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Thursday, April 07, 2011

Spring Cleaning For Writers

I searched online for Spring Cleaning Tips and found a post by Karen Rowe you can read here. Karen’s tips could easily be adapted for writers. So, here are 10 to help you:

10. Keep it Simple You have many ongoing writing projects. Prioritize and be realistic.

9. Break it Down Do you need to brainstorm a new story? Have you left a protagonist dangling? Do you have a percolating editing project? Break your tasks into chunks. One week, brainstorm. The next week, rescue your protag. Then edit.

8. Make Time Finding time to write can be tough. Pick a time that works for you —and stick to it. If you use a day planner or online calendar, schedule your writing time. Treat it like work; that’s what it is. (This writer’s clock may keep you on track.)

7. Start Somewhere Frustration mounts when what you’re working on is not working. So write your ending instead. If you don’t know the end, skip to the next chapter and move the story forward from there. Or polish what you have written. Just start. (Need an impartial review?)

6. Baby Steps Key writing tasks include brainstorming, researching, spewing (first draft), polishing, editing, praying, and sending. Wherever you are, divide that step into smaller steps. Interview one character. Outline (if you do that) one chapter. Write one paragraph. Then do it again. Put one foot in front of the other until the task is done. (A critique group could help.)

5. Clear the Clutter Maybe this means clearing your desktop (real world or computer). But, it could also mean going through your idea file and deleting ones that no longer flip your switch. The upside? It might remind you of an idea you’ve wanted to pursue.

4. Recycle Remember that character you spent so much time developing for Book 3, only to find he didn’t really fit the revised premise? Bring him back in Book 5. Maybe he didn’t fit Book 3 because you wanted him to be a second fiddle when he’s clearly a leading man.

3. Finish Do you have a novel going, a couple magazine articles, a speaking engagement, and—what was that fourth thing? Oh, right, your spouse’s birthday! Forget multi-tasking. Instead, prioritize and finish one project at a time. When other projects intrude, whip out a sticky-note—write the idea down—and get back on task.

2. Keep Track Listing what you have accomplished in your writing is a great morale booster. You may not have finished Chapter 8, but you did resolve that hole in your plot in Chapter 6. Keep track, then when you get to the end of the day and feel you’ve accomplished nothing, you’ll know better.

1. Give Yourself Credit Congratulate—and reward—yourself for what you do accomplish. M&Ms aren’t just for toilet training, you know. Writing, like spring cleaning, consists of many related tasks. Consistently and conscientiously cleaning out your writing life can be exciting, invigorating, and ultimately, rewarding.

Michael Ehret is the Editor-in-Chief for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. He has written for newspapers and other print and online outlets. He edited several nonfiction books, was the senior editor for a faith-based financial services and insurance organization, and is the ezine editor for American Christian Fiction Writers.


  1. How about this one: “Learn to Use Tools”

    Using a steam mop is quicker and easier than washing the floor by hand. Most tasks seem to have an easier, less time consuming way of completing them anymore. For writers, word processors come with a lot of features (like indenting every paragraph automatically instead of pressing tab) that can save hours over the course of a year if we set them up now. RSS feeds let you keep up on the latest news and blog posts without having to constantly check to see if anything is new. For people like me who aren’t naturally tech-savvy, it can seem intimidating at first, but it’s something I’m working on to help me in my “writer’s spring cleaning.”

  2. Love this, Mike!! And to Marcy with her steam-cleaning for floors, if you can't afford one or afford to go to a gym, I have the answer!

    Step 1: Spray the floor with cleaner.
    Step 2: wet a large bath sheet and drop it on the floor.
    Step 3: plant your feet wide apart on the bath sheet and begin to scoot around the room. You leg muscles are stronger than your arms, thus better cleaning power.
    Step 4: Drop a dry towel on the now-clean-floor and repeat the scooting action, drying the floor.

    And voila! A workout and floor-cleaning in one. :D

  3. Marcy, good idea. Using the right tools is important.

    Ane, oh the mental pictures you create. Thanks for the laugh, my friend!

  4. Good info, Michael! I really struggle with being overwhelmed with my writing projects. Good reminder to break it down into "chunks."

  5. Great advice! I like 7 and 4.

  6. Cindy and Tina, Thansk for the comments. Glad you found it helpful. For me, #8 is the toughest to conquer. But I'm working on it.

  7. Thanks for this Mike! :) Struggling with the "too much" and "too little" mode right now. Too much stuff I have to do, too little I want to do and too little time to do all of it. It's good to remember I don't have to do all of it right now - or at all. ;D

  8. Victoria, very true. I believe the deceiver sends us "much" to do to distract us from what we need to do. Not saying this is so in your way I could know. But it is often true for me.

    I have to be on the guard constantly to be sure I'm not letting the good I could do distract me from the excellent I'm called to do.

  9. All great tips, thanks for this post! There's something so refreshing about spring cleaning, I'll definitely be doing some writerly decluttering and prioritizing this month.


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