Tips from Rapid Writer Erica Vetsch: Increasing Your Productivity

Do you want to learn to put more words on the page? I do, so I invited my friend, agency mate, and publishing company pal Erica Vetsch to share some tips. She’s one of the fastest and most prolific writers I know, and we get to see how she does it.

Ready. Set. Go!

Tips from Rapid Writer Erica Vetsch: Increasing Your Productivity

by Erica Vetsch

Isaac Asimov has been credited as saying, “If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.”

I think I know a little bit how he felt. I’ve developed a bit of a reputation amongst my writing friends as being a fast writer, though it never feels as if I’m accomplishing enough or getting enough words written. Though I’ll never be as fast as I’d like, I have found a few things increase my productivity, and Keli has graciously invited me to share them with you here.

1. Find your sweet spot. Find the place that is most conducive to making you productive. For me, this means I have to get out of my house. (The second I finished typing that last line, the washing machine signaled it was finished, my kids broke up each other laughing at something that tickled them, my husband went by on the tractor-lawnmower, and the Twins, on television, just had a player steal third!) I have to get out of the house to minimize these distractions and focus on that word count. My writing place of choice is Caribou Coffee shop. I’m a bit like Norm from Cheers. They know my name there and start making my tea even before I order it. 🙂 Here are a few of the reasons that for me, writing away from home is more productive.

•Fewer distractions.

•I feel like I have to justify my time away and the expense of a glass of iced tea by producing something on my WIP.

•I’ve established a habit. My brain kicks into writing mode when I fire up the laptop at the coffee shop. When I fire it up at home, my brain kicks into spider solitaire mode. 🙂

2. Find your stride. Find your breakthrough point. This is the number of words you have to get written in order to really get into the flow. Some people can write in five minute snatches throughout the day, but I’m not amongst that group. I need a block of time to devote to writing, and fortunately, I’m able to spend most weekday afternoons writing fiction. This is good for me because I don’t hit my writing stride until I’ve written about 800-1000 words. After that, I’m so deep into the story, the words flow almost as fast as I can type them. Up to that point, it’s like pushing marbles through molasses with my nose. Messy, and not very productive.

3. Find your shot in the arm. I don’t know about you, but I love to hear ‘atta-girl.’ I respond well to affirmation. I’m also a wee bit competitive. I write better when I’m pitting my ability against someone/something. Here are a few ways I’ve found to get motivated to write fast.

• Set word count goals for the month, week, day, hour. I’m a goal-oriented person and setting goals motivates me to meet or exceed them.

• Word Count Meter on my blog. This is the meter that I use: Svenja’s Word Count Meter, but there are lots of them out there.

• Having this visible reminder of my progress spurs me to write more.
Twitter. Particularly Twitter’s #1k1hr challenges. Using this hash-tag, I can connect with other writers whose goal is to write one thousand words in one hour or less. I can almost always find someone willing to step up to the challenge at the same time I am, and after an hour, we report our progress. Often, twitter-friends who aren’t participating at that time will comment, congratulate, cajole or commiserate. It helps me feel less isolated and part of a family/community that is rooting for me. I read a tweet recently (sorry I can’t remember who wrote it) that said ‘#1k1hr. Because I can’t find 6 cheerleaders to stand behind my computer while I write, but I can find 6 1k1hr buddies to cheer me on.’

Though the words don’t always flow freely (last week I compared the beginning of a writing session to separating wild rice from white rice one grain at a time using tweezers) I’ve found that if I follow the points above, the chances of my racking up a respectable word count go up exponentially. I hope you can take one or more of these ideas and craft them to fit your writing style. Maybe you’ll find yourself becoming a more Rapid Writer!

• • •

About me: Though I have set aside my career teaching history to high school students in order to home school my own kids, my love of history hasn’t faded. My favorite books are historical novels and history books, and one of my greatest thrills is stumbling across some obscure historical factoid that makes my imagination leap. I’m continually amazed at how God allows me to use my passion for history, romance, and daydreaming to craft historical romances to entertain readers and glorify Him.

Whenever I’m not following flights of fancy in my fictional world, I’m company bookkeeper for our family lumber business, mother of two terrific teens, wife to a man who is my total opposite and yet my soul-mate, and avid museum patron.

My latest release: Idaho Brides – Experience the Wild West through the eyes of the three McConnell brothers who long to overcome their troubled childhood as drunkard’s sons. Can Alec show that he’s worthy of the ranch boss’s daughter? Can Trace help a distraught woman trust again? Will Cal prove his innocence to a U. S. Marshal in disguise? Will they each find a woman with whom they can trust their tender hearts?

