What helps you focus?

This week, I would like to talk about finding your focus when it comes to sitting oneself down to put the words on the page. I believe this is one part of the adventure we call writing that is of such a personal nature that it’s hard to define what is key to obtaining focus for each individual. For that reason, this isn’t a linear method to find focus, but merely my personal approach. Maybe you’ll find bits and pieces you can incorporate into your habits after reading this, or maybe you’ll find doing the opposite of what I do works for you. Either way, I hope that after reading this, you will be able to summon your focus with more authority.

First off, I think it’s important to differentiate the stages of writing. I have three stages; research, writing, and editing. During the research phase, I can be pretty much anywhere as long as I have something to read and/or take notes. As I stated in my previous blog, this phase is pure fun, because no ideas are bad, no plot twist is wrong. I think that is the reason I don’t need to confine myself to advance during this phase. During the research, if I’m at home, quiet music or a sports event on TV creates a background noise that lets my mind wander as I take in the information I’m researching. If I’m out, any setting that lets me settle into a corner (at the park, in a café, etc.) will work.

Then comes the writing phase. This is where I disappear from society. To get the words down on the page, I need to isolate myself and my mind from any outside stimulation. I settle into my “writing chair”, put on my earphones, and blast music as loudly as I can without hurting my ears. This creates a white noise that forces me to focus with clarity on the words I want to put down on the page. If I don’t put on the music and isolate myself in a corner, my mind wanders and makes the edits that much more difficult. Another thing I do is create a playlist for the writing period. I choose approximately four to five hours worth of music and play that on a loop while I write. The fact the same songs come back over and over helps me stay aligned with my initial idea as I advance in the writing. Once I complete the first draft, I go through the document twice, notes in hand and music blaring, to search for and fix any glaring mistake in the storyline, or re-write a contrived dialogue.

Then comes the editing. Before I send it out to a professional editor, I do my edits. For this part, I remain isolated in my seat, but bring the music down to something more along the lines of meditative music. I go through the manuscript twice, looking for grammatical errors or typos, and make sure the pace is correct. I also double-check for major plot mistakes, but if I did the first part with diligence, it isn’t so bad. After two passes, it’s time to send my work to another pair of eyes, because I don’t see the mistakes and typos anymore. This could be a good moment to send it to beta readers, or you can jump ahead to the line and copy editing.

At this point, many authors think their book has little to no mistakes left in it, which is not true. Whether by way of beta readers or editors, be ready to absorb a list of corrections and proposed changes. It’s up to you to accept or reject the suggested changes, but make sure to think about it thoroughly before deciding to keep it or not. And don’t be di