Tag Archives: writing

Mental Writing

Megan Norris Jones

Megan Norris Jones

This is the last week of Write by Midnight. My record this month hasn’t been perfect, but, despite numerous family obligations and unexpected responsibilities, I have managed to get up early most mornings and write. I really think I’ve established a habit. Hooray!

But an extra thirty minutes a day, while extremely helpful, won’t get my novel polished and published any time soon. So, as the month comes to a close, I’ve been considering ways to maximize my scarce writing time.

One method I’ve been experimenting with is “mental writing” while I’m engaged in other necessary tasks that require my body but not my mind. You know the ones I mean: washing dishes, folding clothes, walking the dog. I often end a writing session with a problem that I must solve in order to continue. Rather than use my precious writing time to stare at my computer screen and try to figure out what I need to write next, I use my mental writing time to work through the problem so that when I sit down at my computer again, I can dedicate the time to actual writing.

The time I spend outside or exercising seems to be the most effective, and there’s a long tradition of writers using long walks to work through narrative issues, but any time I can squeeze in some extra thought about my own story is helpful. As a result, even if I’m not writing for longer stretches, the time I do spend writing is more efficient.

How do you maximize your own writing time?

How Do I Know If I’m Making Any Progress?

Megan Norris Jones

Megan Norris Jones

Write by Midnight is designed to help us all establish a daily writing routine, and I’ve really appreciated the structure and accountability it’s given me so far. Last week I bragged about my perfect track record for getting up and writing every morning. This week I have to confess that I missed a couple of days. But I’m back at my desk again, hammering out words.

It’s easy to track my progress when I’m drafting a story, but now that I’m revising, it’s more difficult to know if I’ve made any headway or not. How can I measure? I’m still working at the macro level where I’m fixing my plot and character arc. I haven’t made it down to the scene-by-scene sharpening the words level, so I don’t think number of scenes revised is a good measurement. Maybe I should count the number of minutes spent staring at the screen? The number of epiphanies about what my problem actually is and how I should fix it? And does it still count if today’s epiphany turns out to be a stupid idea tomorrow?

During the past two weeks, I probably made the most significant progress in the book not while grimly staring at my computer screen but while mulling over a plot problem as I dried my hair. Maybe it was the white noise. Maybe the absence of pressure. Or maybe I had just been thinking about this one problem long enough and in enough different settings that an answer finally emerged. Now it’s time to sit back down at my desk and try out this solution I’ve discovered. I’m praying it stays firmly in the realm of epiphany.

How do you know if you’re making any progress during revision?

4 Tips for Waking Up Early to Write

Megan Norris Jones

Megan Norris Jones

My goal for our Write by Midnight challenge has been to wake up early and get an extra thirty minutes of writing time a day. I am not naturally a morning person, so this has really been a challenge, but I’m happy to report that I’ve been able to write every morning for the past week. I feel like I need some sort of early bird pin to proudly display my achievement.

If you’re hoping to work in some early morning writing time, too, here are a few of the techniques that have made it work for me.

1. Tell people.
There’s no motivation like the shame of having to admit that you were a lazy slug who burrowed under the covers instead of getting up to accomplish the writing goal you have announced is so important to you. I told you on this blog, announced it to Twitter, and told the friends and family members I see every day. So I basically have to get up.

2. Remind yourself.
In the wee hours, when it’s still dark outside and my bed is so cozy, I often have no idea why I set my alarm so early. So I hit snooze without waking properly and then kick myself when I’m finally awake enough to remember, “Oh, yeah, I really want to finish my novel.” My solution? I simply title the alarm on my cell phone “Finish this draft by X date” or “It’s time to Write by Midnight.” That last one has been especially effective this month because it reintroduces the shame motivator of #1 (see above).

3. Go to bed on time.
Sleep deprivation is bad for you. If you’re going to get up earlier, you have to go to sleep earlier. You can get by on coffee and determination for a while, but eventually, you will burn out. We’re trying to establish a sustainable habit. So sustain yourself with adequate sleep. And write.

