How to Study Fiction, Part 3: Productivity and Speed, Part 1

This is part of a series on how to study fiction, mainly directed at writers who have read all the beginning writing books and are like, “What now?!?”  The rest of the series is here.

Productivity and speed are key issues for intermediate writers.  If you can’t get your butt in the chair and the fingers typing, you’re not going to get much accomplished–and it very quickly becomes obvious that you’ll need to practice a lot if you want to get any good.

Practicing faster and more regularly will automatically make you a better writer.  You don’t necessarily have to write ever day.  Whatever works for your brain to output more words is the right way to do it.  But, conversely, if your beginner writer routines aren’t regularly increasing in words,

that is the wrong way to do it.

And your excuses can suck it.

Productivity/speed issues at this level:

  • Having the discipline to sit down and write without being distracted.
  • Staying focused during writing.
  • Finishing what you start.
  • Getting what you finish out into the market.
  • Building writing speed.

The main block to productivity is fear.  We fear that we’re not good enough and we don’t deserve to take the time to learn how to write.  We fear that we’re wasting our time.  We fear that we’re taking something away from the ones we love.

The first thing to do, if you’re not getting the writing done that you have the time to do, is address any possible sources of fear.

Other blocks to productivity include just not knowing how to use a particular writing technique (or usually several)!  For example, if you don’t know how to structure a scene, you won’t know whether you’ve written a good one or not, and your subconscious may resist moving forward, either to finish what you’ve started or to move your work into the market.

A third level of issues generally relate to one’s physical environment.  Are you being interrupted?  Are you able to keep the world outside your door?  Do you need music to stay focused?  Are you comfortable?


Just sitting down and admitting that sitting down to write is hard is…kind of a relief, actually.  When you first start addressing your difficulties, they seem overwhelming; as you pick them apart, though, it usually comes down to a very few things that are bringing you down, but that your brain doesn’t like to think about–so it seems like it’s a million things going wrong when really the million things are just your brain kicking up excuses.


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