Contact info:

My Blog: On the Write Path
My Facebook Page: Erica Vetsch
My Twitter Profile: @EricaVetsch

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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43 Responses to Tips from Rapid Writer Erica Vetsch: Increasing Your Productivity

  1. Wendy says:

    Too funny, the comment about Norm. B/c it’s funny & b/c my Fri. question drives right to the heart of what you wrote…I won’t give it entirely away.

    I write fast, but it always scares me a little to see what that produces. It takes me a while to clean up the mess. 😉
    ~ Wendy

  2. Erica Vetsch says:

    Wendy, I’m with you, I always have work to do on cleanup/edits, but it’s getting to be less and less as I go along, because now I do some things better instinctively, or I catch problems sooner.

  3. Lisa Jordan says:

    Love this post, ladies! I’ve participated in a few of the #1K1H challenges, but more often than not, someone throws one out as my computer time is up. Last night I had to get the bare bones of a scene down so I set my computer egg timer (http://download.cnet.com/Egg-Timer-Plus/3000-2350_4-10073665.html) for 15 minutes. I wrote 500 words in 15 minutes. Not great prose at all, but that’s what revisions are for.

    • Erica Vetsch says:

      Lisa, throw out your own #1k1h challenge at the beginning of your writing time. There is often someone out there waiting for someone to speak up.

      I’ve tried the egg-timer and the bomb timer and the hourglass timer. I’m such a child, I like to watch the graphics instead of writing! 🙂

    • Erica Vetsch says:

      500 words in 15 minutes is terrific! I’ve tried the egg-timer and some other online timers, but I get so distracted by checking the timer, I’m not as productive as I want to be.

      Whenever you’re ready for a #1k1h, throw out an invite. It’s a great way to make friends and spur yourself on in the bargain.

  4. Sherrinda says:

    I love this post! I’m a slow writer, mainly because I haven’t learned to let go completely and just write. The more rules I know, the more I know I’m breaking them and it kills me to let them slide the first round. Very bad business when trying to get alot of words out.

    So Erica….do you go to the coffee shop every day????

    • Erica Vetsch says:

      Sherrinda, I seemed to have a tipping point somewhere along my writing journey. At first I wrote with happy abandon. Slapping thousands of words on the page because I didn’t know the rules and I didn’t know I was breaking them. Then I started studying the craft, and I almost paralyzed myself. Fear crept into every sentence, stifling creativity. But I kept on writing. Somewhere along the way, I realized I was breaking fewer rules and not having to think so hard about it. I’d discovered my voice, and freedom burst onto the scene to push the fear back. That isn’t to say I’m not still sometimes frozen by writer-fear, but it is much less than it used to be.

      And I don’t go to the coffee shop every day, but when I’m closing in on a deadline, I’m there four to five afternoons a week.

  5. Cynthia Herron says:

    Too funny, “marbles through molasses with my nose.”

    I find, Erica, I’m learning as I go. I find, too, little distractions at home can become big time-busters if we let them. Things like that pretty, little layer of dust gracing my furniture, a laundry basket piled high with fresh goodies, and the peal of the phone taunt me pretty often. Of course, I also can’t ignore the dinging doorbell, the stopped-up potty, or the humingbird that just flew into the garage. I like your idea of getting away for awhile to your favorite coffee shop…but then I’m afraid I’d get too distracted by people-watching!

    Great tips today! Thank you! 🙂

    • Erica Vetsch says:

      Hi, Cynthia,

      I think the distractions you mention outside the home, like people watching, are minimized for me by going to the same place each time. One distraction for me in the beginning was the music at the coffee shop. But now that I’ve been going there for such a long time, I’ve got all the songs memorized and can easily tune them out. Except for “Jungle Drum” by Emilianna Torrini (here’s the link, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZ9vkd7Rp-g ) This song is so distracting, I have to stop and listen to it every time. 🙂

  6. Great tips, and I really could use implementing them! Hmm, maybe after lunch I’ll get out of the house to write.

    • Erica Vetsch says:

      Wendy, let me know how that works out for you. It might take some getting used to (see comment above about the music) but you might find it really gets you into the writing mood. 🙂

  7. Thanks for the tips!
    Patti

  8. Beth Vogt says:

    Wow, love all these suggestions–which one should I adopt first? I may implement the word count meter . . .

    • Erica Vetsch says:

      Hi, Beth!

      I love my word count meter. It’s been bugging me that I was on vacation this past week and didn’t get the final update in there before I left. (Adding that to my to do list, now that we’re back home again.)

  9. Love the tips Erica! I’m with you on finding my stride. I’ve noticed it’s really hard for me to start writing, but once I get past 500 words or so, the story flows freely. I just need to find more patience until I get past those first 500 words. 🙂

    • Erica Vetsch says:

      Lacie,

      Those first 800-1000 words for me are always tough sledding. I used to go back and edit what I did the day before to get me into the flow of the story, but that just kicked my internal editor into high gear and stopped up the words even more. A 500 word threshhold is great! I’m jealous!

