Tips & Tricks of the Trade

Welcome to our first Tips & Tricks of the Trade! (We missed it last month due to technical difficulties.) I’m not going to spend any time explaining this feature because it seems pretty self-explanatory. But I will say that I think it should go like this . . . I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. Deal?

By the way, these posts might be about anything writing-related in any given month, and this month we’re going to discuss ways to stay focused long enough to actually write–because I know I can’t be the only person deserving of an award for some top-notch procrastination skills.

Ok, let’s get started . . .

Kim’s Tips and Tricks for making herself write:

  1. Trick the brain. Example: I’ve long figured out that I can rarely do sprints like most people, but I have figured out that it feels less painful to know that I only have to write new words for a short period . . . and then I can edit those words as my reward. (For me, editing is the yummy cake and new words are the nasty vegetables.) So, I’ll give myself a short timeline to write new words. I have to stay at the computer and write or I don’t get to edit! And then, quite often, that 30 minutes turns into a little more, and I look up to find that I’ve written 1,500 shiny new words. At least, it sometimes works that way
  2. Hide in a room without distractions. Don’t write where you can see dishes that need to be washed, or maybe a floor that needs to be swept. Lock yourself in a room, remove all things not writing related from your space, then sit your butt down and write! (Extra tips: a dark bed sheet and Velcro can come in super handy. I’ve been known to hang a sheet over a set of French doors to keep me from looking outside and getting caught up watching birds or whatever.)
  3. Headphones – I can’t listen to music while editing, but I often listen to instrumental music while writing new words. And sometimes I just wear my headphones without any music on. That makes me feel more like I’m in a room by myself, and it keeps distractions at bay.
  4. Leave my cell phone in another room. This doesn’t need explanation.
  5. Do I want to be a writer or not? When all else fails and the deadline looms, I ask myself this one question. Because if I do, then I need to act like it and write!

BONUS TIP: If you do love to write in sprints (or with a timer), or if you just need a timer to remind you to get up and move every so often (this is mandatory…don’t be like me and end up in the emergency room), then check this one out. I have two in my house now, and I love them!

Now . . . tell me your tricks. Please!!!

18 responses to “Tips & Tricks of the Trade”

  1. Yes to all of this!!! I love this post.

    One thing I have found that works really well for me is to chew gum. I know that sounds bizarre, but I got the idea when I remembered some teachers with special needs students would let them chew gum for concentration. I didn’t believe it but decided to give it a try.


    As someone with more than her fair share of ADHD, I can attest that all of the above work and that chewing gum, for some bizarre reason, keeps me focused for MUCH longer periods of time than I was previously capable of.

    Great post, Kim!

    • OH! And I wanted to add that I LOOOOOOVE your method of not getting to edit until you write for a certain amount of time! I love editing. New words are hard. That reward system is beyond brilliant because they are both productive.

      You are my hero.

    • Kim Law says:

      Oh my gosh, I love the gum idea! I’m not typically a big gum person, myself, but for this I just might try it because when my son was a teen and played baseball, there was a year or two where he ended up having to pitching some games. During that time, he figured out that the way he could focus and do the best in that position was to chew gum, lol. So, I’ll go buy some gum and give it a try!

  2. I bribe myself with reading.

    I have a my TBR stack sitting on a table by my chair (and yes, print copies because they are a bigger treat for me than digital.) I sometimes pick a word count–then reward myself with reading a chapter if I reach the goal. Sometimes, I do it by time. An hour of writing gets an hour of reading.

    • Kim Law says:

      The reading bribe NEVER works for me. I’ve had people suggests TV as a reward, too. But, nope. It’s like I have zero willpower to put the book (or tv show) down and get back to work. This one has blown up in my face too many times 🙂 (Ask me what I did most of yesterday–instead of writing as much as I should have… lol)

  3. Jennifer Bray-Weber says:

    Editing is my cake, too! I love to edit my work, and that often leads to even more words as I layer for depth.
    I’m all about the senses. I love listening to epic, sweeping instrumental music. These are usually wordless soundtracks from movies and gaming like Assassin’s Creed. Candles and incense help relax. Working outside is a great inspiration, too.

    Great post, Kim!

  4. Great advice, Kim!

    My life is total kudos and most waking hours there is no quiet rooms, even with headphones. So often, I’ll grab a pad and pencil and head outside. Sometimes just take a drive and sit in the car. Heck, I wrote my first book at son’s baseball and football practices.

