Article writing tips, techniques, strategies

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Timer Magic for Writers

By: Katey Coffing, Ph.D.

If your writing muscle isn't in shape, writing a novel may seem like a sheer, unscalable cliff. ("Gee, I don't think I can write today. I left my climbing shoes in my other backpack...")

Keep in mind that you don't need to write the whole book today, so stop beating yourself up. Instead, just start moving, one footstep at a time.

One of my favorite writing tools is a timer. My author clients and I swear by ours, and "timer magic" can work for almost any task that's looming over you. (Remember the old joke about how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time!)

Get a timer and set it for fifteen minutes. C'mon, fifteen minutes—you can do anything for that long. Promise yourself these two things:

(1) you'll be in your chair, and

(2) you'll be willing to write during that time.

Even if you're afraid you'll be staring at a blank screen, do it. That's your agreement.

Now: butt in chair, hands on keyboard, set the timer, and go. Write down anything that comes to you—snippets of dialogue, ideas for an opening paragraph, why your heroine scratches her nose when she's nervous and hates velvet. Anything. Don't censor it.

When the timer goes off, you're free to stop. You've done what you pledged—writing time in that chair. Congratulations!

Now take a reward. Will it be a bowl of Rocky Road ice cream? Half an hour of guilt-free reading of a favorite author's new book? Do what feels good, and choose something that will motivate you next time.

Next, decide exactly when that time will be (make it soon). If you're in the middle of a juicy paragraph and want to complete it, do. You can always set the timer for another fifteen minutes to keep going. Then do something extra nice for yourself. You earned it!

As fifteen minutes becomes a habit, add more minutes to the timer to increase your momentum. Soon you'll be zipping along.

Remember: it takes only one step to start a journey, and small steps can take you anywhere you want to go.

Katey Coffing, Ph.D. © 2004 All Rights Reserved

Katey Coffing, Ph.D. is a novelist and book coach who helps women delight in writing (and finishing!) their books. Visit her at


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