Increasing Your Writing Output

Facing a dry spell, or even writer’s block, can cause frustration. Seb Reilly explains how he regained momentum in his writing.

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When I first started writing as a serious endeavour the words poured out of me. I began with the first draft of a novel and within a short space of time had several thousand words down, along with penning a few short stories. Then, for some reason, it all dried up.

At the time I wasn’t sure why, but in retrospect what happened was fairly simple: I hadn’t thought far enough ahead, I’d just written what had already been brewing in my mind. It took several months before the next stage of ideas had formed. During that period, instead of thinking about the subsequent steps, I was stuck with “writer’s block.”

When I did eventually begin to write again, the words came slower. Instead of a few pages a day it was a paragraph or two a week. It was laborious and I struggled with it, wondering if I was really a writer after all or just a wannabe. It was only when I started diversifying that I stumbled upon a method for increasing my writing output; upping the quantity whilst improving the quality.

As ridiculous as it sounds, I just wrote more about whatever I could in any form that seemed appropriate. I wrote articles and blog posts, poetry, short stories, flash fiction, along with the novel I was drafting. I learned new techniques, experimented with styles, dabbled in genres, and practiced the craft of writing. When I got stuck I went and wrote something else; a short story or an essay. When the dreaded “block” appeared I’d write an article about a completely unrelated subject. I wrote guest posts for other people, responded to prompts, entered competitions, anything I could to keep me writing.

The most frequent advice given by experienced writers is that you should write every day, and it didn’t take long for me to realise I was basically doing just that. Most of what I wrote has never been published, a lot of it never will be, but I was still writing. The first draft of the novel was finished and set aside to be redrafted, a few articles were posted online, some short stories and poems were submitted to magazines. A couple even got published. Then it hit me: I was a writer, I was writing, I had to continue. So I did.

I still write daily, and as a result the quality of my work is constantly improving. Looking back at things I penned when I started, I can see that the standard is poor in comparison to what I am working on now. But, in a few years’ time, I will look back on this and think the same, and that is the point. We are always getting better.

The initial acceleration I had when I began writing was exponential, but the momentum didn’t last as I was entirely focused on one thing. Nowadays I spread my attention. I have one piece of fiction I am working on at a time, be that a short story or a novel, and once a draft is done I swap to another. I write at least one non-fiction article a week, working on them when I need to think about and plan the next stage of the fiction project. I aim to write two poems a month, whether they be micro-poetry or something longer. I am always thinking of ideas, developing plotlines and characters, and that brings me to the solution.

All you need to increase your writing output is something to write about.

The more things you have write about, the more you write. The more you write, the more diverse your writing ability and form becomes. The more diverse your writing ability and form becomes, the more things you will have to write about. So find things to write about, and start writing.

Seb Reilly is a writer, fiction author and occasional musician. He lives by the sea in Thanet, Kent, with his family and two cats.

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