    If you want to write, you will.

  5. Becke Turner says:

    Good tips. The cake reward system works for my brain too.

    Since I’m rarely satisfied with my output, I also use my planner as my time sheet. I record my start time, my word and page count and any notes for the next session. I also check in and out of lunch. At the end of the day I can see my progress.

    This decreases my tendency to beat myself up over my progress.

    • Kim Law says:

      Becke…thank you so much for adding this! You’ve just reminded me of how much more focused I can be when logging my work very similarly to what you’ve said. Don’t log as words at the end of the day, but log start time, stop time, and words written in that session. Doing this (to that level of detail) also helps me see when I’m getting into a bad place of writing for 15-20 minutes and then getting distracted and not getting back to it for 3 hours. O_o This should have been my #1 tip, but I easily forget it every time I start a new book! So THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for adding it to the discussion!

      EVERYONE…see Becke’s suggestion here. Logging time works!

    • Also proof to IRS that this is you’re serious about being a businessand not just a hobby.

  6. Tamara Hogan says:

    Kim, I’m a big fan of your #2 and #3. For me, it’s all about eliminating distractions. I start most days off writing at a coffee shop, using a very old, rickety laptop loaded with little more than an outdated operating system and MS Word. I’ve purposely hosed up the wireless card, and deleted the internet browser. All I can do at the coffee shop is either word process, or write in a notebook.

    Writing in public, at a place where people know me, helps keeps me accountable. The over-the-ears headset I wear blocks out the background noise, and serves as a very visible “do not disturb” sign, obeyed by everyone but the most clueless and oblivious of men who seem to think their need to get my attention, to interrupt my work, is MUCH more important than what I’m there to do.


    I have ZERO patience for oblivious men these days. Should one need a clue, I will serve one up, piping hot.

    • Kim Law says:

      lol. Tell us how you really feel about interruptions, LOLOLOLOL! But yes…death glare!

      I don’t know how you write in public, though. I sometimes can’t even write in the same room as my husband, even if he’s sitting quietly! Though, I am getting better at that. Excellent ideas, though, for making that word. Don’t allow the internet to interrupt, don’t allow oblivious men to interrupt, NO DISTRACTIONS! I think the issues that too many of us in this field are just too easily distracted. And we can’t help it :-/

  7. Rhonda Clark says:

    I love editing, so I guess for writing my tips would be: planning a plot twist, exploring different voices of the story (rather than one POV), expanding different back stories of characters (how their reactions to situations may be tipped off), and most of all, finding something fun to write about (do you like dialogue? what interactions could be kept secret until later? how can this person share their POV without revealing a twist?) — the more writers have fun writing, the more readers will enjoy reading. 🙂

  8. Heather McCollum says:

    Wonderful tips, Kim!

    I try to get in 2000 words a day if possible (definitely not when life throws me another curve ball). So I don’t let myself get lunch until I have 1000 words done. I love to eat : ) So this generally works, at least for the first 1000.

    I also use things like my favorite chai latte to lure myself to write. And I use a sound track and a visual collage of my characters and settings to help me focus in on the time period, etc.

    And writing in the morning is better for me. My brain is more alive then. After dinner, I’m no good at creating fresh words. I can use my already written words then to create some marketing material but that’s about it.

  9. Oh ugh! Editing is NOT my cake. It’s TORTURE. I love the shiny new words when I can get them flowing. For me, sprints actually work really well. And my hiding from distractions is almost always going somewhere without internet (or where I don’t hook up to the internet) like a Potbelly or a Pizza Studio to guzzle stupid amounts of diet coke and just completely go into the book zone. The drive there is usually a great opportunity to mull over ideas so by the time I have my lunch and sit down I can’t wait to get things down. At least that’s what works for me…


Subscribe to the Blog

The Latest Comments

  • Elizabeth Langston: You’re right–and it is a powerful lingering impression as the last phrase....
  • Darynda Jones: I like what you did here, Beth. I also like the first one. I like the line “determined to...
  • Elizabeth Langston: So I said to lead with city-keeper, and I didn’t do that. Let me take another stab....
  • Darynda Jones: Great pitch, Jenn! I love what you did with it, Beth. This stuff is so hard. LOL
  • Elizabeth Langston: I think this pitch is in good shape. But if I could try anything, I’d want to lead with the...