Welcome to 2016!
While this blog site is primarily for my readers this particular post is for the writers out there. I’m posting it here as I don’t yet have a blog on my Justwrite Coaching page but one is coming soon. And I’m posting it now because I really want to share the things that are helping me get my writing mojo back and increasing my word tally.
If you’re anything like me the ringing in of a new year comes with a whole lot of resolutions or at least some vaguely shaped plans for what you would like to achieve in the next 12 months. For the last few years ‘write a book’ has been at the top of that list. I’m happy to say that I have actually done that since 2012. My first book, Blackwattle Lake came out in December that year, my second, Essie’s Way, in December 2013 and my third, Close To Home, in July 2015. I am about to sign a contract for book number four. All that being said I’ve had long periods of writing drought – weeks and sometimes months, always in the draft stage, where the words just dry up and my backside is rarely where it should be – in my office chair. As usual this year, my top resolution was ‘write a book’ but I want to get the draft done quickly (I believe in writing the story fast and not going back to revise too much until it’s done) and allow maximum time for revision. So this month I’ve worked out some strategies to get back my mojo and keep the words flowing. Since they seem to be working I thought I’d share them here in the hope of inspiring others to get writing and stay writing.
Here are the things I’m doing, sort of in order.
- I set myself a daily word goal of 2000 words a day. While I’m not always (meaning often) reaching it I’m not beating myself up if I don’t. Any progress is good progress. And a page with words on it is better than a blank one regardless of the quality of those words.
- Keeping in touch with other writers. Closely. As part of a FB group in which members aim for #1000 words a day, seeing other peoples word counts encourages you to get yours done. I’ve also teamed up with a writing buddy and we send daily text messages to check in on each other’s progress.
- Using the pomodoro technique for word sprints. If you haven’t heard of it this is a focusing method based on doing the task (writing) for 25 minutes, taking a five minute break, doing another 25, a break and so on. It pushes you to concentrate for a relatively short space of time, gives your brain and body a rest (you should really get up and walk around or stretch in the break) and allows you to reward yourself with cups of coffee or whatever your personal treat happens to be. There are apps available for this, which include a timer – just google pomodoro technique.
- Not worrying about the quality or if it’s a cliché or the wrong word, just getting it down and reminding myself I can fix it later.
- Looking out for articles online and in print that connect to my novel and bookmarking them.
- Reading every day. I’m currently reading a light women’s fiction novel and while my editor brain is picking holes in it my writer brain is appreciating the gentle character development and the way the author interweaves thought and action. No matter what you’re reading there are lesson you can take away for your own writing. The fact that I’m currently taking some time out on the beautiful south coast definitely helps with the R & R factor.
- Staying in the dream of my story. Probably because I am writing every day the characters and story are with me when I’m washing up, driving or in the shower. I find myself coming up with snippets of their backstory, working out plot problems I’ve already identified and having impromptu conversations with them. They’re becoming real to me which hopefully means they will be real to my readers.
- Jotting everything down. Those thoughts that come to you in the middle of the night or when you’re walking down the pasta aisle in the supermarket need to be caught immediately. If one of them surfaces as I’m procrastinating on facebook or scrolling through twitter I write it down in my notebook. If something about another part of the story comes up while I’m actually working on it I add it to the notes column in Scrivener where I’ll be sure to find it again when I’m revising. Driving along a beautiful country road the other day part of a character’s past jumped in front of me and I pulled over and jotted it into the notes section of my phone. Harnessing those thoughts while they’re present means you won’t forget them and means you’re continually adding to the pile of information you are building up about your story.
- Keeping in mind my word for the year. When I met with some writer friends at Christmas the idea of everyone having a ‘word for the year’ came up. A couple of them had done it before and found it helped them move in the direction they wanted to, either in their life or in their writing. The trick is to let the word come to you rather than forcing yourself to choose something you feel you ‘should’. The word that immediately came to my mind was Discipline. In so many areas of my life I feel I could be achieving more if I was more disciplined. Writing is the main one but I’m finding that by also being more disciplined about my yoga practice, making lists and checking my diary, getting my daily words done isn’t such a chore. There are quite a few other areas of my life I need to work on getting into shape (my house being one of them!) but so far I’m pleased with the changes I’m making. Every time I baulk at opening up my manuscript or doing a few sun salutations the word DISCIPLINE scrolls across my brain so I sigh softly to myself and get on with it.
- Finding a balance between being kind to myself and staying on track. As I mentioned at the beginning I set a daily goal of 2000 words. In the last 15 days I think there would only be about three days that I’ve made it. Quite a few days I’ve managed 500-600 and on others I’ve chalked up around 1500. Now I could berate myself for being totally hopeless and wonder why I ever bother setting a word-count goal if I’m not going to reach it but all that would probably achieve would be for me to wonder why I’m bothering to write at all and shut me down completely. So instead I’m choosing to acknowledge that while I may not have made my target for the day I have still written some words, spent time with my characters and had my head in the story. Compared to the zero word count of the 6 weeks prior to New Year, and my total lack of connection to the story over those weeks, this all feels pretty good. I’ve considered revising my word goal down, making it 1500 or 1000 words a day but I’m pretty sure I would then start to accept even lower totals than I’m achieving at the moment. Currently I’m making myself stay in the seat until at least 500 words are scored. On ‘good’ days I come back for another session or two and the tally goes up but on ‘bad’ days, at least I’ve hit 500.
So, there you have it, my top ten tips (because there were actually ten when I wrote them down and not because it’s a nice round number) for what’s keeping me writing this month. I hope your word count is going up and you didn’t need any of these tips but if you’ve been stalling I hope some of these ideas have helped. Either way I’d love to hear how your writing is progressing.
Now I’m off to set my timer and write my first 500 for the day.