Writing Discipline

As a follow-up to yesterday’s Top Ten Tips on NaNoWriMo, I thought I ought to add a response to two of the comments I’ve received. The two points that were raised both relate to discipline more than anything else.

First, another writer was a little concerned at my point 7. She pointed out, quite rightly, that she was an historical writer and had to get the facts right in her stories. Research was key, she pointed out.

I quite agree. I am very proud of the fact that my own books are used for teaching in a number of schools in the UK and US, because my attention to detail has been noted. However, I’d still defend point 7 relates to writing.

There comes a time when the author has to put away his or her research books and write. Yes, it’s important to get the facts straight, but not to the extent that they prevent writing the book. This is especially true for NaNoWriMo, which is a short, one month period in which the objective is to get words down on paper. Research for NaNo must be curtailed. If you haven’t researched adequately already, go to the default novelist’s position, and make it up! It is your prerogative, but more than that, it’s your job. If you, as a serious historian, want to clarify when and where you embellished, then do so in an Author’s Note (it’s what I do in my books), but don’t lose sight of the fact that you are primarily there, sitting or standing at your desk in order to put words on paper. Not to enjoy yourself delving further into the history of the period. If that is what you want, you’re doing the wrong job: you ought to be at university and studying for your doctorate! Sit down and write.

Second, Audrey wrote in to say that she wrote several novels before NaNo was thought of, but since receiving an internet connection in 2010, she hasn’t been able to write anything.

That is a horrible position to be in and Audrey has my most profound sympathy.

However, there are cures for such issues. For example, I discovered, soon after being told that I had to increase my Twitter and social media presence, that my productivity fell through the floor. There was an unfortunate concatenation of events in my case, with a new job as Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund, speaking engagements, and trying to help start a new literary festival, that all conspired to get in my way. That was no excuse, though. I am a professional writer. If I am not writing, I’m no longer a professional writer. So, in my case, I had to make the decision to rationalise my efforts. I hit upon the idea of writing Tweets in the morning, and then dipping in occasionally through the day. If you look at my timeline, I tend to write before 08.30 or while I’m walking the dogs, and then at about 11.00, about 13.00, and at two hour intervals basically until about 21.00, which is when I let myself off the leash more. My day is spent in one hour chunks of writing, during which I will write about 1,000 words. Only when I have written at least 5,000 words will I allow myself time to read the news, look at internet pages that are not related to work and other things.

To get to this you will need to be disciplined.

To get to this you will need to be disciplined.

Many writers suffer from a lack of discipline. A lot attempt to write before they have worked at full time jobs, or before they have even left school. For them the discipline of a working day can be really tough. But if you want to get the words on paper, and that is essential if you want to call yourself a writer, author, or novelist, then you have to dedicate yourself to that task.

So, turn off email, the phone, Twitter, FaceBook, Tsu, Ello, Pinterest, and all the other distractions as well as the TV until you have achieved your daily count. It’s only for one month – but to finish that novel it’s essential. And creating a first novel is one of the most sublime experiences anyone will ever achieve.

Good luck!

11 Responses to “Writing Discipline”
  1. Jack Eason says:

    We;; said Michael :D


  2. Jack Eason says:

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    Michael on discipline when writing :D


  3. Lindsey Russell says:

    Perhaps they missed the point that your advice was specifically for NaNoWriMo. A Historical Author is no different from any other in respect of doing research but for this project the research should be done before starting and none during – though it would be a good idea to highlight or stick post-its on anything suspect to check when the month is over. The MS isn’t going to be seen by anyone but the writer in its present form so even spelling and typos can be ignored. The ‘winners’ of this project are those who achieve 50,000 words – not those who have 10,000 words of perfectly researched polished prose.


  4. Thanks for mentioning my comment in this post. Similar to your situation, there were other circumstances that made it difficult to focus on writing. One huge factor was that beginning in 2010 I actually published four of the five novels I wrote between 2000 and 2008. I also started blogging, following blogs, commenting on others’ blog posts,etc. I’m planning to retire from my day job in a few months. At that point I will retool my schedule, building in time for writing. I’m thinking of using an ancient computer without an internet connection that is no more than a glorified typewriter. It lives in a subterranean chamber that used to be my writing room, which is where I will be spending more time.
    And yes, this is totally separate from NaNo, which is a thing in itself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am just preparing to write my next book using pen and paper, literally. The typing will be my first edit. Hopefully that will mean that I get fewer interruptions and have less downtime due to computer failure. I also have two manual typewriters which are looking more and more appealing…!


  5. Tracey Marie says:

    Thank you for this follow up blog. Whilst participating in Nanowrimo which is great for me as I am always extremely disciined during the month of November but I am always amazed at how many people spend time in FB asking questions. Although. I do find it encouraging that we are all in this together.

    The key for me is to learn to be disciplined for the other 11 months of the year.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. R T Allwin says:

    Reblogged this on Chimaeral and commented:
    My reblog this week comes from last week, and was written by Michael Jecks – it’s about something very important:


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