By Joe Moore
Happy New Year to everyone as we get the 2013 edition of The Kill Zone blog underway. Thanks for continuing to come by and share your thoughts and comments. If you’re a writer, may this be a great year for your efforts. And if you’re a reader, please pick up or download a copy of one of TKZ author’s books and take us for a spin.
This past Monday night, not far from where I live, the BCS college football championship game was played between the #1 University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the #2 University of Alabama Crimson Tide. Notre Dame never had a chance. Within 10 minutes the Tide had scored two touchdowns. By the end of the first quarter, they were a yard away from their third touchdown which they scored seconds later at the start of the second quarter. By halftime they were up 28-0. The middle of the third quarter, 35-0. Final score: 42-14.
Notre Dame forgot how to run. They forgot how to throw or catch the ball. They forgot how to block, tackle, or in general, play the game. It was one of, if not the worst championship football games of all time. Somewhere around the middle of the first quarter, the Fighting Irish lost focus. As a consequence, the viewing audience, the fans in the stadium, and even the sports commentators seem to drift away to other things. Not something you want to happen in a major sporting event.
So why am I talking about sports on a writer’s blog? Because what happened to ND and their loss of focus is something that you never want to happen to you as a writer. To help you keep your focus in the New Year, I suggest the following four tips. I hope they help.
1. Set realistic, obtainable goals. Naturally, if you’re a published author under contract, a deadline is the best goal of all. In most cases, there are nasty consequences for missing your deadline. But if you’re writing your first novel or have yet to nail that first publishing contract, the only deadlines are the ones you set. So your goals can be things like word count, pages per day, hours of writing per week, etc., something that is within your ability. If you find that you consistently meet your goal, then consider expanding it a bit beyond your comfort zone. If you goal is 500 words a day, try upping it to 700 or 1000.
2. Set a writing schedule and stick to it. If you work a day job and can only write a half hour a day, make sure you utilize that half hour to its fullest. Don’t schedule it in conflict with other priorities such as family activities. And make sure everyone around you knows that your scheduled writing time is your serious time to devote to your goals. They need to understand how important your writing is to you.
3. Establish a writing “place”, one with minimum distractions. A corner of a bedroom, out on the patio, the quiet of a spare room. Go there when you write and think of it as your “office”. Avoid any place that contains noises, TVs, or any other distraction that could pull you away from your valuable writing time.
4. Consider joining a local writer’s critique group. If there’s nothing available in your area, there are many groups that meet online. Having to produce a new chapter to present to the group each week is a strong motivator to keep you focused and hit your goals. You don’t want to go to the meeting or log into the forum empty handed.
There are many other tips on maintaining focus, but these four worked for me when I started out writing my first thriller years ago. Remember that writing routines like these are repetition that build mental muscles and help your stay focused on completing your manuscript.
Any other tips out there to stay focused as you hone your writing skills?
THE BLADE, coming February, 2013 from Sholes & Moore
"An epic thriller." – Douglas Preston
"An absolute thrill ride." – Lisa Gardner
”Full-throttle thriller writing.” – David Morrell
"Another razor-sharp thriller from one of my favorite writing teams!" – Brad Thor
"History and suspense entangle from page one." – Steve Berry