  10. Great tips! I need a word count meter! 🙂

  11. Carol says:

    Panera for me. Did 6910 in under 5 hours there a few weeks ago. At home, it’s more of a challenge. Four younger kids, housework, etc. but it can be done. I do the timer thing. When I do a #1k1h thing, I do 4 15 minute sprints and stretch in between – just for a minute – don’t get up or anything just wriggle around in my seat, arms over the head sort of thing then go again [usually my phone hasn’t even turned itself back off before I hit start again]. One thing that seems to help my mindset is turning on my WOW playlist. I’ve got about 6 WOWs in it and I just… go.

    Speaking of… I need to hook my netbook up to the flat screen so I can blast it and get some in. Need to hit 4K today =D.

    And netbook = portability. Pick up line at school is a great place to get a few extra words in ;).

    • Erica Vetsch says:

      Almost 7 THOUSAND words in under six hours? I’m swooning! That is so great! Have you tried any of the #1k1h on Twitter? You’d be smokin’!

  12. How fun to see Erica here! And she’s the queen of word count – so this is a great topic for her to write about!

  13. Jessica says:

    Thos are great tips! Thank you so much! I need to get a word count widget again. I loved the one I used to have.

    • Erica Vetsch says:

      Jessica,

      I was without my wordcount widget for awhile when Zotoukou (sp) closed their website. But I love the new one I’ve found. If it ever goes under, I’m going to be sad!

  14. Great tips! I’m a very slow writer, so I need all the help I can get. I find getting out of the house works for me, too, but I’m only able to do that 1-2x/week. Even if nobody is home, it’s hard to write at home. Because the gigantic laundry pile is calling my name. Or my workout room. Or the internet. Or…

    :)Becky

    • Erica Vetsch says:

      Becky, I find it difficult to write when I’m at home alone too. Soooo many distractions that are so easy to give in to. If I ever had a bazillion bucks, I’d get me an office downtown. 🙂

  15. Keli Gwyn says:

    I’m in awe of Erica. She’s one of my most prolific writer pals. And she’s super sweet. She plans to drop by later to respond to comments.

    • Erica Vetsch says:

      Keli,

      My internet access was so spotty when we were in the northern extremes of Minnesota, it wouldn’t let me post replies.

      Thanks so much for having me here. I love all the comments!

  16. Great tips, Erica. I live out in the country so going to a coffee shop would cost me a lot of travel time so I write at home. I wonder though if I picked just one spot if that would help me be more productive. I tend to plop myself whereever since discovering my basement office is just too isolated for me. Though, with summer almost here, I might have to head back down there to get away from sounds of the t.v. as the girls love to have that going often.

    Never tried the1k1hr tweet thing. I bet if I did that on a daily basis that’d really help!!
    Thanks Keli for hosting Erica here with such a helpful topic!

  17. Thanks Erica for the tips. Right now my littles require me to be home most the time, but some day I hope to try writing away from home like you suggest. Also, I completely relate to the marbles/molasses thing. Too funny!

    • Erica Vetsch says:

      Maggie,

      Moms of young kids who also write…I’m in awe. My kids are 15 and almost 19, so they can fend for themselves a few afternoons a week, and they’re great about picking up the slack around the house, too.

      Maybe, if you can’t get away from home, you can find a little corner of the house where you only write on your ms.

  18. Carol says:

    Uh so I’ve been using #1k1h not #1k1hr that could explain why i’m not finding anyone ;).

  19. PW Creighton says:

    Great advice, although I personally hate seeing the word counter. I write through the full piece and find myself aiming for chapters completed. It takes me a number of pages, usually back-tracking and reading what leads up to where I start writing for me to dive in again. I can’t hit my stride until I’ve gotten fully immersed again.

    • Erica Vetsch says:

      Hi, PW.

      Whatever works for you. Words, pages, scenes, chapters. If it motivates you to write, take that route.

      I find if I go back too far to re-read, I wind up editing instead of writing.

  20. Phoenix says:

    I can’t get 6 cheerleaders on-staff yet either. That just means I need to write more so I can afford to hire them.

    • Erica Vetsch says:

      Phoenix,

      I’m kinda thinking that even if I could afford them, they might prove a wee bit distracting…then there’s all the lattes I’d have to buy at the coffee shop…. 😉

  21. Awesome tips. In a coffee shop, though, I seem to end up people watching–or feel like they are watching me.

    Pushing marbles through molasses with my nose . . . I know that feeling in more parts of my life than writing!

    • Erica Vetsch says:

      Hi, Sandra!

      It took some getting used to, writing in the coffee shop, but after awhile, it just started working better and better. I had to people watch a little bit, and I do take breaks while I’m there to check email and chat with the baristas. 🙂

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