Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How to Keep Your Writing Focus: Tips from Six Middle Grade and YA Writers

It can be hard to keep your writing focus during the busy summer months! Today the MiG Writers offer some strategies and tips for keeping your writing on track:
Kate says:
My tip is that I have to write first before I jump into editing and critiquing. Because once I start other work, it will never stop. If I don't do my writing first, it will never get done. So I just write one scene a day. Also, Deena (a writing buddy from Author2Author) and I have 2 days this summer we reserved for homemade writing retreats, where we just go somewhere and write all day.

Kate Fall writes middle grade and young adult fiction and is an editor with Entangled Publishing. 

Carmella says:

To keep my writing on track, I write first thing in the morning. Well, okay, maybe not FIRST thing. I do like to check my emails and Facebook. But I find that if I turn on the TV or start a project or running errands, I never really get back to writing. I think my inner critic sleeps in late, too. So working before she's fully awake really helps the creative flow as well. 

Carmella Van Vleet writes MG fiction and "hands-on" non-fiction. Her debut MG novel, ELISA BING IS (NOT) A BIG FAT QUITTER, will be released in Spring 2014 from Holiday House.

Christina says:
I like to give myself mini-goals. I chart up my ideal writing goals for the week such as writing 1,000 words a day or revising 30 pages a day. Then if I make that goal, I'll give myself rewards such as reading or watching my favorite TV show.

I'm a pretty stubborn person so I won't stop for the day until I've reached my goal. Writer's block isn't allowed. If I'm having a complete block, I force myself to write jibberish and hope the next day is better. 99% of the time, the jibberish actually is not as bad as I thought, or I am able to break out of my block just by writing the jibberish.

Christina Farley is the author of the YA novel GILDED, which will be published by Skyscape in Spring 2014.


Susan says:

When the writing isn't coming easily, I need to stick to a routine. I'm a morning person, so I set aside a few mornings a week that begin with at least 2-3 hours of sitting at the computer. I do set daily targets but I don't always achieve them. Nonetheless, I put in the hours.

Once I'm into the story though, nothing can keep me away from it. I'll write in the evening and late into the night. I'll wake up early to start writing again. I revel in that moment when the passion takes hold and the writing consumes me, but I rely on the routine. At the end of the day that's what drives me to edit and re-edit, that's what gets me through the moments when my muse has fled. Passion is no more reliable in writing than it is most areas of life. It's great when you're feeling it but it's a fickle beast. The key to success is  dedication, commitment, a well-developed work ethic, and routine.
S.J. Laidlaw is the author of AN INFIDEL IN PARADISE (Tundra Books, 2013). Her second novel, THE VOICE IN MY HEAD is scheduled for publication in Spring, 2014.

Andrea says:
Other people in my family get up really early in the morning to go rowing, so I get up then too and start writing. I use my desktop computer for writing and I use my tablet for checking e-mails and social media (all the better if the battery is run down and I need to charge it during my writing time).

 One of the things that helps when I’m revising is to have an outline document where I write about how the characters are feeling in a chapter or scene. It helps keep me focused on what I need to do when I actually start writing the scene.

 Andrea Mack writes middle grade fiction, picture books and beginning readers.


Debbie says:

I try to have short-term goals with realistic deadlines as well as long-term. "Realistic" is the keyword, I find, because it's so easy and feels good to set ambitious goals. But then if you don't meet them and just feel bad, over and over, what's the point? I'm talking about NON-contract work here. My contracted picture book writing and illustration work comes first, but I am still working toward making time for my novel-writing as well.

Having long-term goals helps keep me on track with my short-term goals. And I'm reading the other suggestions from fellow MiG Writers for inspiration!
Debbie Ridpath Ohi illustrated I'M BORED, a picture book written by Michael Ian Black (Simon & Schuster BFYR) which was chosen by The New York Times for its Notable Children's Books Of 2012 list. She is currently illustrating a new book by the same author as well as writing & illustrating her own book for Simon & Schuster.

How are you keeping your writing on track this summer? We'd love to read your tips!


  1. My writing is totally off track this summer because my daughter is so dang busy. But thanks for the inspiring tips on how to get on track.

  2. All great advice, especially about goals and deadlines. Summer can be hard on us writers! The whole industry tends to slump. I guess you have to celebrate any progress, even if it's less than usual.

  3. Oh, the kids activities are killers. That's another reason to write in the morning. My kids tend not to have early activities. I'm really counting the days until they go back to school!


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