4. Use a gradual wakeup pre-alarm.
Five minutes before I actually want to get up, I set an alarm that plays soothing music. It’s fairly loud, so it wakes me up, but it’s soothing, so I don’t feel the need to turn it off, and I get to experience the lovely feeling of snuggling down under the covers and knowing it’s not time to get up yet. By the time my real alarm goes off, I’m awake enough to remember why I wanted to get up at this terrible hour to begin with, so I actually get up. There are also various apps that monitor your sleep and wake you at the best time, but this approach works for me.

In case you’re wondering, my musical selection is “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy. It’s starts soft but builds to a climax just as I’m needing to get up. It was also part of the soundtrack at the end of the movie Ocean’s 11, when they’ve successfully stolen millions and are basking in their accomplishment while gazing at the fountains of the Bellagio in Las Vegas. It’s nice to bask.

What are your tricks for waking up early to write?

Success in the Face of Sabotage

Megan Norris Jones

Megan Norris Jones

It’s Day Two of the Write by Midnight challenge, and so far I’m off to a good start. My goal for the month is to incorporate thirty minutes of writing time into my mornings before the hectic day gets started. As a result, my challenge actually started on January 31 when I needed to get in bed thirty minutes earlier in order to avoid sleep deprivation. Remember, we’re creating sustainable habits here, not running a month-long marathon only to collapse at the end of it. As an habitual night owl, going to bed earlier is hard for me, but I made it in bed by 10:30. Success!

I was all geared up for a good night’s sleep followed by a productive writing session until midnight when the thumping of little feet running from a nightmare sounded down the hall. Wake up, offer comfort, go back to sleep. Until 4 a.m. when the thumping of little feet running from a nightmare sounded down the hall. Again. Sabotage!

I did not get a long and restful night’s sleep, but the peer pressure of knowing I’d have to confess how I did with my goals to all of you forced me out of bed anyway. Overall, I’m calling it a win. Now to do the same thing every day for the next month. Fingers crossed that tonight’s sleep will at least be uninterrupted.

A New Year, a New Way of Writing: Write by Midnight



The New Year has barely begun, and it’s brimming with possibilities. As writers, it’s traditional to resolve each year to make writing a priority and finish that first draft, revision or submission. 2017 is no different, except the WriteOwls have created a plan to help us stick to our good intentions to write every day. We invite you to join us as we “Write by Midnight.”

Write by Midnight aims to help you incorporate writing into your days without putting the rest of your life on hold. We, like you, have families to take care of, work deadlines to meet and a myriad of other obligations and extracurricular activities that make us who we are. All of those things inform our writing styles and voices, so the goal of Write by Midnight is to embrace them while we include writing in the mix of our daily routines.

This month, we’ll begin laying a solid groundwork for a year of writing success and then dive in with a write-a-thon for the month of February to turn those goals into a sustainable habit of writing every day–by midnight. We will encourage you to analyze what works for you as a writer, as well as what doesn’t, and then to set your own daily goals. Whether your goal is to write 500 words a day, revise a scene, complete an outline or develop your voice, we invite you to set yourself up for success by creating realistic expectations that push you to become a better, consistently productive writer.

Each Wednesday in the coming weeks, we’ll give you a prompt that will prepare you to hit the ground running when Write by Midnight launches on Feb. 1. We hope our suggestions will get you in the right frame of mind to make progress on your writing project once the write-a-thon begins so you can achieve your goals by the end of the month. With that in mind, here’s your first challenge:

Write by Midnight Challenge #1:

Spend the next week taking stock of how you really spend your time. How long does it take you to do the regular activities that make up your life? If you take a moment to record the minutes you spend commuting, cooking dinner, checking social media or interacting with family, you might be surprised at how much–or little–time certain things take. Noting the flow of your daily schedule might be a time-consuming task this week, but the insights you’ll gain from the effort will allow you to pinpoint time that you might be able to convert to writing time. Could you, for example, DVR a favorite television show, skip the commercials during playback, and spend those gained minutes writing?

New for Write by Midnight

You can plug into Write by Midnight through WriteOwls.com and by following us on Twitter @WriteOwls #writebymidnight for peeks into our progress, shared tips and resources, and daily Write by Midnight inspiration.

We look forward to sharing our journeys with you in the coming days and hope you’ll share your progress with us along the way, too.