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How Do You get into Your Fiction-writing Zone?

 Some days I find it hard to take up the thread of fiction writing– so I thought of focusing on ways I do get into it (most days).

 The idea is to mesmerize
yourself into a writing trance, to train your mind to switch into the
writing gear, the right brain,
as and when required. This is easier said than done, but I’ve found
that a few of the tips below help a writer reach the writing zone. To
define the term “writing zone” better, I’d recommend
Pulitzer-prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler’s “From Where You Dream”, reviewed here.

Write at the same time every day: Most
successful writers value a specific writing routine. There are writers
who work better in the mornings, some who work better at night. But a
fixed writing routine helps not only in taking advantage of writers’
best creative time. It also helps their mind get habituated to the idea
that every morning at eight, for instance, they will be writing

Even if you can’t get the flow when you stare
at the screen or the page, you can respect your writing time by
doodling, opening your WIP and dreaming on it, or researching. You can
then ask yourself if you can just write one sentence. Take it from
there, and if you keep this up for a number of days, the mind would get
attuned to writing on demand. Different writers’ routines vary. There is
no fixed formula, but over a lifetime of writing, most writers develop
some sort of routine.

writers swear by early morning writing, just after waking up, when the
mind is still half asleep. The right brain is still active, and if you
do not let the realities of daily life kick in, the sub-conscious mind
that dreams will continue to carry forward a sort of dream-trance into
your fictional world. This may or may not work for you as a person, but
if you can afford to, try writing first thing in the morning to find out
if it does. It could be worth the effort.

Write at the same place:
Writing at a particular desk while doing your fiction, or even lounging
on a sofa (note to self: can be terrible for back problems), gets you
used to a particular setting. Or you might like the energy of a public
place, a restaurant, a park bench. Over time, this will help you get
into the writing trance much easier. This could be a disadvantage if you
travel a lot. If you often find yourself in different cities within the
same week, the following pointers could help.

Write with the same smells:
If you do not have the luxury of writing everyday at the same time and
at the same place ( children, carpools, office, traveling job…….
fill in your particular situation here), you can try and burn the same
incense, or light the same brand of scented candle every time you write.
The sense of smell is a powerful associative force, just think back on
the number of times a particular smell has invoked a particular memory,
and you will understand what scent association is all about. If you
surround yourself with a scent you like, and do it each time you write,
your mind will automatically begin to associate this with writing, and
switch to creative gear.

Write with the same sounds:
Not everyone can carry around scented candles everywhere they go. But
music? That is another matter. If you play the same pieces of music, the
same collection over and over while you write, you’ll slowly find
yourself getting into the writing trance when that particular album is
on. Mp3 players and ipods are everywhere these days, so this is an easy
tool. Silence works for some writers. They find any music, however
evocative, disturbing. If you feel you write best in silence, then
silence is the music you need to play every time you write. Slowly, you
would go into a silence of your own, and the biggest din may not awaken
you from your meditative state of writing.

Write with the same tools:
Writing fiction has always been a longhand notebook for me. The second
draft gets done as I type it out on screen. My mind has started
associating writing in a notebook with fiction. (This also means that I
don’t necessarily need to lug my laptop everywhere). You can pick your
tool of choice, whether it is a writing software, the plain MS word or a
notebook. Stick to your specific tool, and the words would come much

Write in the same kind of clothes:
Well, this might sound nuts, but it works. Imagine yourself as a
corporate climber: your dress is part of your arsenal, right? It is
something you put on when you go to work, and it helps you maintain a
professional image or attitude. You associate you work clothes with time
at office, and will never wear them on a vacation or picnic.

you could choose a set of writing clothes. This will be a set of
clothing, a few t-shirts and sweat pants for instance (whatever you feel
comfortable in), that you will wear only when writing, and take off
once you’re done. Ridiculous as it sounds, changing into writing-clothes
gives you a sense of readiness. It is a signal to your mind that this
is time for business, the business of fiction-writing.

Start with a warm-up: Many writers find that a few warm-up writing exercises or right-brain workouts would often help them make the switch from their logical side to the creative side.

Create your own system: Not
all the tips would work for everyone, because all writers are different
people, with different modes of both inspiration and expression.

each one creates his or her own “system” amongst a series of sensory
inputs, which encourage the creative juices. The idea is to figure what
works for you, and then stick to it for the long haul. This particular
quote from an author, describing a writing space, and the sights and sounds experienced while writing, is interesting in this respect:

walls are white, which I would definitely do something about if I was
going to be here for any length of time. But the ceilings are high, I
have the whole attic to myself, it is very private, and I get a lot of
work done here. There is a gigantic church about a block away from here,
and beautiful bells toll everyday at noon and six for mass. Sometimes I
have to close the front window if the skunk has been hanging around the
backyard, and the same guy always wakes me up at about 4am on recycling
day going through the blue bin, but other than that, this attic has
been good to me. But I can’t wait to get back home and set up my office
for real. Maybe even unpack a few suitcases. Or maybe not. I’ve grown
kind of fond of this system.

