By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund
I recently finished writing THE END of a novel. I wrote almost half of the book during the month of November for National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). I'd already written 50,000 words of the manuscript during the fall, and decided to challenge myself to finish the last 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo.
This was the first time I've participated in NaNoWriMo. In the past, I've always had one excuse or another for not jumping on the bandwagon. But since I have a couple of editing deadlines on other books looming ahead, I decided to finish my WIP (work-in-progress) in one fell swoop, rather than having to take breaks from it while I edit.
As I was writing furiously this past month, I realized that I've developed one trick (or technique) over the years that helps me meet my daily word count goals most days. The trick works whether I challenge myself to 1000 words a day or 3000. I can still meet my daily goals . . . when I do one small thing.
Here's my trick: I break down my daily goal into smaller 30 minute challenges.
Here's how I do it: I use a sticky note by the side of my lap top, and I jot down how many words I hope to write in those 30 minutes as well as what time I need to have it done by. Let's say at 10:00 am I've reached 80,500 words. On my sticky note I write my next target: 80,800 by 10:30 (which means I need to write 300 words in 30 minutes).
Since I'm a fairly slow writer, I've learned that 300 words is doable for me in 30 minutes. Maybe some writers can do 500. Some might do less. The point is to make the goal achievable.
Then I start writing and don't quit until I reach that 30 minute deadline. I don't allow myself to dawdle every few minutes on facebook or twitter. I don't stop to research or check email. I don't even allow myself a coffee break. I keep my butt in the chair and write hard.
Most of the time I end up pretty close to my goal. And once the 30 minutes is up, I give myself another 30 minute challenge. (Or take a mini break if I've been working a while.) I keep resetting the challenges until my word count goal for the day is met.
The point is that the smaller increment of 30 minutes gives us a tangible, doable deadline. Sometimes an hour might feel too long, and we may get frustrated with knowing how to pace ourselves. A shorter chunk of time helps us stay on track and keeps us motivated and focused.
I finished my 50,000 NaNoWriMo words 30 minutes at a time all month long. Some days I had 30 minutes in the morning, then again in the afternoon, and maybe an hour at night. Other days I had three hours straight. Either way, I always gave myself 30 minute challenges. And it all adds up to a completed book . . . eventually!
How about you? What tricks do you have to meet your writing goals? What motivates you and keeps you on track?
Labels: Craft of Writing
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