The writing triangle: three essentials for writers

Sometimes it seems like the stars have to be per­fectly aligned in the heav­ens for any real writ­ing to be done, nev­er mind start­ing and fin­ish­ing a book.

But there are some ele­ments that help. Inspiration is one but it’s unpre­dict­able at the best of times. It’s far bet­ter to use what I call the the writ­ing tri­angle.

The tri­angle is com­posed of a place, a time and a plan.

Every writer deserves – and needs – a place to write. Some folks are happy at the kit­chen table or super cre­at­ive at the loc­al cap­puccino bar. Personally, I think to be most effect­ive, a per­son should have a room – no mat­ter how small – that they can call all their own. If need be, it can even be part of a room. What’s import­ant is that this be a place where you will not be dis­turbed.

Once you have a place, you need a time. And that doesn’t mean whenev­er you can make time or the cre­at­ive muse hap­pens to strike. If you are ser­i­ous about writ­ing you will make time to pur­sue your craft on a reg­u­lar basis.

This might be a couple of hours in the morn­ing before you go to work, two hours after the kids go to bed or four hours on Saturdays. The import­ant detail here is to have a reg­u­lar time and stick to it. Make this your time for writ­ing, wheth­er you feel like it or not. Believe me, if you sit in front of a blank screen long enough, the bore­dom will make you want to write.

And, con­trary to pop­u­lar opin­ion or a strong sense of respons­ib­il­ity or guilt, very few things will hap­pen that require your imme­di­ate atten­tion. Years ago when my step-daugh­ter was young, I had my writ­ing desk in a corner of the liv­ing room. After many inter­rup­tions I nicely but firmly asked her not to dis­turb me unless we needed to evac­u­ate the house or someone needed to go to the hos­pit­al. It worked. (But hav­ing a private place makes it easi­er.)

Now for the plan part. If you want to fin­ish a book and not make it your life work, it’s best to give your­self a dead­line. Let’s say you’re start­ing your pro­ject on January 1 and want to have a com­pleted first draft by Sept. 1. Divide those 35 weeks by the num­ber of chapters  you estim­ate your book will have. Now you know how much time you can devote to each chapter. For example 35 weeks divided by 16 chapters means you can spend about two weeks writ­ing each chapter.

Don’t be overly optim­ist­ic – vaca­tions and life hap­pen and you want to enjoy them. But you also want to fin­ish your book. And don’t get overly anal about your plan; it is a guideline, not writ­ten in stone.

Every time I begin a book I make a plan and adjust it as neces­sary. That means once a month or so I check my plan to see how I’m doing. To date I’ve nev­er fin­ished a draft or book when I ini­tially thought I would, but without a place, time and plan, I know it would have taken me much longer.







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