Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Writer’s Productivity Quiz - Good habits, bad habits

Okay, I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. Here’s an unscientific quiz aimed at helping writers identify what habits they might build or break to become more productive. This is based on my providing guidance for about 1,000 writers over the past few years and many more conversations over the past few decades. Many of the answers represent what I’ve heard from authors at all levels of success.

What's the best way to use this quiz? Pay attention to a) your insights and b) what makes you feel uncomfortable. The total score is less important.

1) How often do you write?

A. Almost every day, at least 30 minutes.

B. Five days a week, at least 15 minutes.

C. When I'm inspired or irregularly.

D. I haven't put time in on a serious work in progress in a year or more.
2) I edit as I go.

A. Never.

B. Only the last scene, then I work forward.

C. I get a scene/chapter "right" before I move on.

D. I just can’t leave what’s written alone. I may go back to the early chapters over and over again before I complete a draft.

3) Here’s what counts as my “writing time” …

A. Composing and editing done on my work in progress.

B. Marketing and working on my author website or relevant social media in addition to my composing an entity.

C. Any time my fingers touch the keyboard.

D. I don't keep track of my writing time in any way.

4) In my time dedicated to editing…

A. I make separate passes, from macro to micro, that is, big story issues to the minutia of spelling and grammar.

B. I check the story against my outline or treatment, then I do a pass with automatic checks for style, grammar, and spelling so I can stand to look at it. Then a couple more passes to make it consistent, smooth, and polished.

C. I try to catch everything at once, so there is a second pass and a polish before it goes to market.

D. I fix things that bother me

5) In preparing to write…

A. I have everything set up and ready before my scheduled session begins, including having a good idea of what I'll be writing or which editing task I intend to complete.

B. I’ve got my coffee and my tools (paper and pencil, laptop, etc.), but, if I'm composing I always read the last scene I've written — depending on that to launch me into the draft — rather than have a definite plan.

C. I have a place, my tools, the time, and I know which manuscript I’ll be working on.

D. There’s no planning or setting up. I dip in and out  of the manuscript when the mood suits me for as long as I stay interested.

6) When I work, I usually…

A. Move through my writing at a steady clip, rather than pausing for long periods or indulging in distractions.

B. Will take a deep breath or briefly pace if the words stop, but I'll skip ahead or use some other strategy if the pause gets too long.

C. Allow my mind to wander, may work on another project, or may do research if the words stop flowing.

D. Wait for inspiration.

7) When I lack a word or a fact or don't remember an incident from my story…

A. I keep going, using brackets and place holding words (like bagel), making sure that I fix these within 24 hours.

B. I stop, find the answer, then resume I writing.

C. I stop to find answers, but frequently don't get back to the writing because of distractions.

D. This doesn't affect me much because most the time I'm busy building my ideas folder.

8) To keep the act of writing from hurting my health, I…

A. Schedule in times to stretch and hydrate no less than once an hour, and I take advantage of technologies like standing desks and dictation software.

B. Listen to my body and take it easy on myself when I start to feel stress, aching joints, or sore muscles.

C. Limit myself to a definite number of shots of whiskey per session.

D. Get medical help, e.g, physical therapy or detoxing, once I complete a project.

9) To help me improve my approach, explore new techniques, keep focused, and understand how I work I…

A. Track my participation through things like word count, time spent, and scenes edited, and also maintain a process journal.

B. Collect articles and give myself a word count goal.

C. Use writing techniques that feel right at the time.

D. Trust the force.


This quiz is not exhaustive, and the score doesn’t matter as much as what may be revealed by taking the test, but here goes…

Give yourself 4 points for each A, 3 for each B, 2 for each C and 1 for each D.

If your total score is 28-36, you are a productive writer with great discipline and habits.

If you ended up with 19-27, you are working at the level of many professionals and probably have good enough work habits to achieve many of your goals.

For those with 9-18, you have demonstrated dedication to the craft. If your productivity pleases you, you may not want to make any changes. If not, you may wish to explore opportunities to add good habits and break some bad ones.

Lower scores may just mean you have your own way of doing things that works for you. No problem there. But if you are frustrated with your productivity and the score confirms that for you, it might be good to dedicate some time to understand what’s getting in your way and make some changes.

Whatever score you got, I hope you had some fun. As always, I welcome questions and comments.

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