How to Stay Focused While Writing a Novel

how to stay focused while writing a novelI’ve had the pleasure of meeting many wonderful authors over the years, mostly through author visits to the school where I taught. Now that I’m a full time writer myself, I wished I had posed the question, “How do you stay focused while writing a novel?” Since I didn’t ask, I had to learn by trial. If you’re an aspiring author, here are some strategies that may help with how to stay focused while writing a novel. Use these tips to find a method that works best for your daily writing sessions.

Taking a Break to Stay Focused While Writing

I must address the first issue. I went from being a teacher, moving continuously through either the classroom or school hallways, and up stairs and down, to being a writer. Need I explain more? I went from constant activity to an occasional shift in a chair. The first months of writing, my neck, shoulders, and back began to ache. I was sitting upright at 8:30 and by nine I was slumped, looking at a computer screen attempting to appear focused for my own sanity.

Then it hit me like an iron fist. If I continued to live a sediment life, my writing, not to mention my body and mind, would suffer. If I no longer had third grade students to keep my mind bursting with fresh ideas then I needed to compensate. And compensate, I did. I ran up and down my house steps, took a quick walk around the block, and at times stopped writing to do a couple push-ups and sit-ups. Standing also helps keeps me focused while writing. I move my computer to the kitchen countertop and stand while working. It comes down to this. Frequent exercise keeps me focused during my writing hour. Ideas, sentences, and paragraphs soon turn into pages and chapters.

Minimize Distractions by Setting a Schedule

Movement is key, but it wasn’t enough for this newbie writer. After a year and a half of writing full time, I’ve learned there is more to this diligent workday than I first thought. Forget the friendly phone chitchat, dropping everything to shoe shop, or visiting the hardware store for the wood glue to fix the dresser drawer. You’re not on vacation. Writing is your work. It is essential that you set a work schedule to stay focused and minimize distractions while writing.

Here’s an example of how I minimize distractions. For twenty years, I had scheduled bathroom and lunch breaks, but now I was in a new chapter of my life. I soon discovered I was free to leave my office to use the bathroom or head to the kitchen for a snack. I felt completely discombobulated. A rigid schedule was no longer needed, but a loose schedule was leading me down the wrong path. It was easy to find a million things that JUST needed to get done. Unfortunately all those must-do items left me with a blank page at the end of an exhausting day. It was essential I change my schedule to benefit my new career and minimize distractions.

Tweak Your Schedule Until You Minimize Distractions - Then Tweak It Again

When I got to the root of the problem (making time for everything but my writing) I got down to some serious business. I wrote a rigid schedule down on paper. Up at six, coffee, breakfast, walk, shower, WRITE. The first four hours, 8:30-12:00 are used explicitly for writing my novel. My phone alarm signals for me move every hour, even if it’s as little as climbing the stairs or stretching. Once I got the hang of my first part of the day, I tweaked my schedule to make for a less rigid, open for a few changes day.

I began writing in a café for the first four hours of my day. Since it’s not easy to leave my computer behind and go for a quick walk, I stretch on my bathroom breaks. Hey whatever it takes to get the job done, right? Once the first part of my day was running smoothly, I tweaked my schedule again, adding hours to my workday. I once again began with a rigid, written down on paper schedule. I knew when I got the hang of it, I could change it…often if need be. From 1:30-4:30 is used for continued writing on my novel, or marketing and social media. So basically it looks like this. Leave café, head home, take a walk (or get on the elliptical), eat lunch and get ready for the second half of my day. Since my revelation on how to stay focused while writing, I feel refreshed and energized.

I feel accomplished when I close my computer at 4:30 PM. If you’re an early bird like me, or a night owl like my husband, choose an exercise and workday that will best help you to stay focused while writing. [yellowbox]BONUS: Download 3 Free Chapters of The Fifth Floor Now! Follow the coming of age journey for a young girl named Anna and her struggles with a deep, dark secret.[/yellowbox]


Looking for something new to put on your reading list? Check out the debut novel from Julie Oleszek, a local author in Batavia IllinoisThe Fifth Floor today!

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