Once you finish your first novel, you think, “Hey, I’m a writer! I can do this!” And you bask in that warm sunshine for a while, getting a nice tan and feeling pretty darn good about yourself.
When I’ve chatted with other authors, the general sense is the more you write, the easier it is – to a point. It’s still a matter of coming up with an idea, creating characters, putting together a plot and a timeline, and then putting one word after another on the page in a particular order that makes sense and tells the story in the best way possible. There are no shortcuts to what’s been called “butt in chair” writing.
It’s wonderful to write, and I can lose myself for hours in the process. But it’s hard to write, and even harder to start writing. If I want to see consistent progress and meet my writing goals (see my Write Challenge post), I must force myself to sit down and do this word-by-word thing.
Round of Words in 80 Days. Round of Words in 80 Days is a challenge to make personal writing goals to meet in the next eighty days. Through a blog post, you set out what your desires are for the length of the challenge. Is it finishing a work in progress? Editing a novel? Starting another book? The reason that I like this particular challenge is that it is flexible to the author’s circumstances. You write your own goals, post your progress through Twitter and/or your blog, and have a group of fellow writers doing the same. It’s great to see a post like, “So excited you met your #ROW80 goal this week! You’re really making progress!” Or even one that states, “Don’t worry about missing your #ROW80 goal this week. Rooting for you this week!”
1khr. This is a Twitter hashtag (#1k1hr) which challenges authors to write 1,000 words in one hour. After one hour, you post your word count and see how the others in your #1k1hr group did. Sometimes you might exceed your goal of 1,000, and sometimes you’ll end up with less. But there’s an absolute guarantee that you’ll have more words written at the end of the hour than when you started! (Even if you edit half of them out later. *groan*) One hour is a lengthy time to write without giving yourself hand cramps, and it’s wonderful to report to others cheering you on just as you are doing for them.
Wordmongering. “Wordmongering” is a challenge to write for thirty minutes, then take a break for thirty minutes – like writing sprints. After each half-hour session, the author posts his/her word count on Twitter and receives attagirls or attaboys from other participants while cheering them as well. Wordmongering allows you to write in short bursts, have some accountability, receive encouragement, and see constant progress. To join, writers simply use the hashtag #wordmongering on Twitter.
Write or Die. Through another author (Leah Petersen), I stumbled upon the website Write or Die. This online program permits you to choose a length of time to write, a word count you wish to reach, and how persistent you want those reminders to get your rear in gear (Gentle, Normal, Kamikaze, Electric Shock modes). I tried the program for a half hour and turned out 784 words (a great result for me). If I stopped writing for a few seconds, the screen turned pink, then red, and then the program beeped annoyingly as if to say, “Where did you go, you slacker! It’s time to write, write, write!” And that was on the Normal Mode. (I fear the Electric Shock mode.)
Flash Fiction. Haley Whitehall posted an April Flash Fiction challenge on her website. Flash Fiction is a style of writing for extreme brevity. The writer receives a prompt (e.g., “She had been warned, but now it was too late”) and a word limit – usually 250, 500, or 1000 words. Then it’s time to write a story within the parameters given. This is an excellent tool for honing one’s ability to grasp a reader quickly and make every word count. I wrote my first Flash Fiction story through Haley’s April challenge (she has a May challenge out now) and hope to participate in other Flash Fiction opportunities to polish my writing craft.
So what tools are you using to keep yourself on track? What has worked for you? What hasn’t? Do you like being accountable to others? Does community help you stay on track? Or personal goals?
Share your secrets!
Round of Words in 80 Days Update: 5,169 words last week (goal: 5,000); two-thirds through first edit of middle grade novel; blogged three times last week, plus a bonus post for Flash Fiction. Had a great week using tools above!