Tuesday Writing Tip – Spoiled for Choice

Some people suffer from writer’s block because they can’t think of anything to write. For me, writer’s block is caused by having too many things I want to write … too many ideas colliding in my head.

Only my closest friends (and family) know just how many finished, but not quite right/not quite ready/just not quite manuscripts I have stored in the overflowing filing cabinets in my study.

Recently I decided that the ‘system’ wasn’t working. I am usually working on 2 or 3 works in progress at once and if I spread out all the drafts and research for these manuscripts, my study turns into complete chaos. And I have to spread the materials out because I can’t keep all the information in my head.



So I have embarked on a new system. It’s called ‘let the dog see the rabbit’ or in plain English, ‘let’s see what’s here.’

All my WIPs are going into clearly labelled plastic containers that if stacked, should take up less room than my filing cabinets. And I can sort them into genre stacks…YA contemporary, YA dystopian, chapter books, mid grade adventure, mid grade humour, picture books, non-fiction, adult books …. yep I have some of each.

The theory behind all this is that it should allow me to focus on ONE piece of writing at a time. I plan to get that ONE box off the stack and leave it out while I’m working on it …. and then put it back in the stack.


Apart from anything else, this stack system allows me to see exactly what manuscripts I have in which genre so I can target particular publishers or competitions, and just focus on those manuscripts.

There’s also incentive to get manuscripts published so that the stacks don’t become too high and cause a potential toppling hazard.

That’s the theory. Wish me luck.


If nothing else, the whole exercise has allowed me to see what I have to work with … and to focus on ONE thing at a time. I guess it’s allowing me to symbolically and practically compartmentalise things.

I used to write on the basis, “work on the manuscript that’s calling to you.” But that doesn’t work if there are six manuscripts shouting at you at once, “Pick me. Pick me.”

So here are some things I’ve learned that help me focus on ONE manuscript at a time.

  1. Mentally and physically separate your manuscripts into ‘boxes’.
  2. Once you have put your manuscripts into ‘boxes’, only take out the ONE you are working on.
  3. Work to a competition/publisher submission deadline.
  4. If you don’t have a competition/publisher deadline, set one for yourself.
  5. Write the name of the manuscript you are working on in huge letters on a piece of paper or whiteboard to remind yourself to stay focussed.
  6. Promise yourself a reward when you have finished the draft of that manuscript or met your deadline.
  7. Tell your family and friends what you are working on… you don’t have to give them the whole story, just the title. When you verbally commit to it out loud, it can help you stay focussed on it.

Do you have trouble staying focussed on one manuscript? What do you do to keep you on track? I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. Feel free to leave them in the comments section of this blog.

Happy writing:)








One thought on “Tuesday Writing Tip – Spoiled for Choice

  1. Hi Alison,

    Number of manuscripts … a lot. More than 50 and less than 100:) I’m hoping this will help me get the paper war under control. Will have to see how I go:)

    Writing is going very well:) Hope yours is too.


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