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Top 5 Writing Hacks to Distract You from the Nightmare of Your Daily Life

Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.

If you’re an aspiring writer [1], dealing with distraction is a big part of the routine. Between social media, your day job, familial responsibilities, and the once-in-a-century pandemic that has shut down the entire planet, it can be tough to focus on finishing your novel. These handy tips and tricks will help you knock out a few thousand words instead of dwelling on the few thousand deaths that occur every single day.

Set a daily writing goal. Having a manageable target word count can really help you focus on your craft instead of the scratchiness in your throat that’s almost certainly just allergies. Once a source of stress, your daily thousand words might now be the most peaceful part of your day until you finally tuck yourself in for six hours of fitful slumber and anxiety dreams.

Buy a new notebook and pen. Getting a new toy to play with is one of the oldest tricks in a writer’s toolbox. Something about a clean, white page in a notebook just seems friendlier than the blank, white screen on your word processor. Online shopping is one of the few pastimes remaining to us as we exile ourselves from our friends and loved ones (some of whom we may have already seen for the last time!), so yes, by all means, splurge on that fancy leather-bound journal.

Show, don’t tell. The triedest and truest piece of writing advice. Don’t tell us what something looks like, show us by using vivid details:

Make a writing playlist. If you enjoy listening to music while writing, the right playlist can really get your creative juices flowing! Create a thematic virtual mixtape to capture the mood of your book. Identify each character’s theme song, and see what it reveals about them. Or just pick a few tunes that make you feel good! The important thing is that you find as many ways as possible to keep your hands on your keyboard instead of touching your face.

photo by Matt Hannah

Let your characters drive the story. Your characters do not exist merely to execute your perfectly planned plot. They have wants, motives, and desires of their own—and if you listen and get to know them, they will take your story to places you never dreamed it could go. Your protagonist wants to defeat the evil overlord, but deep down she’s terrified of success and is prone to self-sabotage. The evil overlord never meant for things to turn out like this, but now he’s in too deep. The henchman is still in love with his ex, and every day berates himself for not realizing it while they were together. If you spend time in your characters’ heads, you’ll discover they each have a rich inner life that informs their every action, as well as perfect ignorance of the highly contagious virus that killed 86,000 people faster than you could finish your first draft.

By using these simple writing hacks, you’ll be able to concentrate on finishing your novel, and still have plenty of time left over to shriek with impotent rage at how many people will die just so reckless fools can get haircuts.

How do you stay focused on writing during a pandemic? Share your tips and tricks in the comments!

About Bill Ferris [3]

After college, Bill Ferris [4] left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.