that let you know ‘yes, you can do this.’

4. Organize a block of time when you can’t be interrupted.

Close the door. Leave a note. Set up a time every day or every week that is for writing and writing only. If others respect your time, you will too.

5. Have a ‘room of one’s own.’

Set up a work desk that is for writing and writing only. That way your routine is inherent: when you sit down at this desk, it’s writing time. If you share a desk with a partner, try to keep things organized in folders (digitally and physically) so that you can get right into your work instead of clearing off someone else’s things.

6. Let yourself have social (media) time.

Breaks are part of productivity. It’s okay to go on Twitter, blog about what’s on your mind, and update your Facebook status. When you take regular breaks you’ll be more focused when you settle back in. Not only online, social activity can spur on your writing too: join a critique group, go to coffee with a fellow writing friend, join a writers’ guild, or attend a writers’ conference. You’ll find others have the same hobby and want to talk about it too.

7. Stay flexible. 

Working smarter isn’t about putting your blinders on. There is a fine line between defending your procrastination and using your prioritizing to get a project done. Life is the messy bits, there will always be things that get in the way of achieving what’s important to you. Knowing when to give and when to take is part of being a successful person–and a successful writer. If you start to skip your carved our ‘writing time’ ask yourself: “Did I choose the right time of day to write? What is my body clock telling me?” If you aren’t a morning person, a 6am wakeup call to write isn’t going to help you. Maybe you need to use your lunch break from work to write? Maybe you need to write after your kids have gone to bed?

“Effective goal setting is about constant ‘check ins’ and making sure your writing plan is right for you.”

8. Lean on your support system when you need to.

Ask your family do mow the lawn, do the dishes, or other household tasks. If your support system can help unload some pressure, you’ll be more free to focus on your passion. Get hungry for that ‘me’ time.

9. Plan Ahead.

Charge your iPad, get books from the library in advance, bookmark the writing blogs you want to read, favorite the tweets you want to go back to–accomplish small tasks in advance to set yourself up for success during your blocked off time for writing. Don’t spend your time settling into to your writing routine, have it ready and waiting for you.

I hope these tips are helpful! And help me add to the list…

Q: What are YOUR tips for working and writing smarter?

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

9 thoughts on “9 Ways to Write Smarter, Not Harder

  1. Great tips, Carly :) I would add, join a writing group or hire a writing coach. This helped me stay accountable to write, gave me valuable feedback along the way on my writing and social time with other writers.


  2. I set up a 7-day writing schedule that fits around my day job hours and busy weekends. Each morning I focus on something different. I have days dedicated to blogging, others for getting caught up on social media, and the actual writing days, which are my favorites.


  3. Good list! I would add, avoid losing momentum when you are in the middle of something. I find that if I’m in the middle of a blog post or a scene of a story or chapter, it gets much more difficult to bring myself back into the moment once I’ve broken the stream of thought that got me there. Even though interruptions are inevitable, I try to finish what I’m in the middle of as much as I can before moving on to something else, and it saves a lot of time in the long run.


  4. As a full time mum & features ed of my local paper, I don’t get as much time as I would like to focus on my novel writing.
    I find that doing little & often works best for me. As long as I write something every day, even if it’s just a paragraph, then I’m happy!


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