Yesterday I had eight guest blog posts to write, plus two for my own blog. I also had to attend a meeting, take my son to a baseball game, sit and watch aforementioned baseball game, prepare for two parties at my house that will take place in the next five days, promote my book, and pick out four excerpts from that same book, Secrets of Hallstead House. Oh, and do some writing. You know, that thing I do that creates most of the other work.
So what did I tackle first?
The refrigerator. Specifically, I cleaned it from top to bottom.
Don’t get me wrong- I love writing and every single thing associated with it, including revising, research, edits, copy edits, and even page proofs. Everything.
But I do get sidetracked sometimes. And I really did need to clean the fridge. My sister is visiting this weekend and I once saw her described as “Mrs. Clean” in a real estate listing when her house was for sale.
Nauseating, I know. You can understand why I wasn’t about to let her see my fridge.
But I digress.
When I finally sat down to work, I grabbed the first item in my toolbox that I use to fight distractions (after all, I still had bathrooms to clean and dog hair to vacuum). I probably should have grabbed my toolbox before I cleaned the fridge, but as I said, I just couldn’t let my sister see it.
The item I’m referring to is my work-in-progress binder. I borrowed the binder system from Phyllis Whitney, who was in my opinion one of the greatest romantic suspense writers of all time. She explains the concept in her Guide to Fiction Writing, which is my favorite book on the craft. I keep her primer next to me all the time when I work and refer to it frequently. In a nutshell, my binder is filled with different sections that all help me produce a finished novel. There are sections for characters, plotting, outlining, chronology, and theme, just to name a few.
The great thing about my binder is that there is always a section to work on until I’m ready to start page one of my novel. If I’m stuck on the plotting, I can move to the character section, and vice versa. There’s always a section that I can work on, so it keeps me from going astray.
And here’s another great thing about my binder- on the first page I list the date, the day of the week, and the binder section(s) I worked on. If I start to see gaps in the dates, representing days that no work gets done, it gives me the kick I need to get back on track.
So tool #1 in my anti-distraction kit is my WIP binder and tool #2 is page one of that binder.
My third tool is most often referred to as the “butt in the chair” method of getting work done. It’s exactly what it sounds like. I sit and force myself to write something. Anything. This takes some will power, but with practice it becomes easier.
My fourth tool is the kitchen timer. I set it for say, one hour. If I work straight through the hour, I get a reward when the timer goes off. Actually, my reward is usually walking the dog, so it’s really more of a reward for her. But it works.
Fifth: get off the Internet. If you’re using it for research, that’s one thing. But if you’re looking for another book to download to your eReader or a birthday gift for someone whose birthday is six months from now, resist the urge to do anything on the computer except write. You don’t have to stay off the Internet all day, just when you’re trying to write.
Finally, get started on projects as soon as they’re assigned to you. That way you don’t have to worry about battling distractions as a deadline approaches. Unless you work well under pressure, in which case my hat goes off to you. I tend to freak out when I’m under a lot of pressure.
Like any tools, these take practice to use effectively. I struggle with distractions every day, but I’m using these tips and getting better at staying on task. You will, too.
Do you have any tips to avoid getting sidetracked while you work? I’d love to hear them.
Amy M. Reade is a debut author of romantic suspense. A native of upstate New York, she grew up in the Thousand Islands region and was inspired by the natural beauty of that area to write her first novel, Secrets of Hallstead House. She now lives in New Jersey with her husband, three children, a Bouvier des Flandres named Orly, and two rescued cats who refuse to answer to their names of Porthos and Athos.
Having practiced law in New York City, Amy soon discovered that her dream job was writing. In addition to volunteering with school, church, and community groups, Amy is currently working on her second novel, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, set in the area around Charleston, South Carolina.
Though Amy lives within sight of the Atlantic Ocean, she is partial to the blue waters of the Pacific and spends as much time as possible on the Big Island of Hawaii, which is the setting of her as-yet-unwritten third novel.
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“You are not wanted here. Go away from Hallstead Island or you will be very sorry you stayed.”
Macy Stoddard, a nurse from Manhattan, comes to Hallstead Island in the North Country of New York to escape a haunting pain. It is here that Macy discovers secrets that were not meant to be shared – secrets that reach back into Macy’s past and that will change her future and the futures of the people on Hallstead Island. There are those, however, who will stop at nothing to keep the secrets that are hidden there.