Academic and nonfiction writers need to write a lot. While some of us are desperate to meet deadlines and others are battling the publish-or-perish mentality, we all need those words to get on the page as quickly as possible. But that can be easier said than done. You may need an extra push to kickstart your creativity or just plain get into gear.
Whether you’re coming back from a break, experiencing writer’s block, or starting a new project, below you’ll find some quick tips to increase your writing productivity.
1. Join a Writing Group
Writing groups are a great way to establish accountability and share ideas that can be turned into written content. They can be informal or tightly organized, with regular meetings in an empty seminar room or energized by the background noise of a cafe.
Our academic clients regularly tell us how much writing groups have improved their ability to connect with audiences outside of their subject specialties while working on academic book projects, while other kinds of authors might find them helpful to get feedback on drafts or bat around ideas for new chapters with other professionals.
In this post by Maria Snyder, you can learn about the different types of writing groups: the on-site writing group, the workshop, and the accountability group. Find out which one works for you, grab some friends or colleagues, and get to work!
2. Write Every Day
It sounds incredibly simple, but it really works! If you write a little bit every day, you can start to make more progress toward your writing goals.
Keep in mind that not everything you write needs to be publishable prose: journaling, outlining (see below), brainstorming, and rough drafting are all activities that contribute to a solid manuscript. Once you release yourself from the pressure of only writing what’s fit to print, then you can really let the ideas flow!
Every good essay, article, book, and even blog needs a solid structure. Outlining helps you keep on track and (hopefully) avoid too much fluff!
An outline can be built both before and after the manuscript is already written (or maybe even both!). Crafting one before sitting down to type will give you a solid skeleton to fill out as you go along, while reverse-outlining will help you see the holes and areas that can be trimmed while remaining true to your thesis.
Plus, if your problem is writer’s block, an outline will help push you forward in the manuscript-writing process.
4. How to Write a Lot
If you’d rather procrastinate by reading about writing rather than actually doing the act itself, then Paul Silvia’s book How to Write a Lot might be for you. It’s geared toward academic writers who are having a hard time fitting a solid writing practice into their schedules. In 150 easy-to-digest pages, Silvia gives pragmatic advice for those seeking motivation and strategies to write more, improve writing quality, and publish academic articles and books.
5. Take Regular Breaks
As any good editor will tell you, regular breaks are key to working long hours on a word processor. They help you clear your mind so that you can return to the page with fresh eyes when you sit back down for another go.
Furthermore, many of us have our greatest writing breakthroughs while not actually writing! Sometimes all it takes is a bit of a stretch or shut-eye to see your manuscript from another point of view.
Need more help with writing motivation?
A book coach might be what you need. Coaches are like a nonjudgmental colleague or advisor who can help you develop your ideas, find motivation, and work on your writing practice.
About the author
Cara Jordan is chief editor and president at Flatpage. She has spent her career editing academic and artists' writings, primarily as a developmental editor and copyeditor. She received her PhD in art history from the Graduate Center, CUNY.