Write everyday: The biggest, the most obvious and the most often overlooked aspect of easily getting into the writing frame of mind is practice.
If you write regularly, basically everyday, the right brain would kick
in faster. Any of the above tips would work best only if you strive to
write each day of your life, weekends and vacations included!

It is true that these tips work for an
author struggling to get into the flow. Depending on who you are, you
might find them helpful, or you might have found other “Systems” that
work for you.

But “lighting the candle”, or “wearing the writing
clothes” or “listening to the writing music” are triggers to a mental
state, and could become an addiction. Once you have got your mind used
to reaching out to your creative side at will, make sure you do not
continue to lean on these crutches. Your final goal is to be able to
write with your right brain any time, any where, no matter how much the distraction. You have been warned.

Happy writing, and see you at the writing-zone!

What’s your one tip for getting into the Fiction Writing Zone?

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Really well summarized. If I had to point my way of writing a fiction, I would recommend one to get into a melancholic mood 😛 But then, it depends on each one! 🙂

    Regards, Tanishq Sharma

  • Susan Scott says:

    Thanks Damyanti – these are excellent, useful tips. We need to break the habit of saying 'it's too much' or 'I'm not in the zone'. Make new habits, different ones …

  • avirandom says:

    I once was told by Jerry Pinto that read before you sleep and write when you wake up. It worked for me somehow but then I started being lazy:(

  • These are excellent suggestions and all agreeable to me. If I am at my son's school, I'll put my feet up on one of the benches and use my laptop. Comfy clothing is important, so that's another thing I like to wear most of the time. haven't tried the scented candles, etc, but love the idea and will try that when the occasion arises. Disciplinary oneself to write daily is important, as you stated. Thank goodness I got a lot of practice with that in the AtoZ April challenge:)

  • aah i think the mood setting matters for me..dont over analyze..thats my writing funda!

  • Gyan Ban says:

    Thank you for the nice read – something I go through while writing is to watch a clip or two on the top the topic I intend to write…youtube plays the perfect conduit.

  • I never would have thought of smells. Great tips!

  • Tina says:

    Excellent tips! I write from my bed, in my tranquil redecorated bedroom. I have an amazing back pillow that keeps me from seizing up. I write best in the mornings, but my morning schedule is hectic. I try to settle in once the house is empty.
    Writing everyday is key. It's a discipline, like working out. I like the candle/scent idea but hubby is really sensitive to smells, so I don't think that would work for me. As to clothes? I'm like Nick, you'll find me in jeans and a t-shirt, so I'm always ready to go!
    Great collection of good tips here. Definitely one for the boookmark 🙂
    Tina @ Life is Good
    On the Open Road! @ Join us for the 4th Annual Post-Challenge Road Trip!

  • timsored says:

    I think these are excellent tips. I've been out of the zone lately but I know from experience that writing at the same time of day, using the same mug for coffee and other personal routines are a huge help.

  • Hi human, Damyanti,

    I can see how this list might be of great value to pawticularly aspiring writers. Although, I'm not into routines and the only routine I insist on his having a ceremonial crap in the garden before I settle in for a bit of writing.

    The ambience I create, or my fictional human creates, it based on what we might wish to write. Structure and routine makes it feel forced for Gary and I. We write when the mood takes over us. When Gary, yes the fictional character, doesn't bother writing, I take over. It's all totally pawesome.

    Have a lovely rest of your weekend.

    Penny 🙂

  • DL Hammons says:

    Writing with the same smells doesn't work for me. I have no sense of smell. 🙁

    The other ones a re great though!

  • Charli Mills says:

    Good tips for developing a structure. I used to get up 2 hours early (before work) to write. Now that I'm writing full-time, I sleep in! My best time to write is at night, but I can get inspired and it flows no matter the setting or my clothes. The best way for me to get inspired is to read and discuss writing with others; to look at great design or photos; read poetry; or listen to the stories of others. Great post!

  • shelly says:

    Since I'm not given a set schedule at work, I write when I can. Good post!

    Hugs and chocolate!

  • B says:

    what about people like me 🙁 all this tips wont work for the likes of me who jsut CANT write 🙂

    but good tips , helpful


  • I think doing all of these definitely works. I used to write in my sweat pants or pjs every morning from 6-8. Then I changed and wrote in my daughter's dance studio lobby during their classes three days a week at the same time every day (similar but not the same clothes, similar music every time, etc.), and now, I'm writing at haphazard times, but I'm still finding time to make it work. Whenever I hit a writing low point, I usually find my groove by reinstating a set time of the day, set background, etc. for my writing. It's amazing how well this works.

  • Nick Wilford says:

    Yeah, the number one is writing every day. Then it becomes a habit. I have not quite managed it. I still can't write at the weekends when I'm surrounded by kids! But if I don't do it for a week, it's harder to get back to. I do have to write at a desk (well, the kitchen table until I get my desk) because the sofa is far too relaxing. And I only wear jeans and a t-shirt, every single day, so I'm always in my writing clothes!

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