Life as a Writer—Structure & Focus

The word structure is not on my list of favorite words. Telling you I’m not a structured person is a great understatement. I’m more of an impatient, impetuous, quick-tempered, fly by the seat of my pants type woman. I want what I want, and I want it now. I’ve learned the world doesn’t work this way, but some things are difficult to let go. So when I tell you I recently read two articles that increased my productivity, you may be surprised to learn that one of the articles is on the need of structure in a writer’s life.

The article suggests writers create structure with a writing schedule. Not necessarily a set word count or specific number of hours per day. Rather that writers find a structure that works for them and set a daily schedule based on their specific needs. I agree that a writer needs structure, some type of schedule, to be productive day after day. Binge writing is not the most productive writing. Saying I would write every day was not enough for me. I need specifics.

My writing schedule created productive writing time with useable content in my writing and revising. This schedule isn’t carved in stone, but I guard my scheduled writing time from cancellation and intrusion. Yes, this means blocking off the time on my calendar and turning off my cell phone. Remember, you are not the center of the universe; life will go on if you miss one call. In my sixty-plus years, I’ve never saved a life by answering my phone the minute it rang. I’ve never opened my door to find Ed McMahon with a million-dollar check. Don’t think it will happen now. If it does? Well, I’ll have a new story to write. If Ed appears, I could start a new genre!

The second article suggests writers focus on one type of writing. Because I write both creative non-fiction and fiction, I often find it difficult to focus on one or the other. No matter which one I’m working on, I tend to think about the other. I lose momentum with my writing. Sometimes I switch projects several times a day because I don’t concentrate—or focus—on the project. This article came to mind every time I switched projects. Finally, I decided to focus on fiction, specifically my mystery-romance manuscript, for the rest of the week.

The manuscript is a three year-old work-in-progress. I want it finished. I’ve started over several times—always the same story but with different beginnings. I added, deleted, revised until I forgot the original story plan and some of the characters. I had no wish to finish it. In the last few weeks—after making an outline—I attempted to correct parts of the story, but it seemed fragmented instead of cohesive. Once I established my focus, cohesion within my fiction manuscript, I began on page one and worked my way through the manuscript marking places that needed research (not my focus for this rewrite) and situations that needed more development. It worked. I finished large chunks of the manuscript revision each time I sat down to write.

This week I challenge you to improve your writing with structure and focus: 1) Structure your writing by creating a writing schedule and adhering to it for one week. If you have only fifteen minutes a day, then write for fifteen minutes a day for seven days. If the schedule works, stay with it for another seven days. If not, revise it. Keep revising until you find a schedule that works. Then, commit to the schedule to create structure in your writing life. 2) Focus on one specific type of writing and on one element within that writing.

Take the weekly challenge—Write Now!

About Susan Harvey

I'm a humor writer and a newly retired college English instructor. I enjoy reading and writing yet don't take time to do what I really love--writing. I began writing a mystery-romance novel three years ago. Now that I'm retired, I will make time to write with the goal of finishing my novel.
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