If your December was anything like mine you probably didn’t get much writing done. If it was exactly like mine your writing tally was a big, fat zero! What with family commitments, Christmas get togethers and the excitement of my first novel actually being out there on bookstore shelves, any thoughts I had of keeping up some sort of writing schedule flew out the window.

The last time I wrote anything other than a shopping list was way back in November when I attempted Nanwrimo, attempting to mimic the success I’d previously had in writing a 50,000 word novel in a month. That novel became Blackwattle Lake and was published in December by Hachette. It had almost written itself, the plot unfolding effortlessly in response to the question what happens next? Expecting the same thing to happen again I started off with an idea I’d been musing on for a while but this time I hit a wall. The words were getting onto the page but there was no plot line developing. Despite my efforts this was not the kind of story that could be churned out in thirty days. This one needed time, day dreaming and nurturing. So I stopped writing. And then December hit.

And here I am with a new year just around the corner plotting my next writing move.

Naturally my first resolution is to write every day. But how to stick to that when I have a serious lack of self discipline and life keeps throwing distractions at me at every turn? One thing I have learnt from my nano experiences is that it IS possible to write every day if you are determined and make it a priority. Committing to a daily schedule makes writing a habit. There are various opinions on how long it takes for a habit to become ingrained but I’m thinking that writing daily for 31days is a good start.

So that’s what I’m doing. Setting up a daily writing schedule starting January 1. And I’d love you to join me, writing in whatever form you choose for as long a time period as you can afford on a daily basis. Saying I’m going to write every day might work for some but for the rest of us there needs to be some structure to keep us going. Here are a few guidelines to get us started:

  •  Decide what you are going to write before you start. You don’t have to know the details but a rough idea will help get you motivated. Whether its morning pages, a novel, poetry, short stories or memoir pieces, choosing a form will help prevent procrastination.
  •   Look at your calendar and daily schedule and work out what time of day would be most productive for you. You may need to make adjustments – get up half an hour earlier, miss a TV show at night, write on the train rather than read. Giving something up – even if its sleep – will be worth the effort at the end of the month when you see all the words you’ve accumulated.
  • Be realistic about how much time you can devote each day but also be brave. There’s no point getting over excited and deciding on four hours writing a day when you have work and/or family commitments that are going to make that impossible. You might be able to allocate that amount of time one or two days a week and write for an hour on the other days. Unlike nano (50,000 words in a month) this New Year challenge is about setting up a writing schedule that works for you, establishes a habit and can be maintained beyond January 31. Conversely you need to set aside an amount of time that will allow you to make progress with your writing – 5 minutes a day isn’t going to do that.
  • Don’t aim for perfection. Just write. Re-reading and editing will allow your inner critic to hit you with a barrage of abuse. Focus on getting the words on the page without worrying too much about the quality. That can be worked on later.

I’ll be checking in daily on the blog to let you know how I’m going with the challenge. Connecting with a community of writers is a great way to keep up your motivation and share ideas. Tomorrow I’ll be reporting in on what I’ll be writing in January.

I’d love you to join me in the challenge and post your progress here on the blog.

Now off to do some planning!