Tag Archives: word count

How to keep momentum going

act hysterical and give up copy

It sounds like bragging to say that I published 6 books in one year, so I don’t often say it in real life. Obviously, I’ve blogged about it as the year went along, and tweeted and posted on Facebook. But I almost never go up to total strangers and say, “Hey, guess what? I published 6 books in 10 months!” Because that would be tacky, at the very least.

I have not kept that pace in 2013, although I am on track to publish 4 in this calendar year, and that ain’t bad. I’m having some logistical (not story) problems getting Darian’s War finished, but I know that I write best when I write fast, so I’m not worried about it. I gave myself a generous deadline, knowing that I had 2 international trips (this first one, which started 8/7, requiring a TON of planning and preparation) in August and September. November might see me sweating a little, but I’ll be ready.

But here’s what people ask me all the time: How did you write so much so fast? How did you keep the momentum going?

I’d like to say I have a magic bullet (AKA easy answer), but I don’t. Not really. One answer is that I am a somewhat obsessive personality. I am a project person, as I’ve written about several times on this blog. When I start a project, no matter how small (and they never stay small), I am obsessed about getting it done, and quickly. It’s why NaNoWriMo works so great for me – writing a novel (not just 50,000 words) in 30 days or less is seriously speaking my language. I did 5 NaNo events in a row, and won them all. It’s just how my brain works.

But now, I’m not relying on NaNo to finish my books, mostly because the camps were inconvenient for me. I actually write better with that schedule, but this year was crazy (3 international trips, 2 graduations, 1 wedding, 4 books), and I know I need to cut myself some slack. For instance, after my daughter’s wedding, my brain was just fried.  If I had tried to write, you wouldn’t have wanted to read it! So this is where real life meets ideal life, and we tend to lose momentum.

So how do I keep it going? Well, several ways. First, I book with my production team ahead of time. I absolutely HATE to change my dates once I’m scheduled. I’ve had to, and it was not fatal, but it was close. I hate it. I feel like I’m inconveniencing not only all the great folks at Streetlight Graphics, but also whatever other authors are getting moved around because I didn’t have my act together. If people-pleasing is a good motivator for you, I strongly recommend this method. Book with your editor, your cover artist, your formatter, even your beta readers. Then stick with it.

Another way is to start telling your fans when the book will be released. I’ve had people email me, Tweet me, and Facebook me: “WHEN is the last book coming out???” So I say November. Guess what? Barring some really terrible life happening, that book will be out in November. I need all the fans I can get, and I’m not going to be untruthful if I can help it!

Finally, tell everyone you know. Post your daily word count on Facebook and Twitter. Blog about it. Make it public. This works for dieting, and it works for deadlines, too. Peer pressure can be a wonderful thing, if harnessed properly. We should always look at ourselves askance if we find that we are hiding our progress and our goal. That usually means we’re not making progress and haven’t set a goal. Just sayin’.

Writing every day is a treat, a blessing, and, to quote Mr. Monk, a curse. Some days we’d all rather clean toilets. Twice. So sometimes we need a little external pressure to say to us, “Get a grip – this is a JOB, not just a hobby. Write, no matter what you feel like.” And amazingly enough, that usually works!

I discovered when reading the first draft of my first novel, Solomon’s Throne, that I couldn’t tell the difference between the days writing flowed from my fingers faster than they could type the keys and the days every 200 words seemed like an epic struggle. In the end, I just wrote. With a migraine, waiting for my son at practice, when I was so tired I didn’t think I could come up with one semi-original word. And in the end, it was all the same. Really, that’s momentum. Taking a play from Nike’s book: JUST DO IT!

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Taking requests – how to trick your brain when writing

I had a long conversation with a friend yesterday, and he suggested that I share some of my tricks for writing that maybe I haven’t shared before. So, by request – how to trick your brain.

