|by Antonio Litterio
- Keep all your notes. That’s easy advice for natural hoarders! You also need some way of finding exactly what you want, when you want it without being distracted by other interesting snippets along the way. WWILF (or What Was I Looking For?) is a constant danger when trawling through files, whether they're computer or paper. Mustrum Ridcully’s First Available Horizontal Surface method of filing only works until you actually want to find something. Organize your computer documents into files, give each one a memorable name and make a separate, detailed index somewhere else, to make sure you can still recall important data instantly. Sticking the word “cat” into your computer's search box will give you a list of every single document you've created where those three letters occur in that order. Make sure you have some way of narrowing down your search between Persians, catalogues, catastrophes and category romance. For paper records, empty cardboard boxes are great for storage if you’re on a tight budget. Save old foolscap envelopes to subdivide your projects within each box.
- Now you’ve found your notes, get writing-and make sure you do! Set yourself a target that's magnificent, yet achievable. Be specific, and set yourself a time limit. That way, you’ve got something to work toward. You can measure your target, celebrate your successes and fine-tune your efforts. Your aim might be “I’m going to write a 60,000 word historical romance by 31st December”. Write it down in your diary, make a note on your phone and add a sticker to your lap-top, so your target’s always in your sights. That 300 day-long task starts with one session, so break your project down into easily manageable chunks. Work out how many words you’ll need to write each day to hit your target, and aim for that. Celebrate when you reach it, or work out what to do differently if you don’t.
- Rise to the challenge. If you’re finding the work hard going, reduce the job into still smaller, more achievable segments. Use every trick you can think of to keep you moving forward: make a chart and colour in squares, don’t go out for that coffee until you’ve reached your goal, or set a kitchen timer for one hour, then write as much as you can before the alarm goes off. Take a tea break, then repeat. Use your competitive instinct to try and beat your previous word-count. If you’re on Twitter, join up with others for the regular #1k1hr challenges. It always helps to know you’re not alone, and others will gain inspiration from you, too. If the words really won’t come, take a walk, have a bath, a nap or try doing some puzzles. Giving your brain a rest from the hard work of creative writing can re-boot your imagination. When the words start flowing again, finish your writing session while you’ve still got lots to give. Then you’ll be raring to go the next time you start!