First, these work when you establish a set deadline for yourself. If you don’t have one, you probably don’t need this, and probably have a better relationship with your brain and inner editor than I do. The deadline can be whatever you decide – for me it’s a month, but it could be 3 mos, 6 mos, 12 mos… whatever you decide. It’s your book, after all!

OK, so you have your goal. You’re going to write a novel/memoir/how-to/history book in X number of months. We’ll use 3 for our example.

First, that’s 90 days give or take. If you’re super OCD, please figure out the exact number of days, not forgetting leap year. Got it? OK, so that’s your writing days.

Now, subtract days you know you can’t write. Thanksgiving, especially if you’re the cook. Christmas. That week-long camping trip you’ve planned for a year. Your daughter’s wedding. Whatever. So if you started with 90 (I’m not OCD!), and you’ve got 3 definite “no way” days, you’ve got 87.

But are you going to write all 87? Nope, no way. Your brain will get tired, a day trip will come up, you or someone in your house will get sick, or you just want a fun day of freedom. How many? Only you know. It could be one a week, or two a month. Let’s say 3 a month for this example, so now we have 78 writing days.

Take a look at your genre now. Commercial fiction is typically 80-100,000 words, but some can be 125k or longer. How-to and a lot of nonfiction can be 50-60,000, as is Young Adult. Determine your word count. I write commercial fiction usually, and aim for 90,000. I usually end my first draft in the 88k range, but I still plan for 90k. So if we divide the number of words by the number of days, we see that we need to write a minimum of 1154 words a day on the days we’re writing. Jot that down.

OK, so now you’re ready to write. You need a list. I use a stickie note app on my desktop, which I leave open during my writing months, but you could use a spreadsheet or a notebook. Here’s what mine looked like for Undaunted Love:

writing goalsI write either the date or the day number (just 1, 2, 5, 47, whatever). Each day, before I start writing, I write my GOAL number. This number is the daily word goal (in our example that would be 1154) added to the day before. Not to the GOAL from the day before, from the actual.

Here’s where my friend thought a lot of people would be too hard on themselves. You can see that I had 2 days with deficits from my goal. Notice that I did NOT add the next day’s word goal to the GOAL from the day before, but from the actual. Why? Well, look at the other days. My goal was 3000 a day in this instance. June 6 was pretty close, at 3115, but look at the other days. 4418. 3530. 3789. 5820. Every other day exceeded my goal (it’s pretty hard to write exactly 3000, or 1154, words and stop). Sometimes by a lot. I don’t subtract those overages from my goal the next day, so neither do I add deficits. You’re talking about an AVERAGE of where you are vs where you want to be.

What does that mean in our example? Well, let’s say you’re on day 33 of your 3 months. On day 33, if you’re on track, you should have a minimum of 38,082 words. Are you there? Are you over? If you set a realistic goal, you’re probably over, or pretty darn close (even 100 extra words a day gives you a 3300 word surplus in 33 days). THAT’S what you need to look at, not each day in a microcosm. And that’s why you don’t worry about your goal from the previous day, you just look at actual numbers. Because it really does all average out.

Finally, in your first draft, DON’T DELETE! First of all, those are valuable words you’ve written down! If you don’t like something, just make the font white. That’ll save your words, but you don’t have to look at them. You can remove them later, when you’re editing. This is a FIRST DRAFT. It’s called a “first” draft for a reason. Otherwise, it would be your FINAL draft. Be kind to yourself – editing is where it gets ugly, but this isn’t editing. This is writing.

I’m not saying this is the only way to write. Some people just write day in, day out, and finish when they finish. I can’t do that — if I don’t have a deadline (self-imposed or not) I just won’t get it done. Life will get in the way. One other thing I do is tell people I’m writing. For me, that means I put on FB that I will be writing, then I put on FB that I’ve started writing, then I put my daily word counts and my totals on FB while I’m writing. And celebrate on FB when I’m done. There are 3 or 4 people who follow along, cheer me on, and celebrate, and that’s enough to put some pressure on me to do it.

Hope this helps! Keep on writing!

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