Time to Reflect on the Past Year: Or, Where the heck did 2012 go?!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I swear, someone stole at least a month out from under me in the past year. It seemed like it was just June, and now suddenly we’re saying farewell to another year. Yikes!

However, not to worry. Because looking back at the year that was is a pretty wonderful thing. Oh, I heard that – the rolling of the eyes, the gnashing of the teeth. Seriously: looking back at the year and what you’ve accomplished IS a great thing, because it will help set you on the path for the coming year.

Okay. So, the first thing you need to do is get all the disappointment and fretting out of your system. Get rid of the “but I didn’t …” and “I was supposed to …” and “I still keep [insert bad habit here]” statements. Trust me, they echo pretty loudly in my head too at this time of the year, but they’re just distracting little devils who don’t want you to see the bigger picture – and that’s what you need to focus on.

If it helps, write them down. Keep it quick, no brooding. All you want to do is get it out of your head, and out of the way.

For me, I still remain unpublished, and un-agented. Time is always at a premium, I’m more out of shape than I care to mention, and I never accomplish as much as I think I should.

Okay. Done. Onto the next step. The important step.

What HAVE you accomplished? Remember at the beginning of the year when you dutifully wrote down all your goals and broke them down into manageable portions that could be easily identified as achieved or not?

Actually, I don’t remember that either. Last year, I didn’t really want to set goals, and only did it kind of accidentally since it appears to be stuck in my system. If you were a good boy or girl, and you have your written goals for 2012, go get them and start checking them off – see all you accomplished?

For the rest of us, I’ll have more on goal-setting for us in the next post. But for now, start writing down what you have accomplished. A few items will probably stand out in your head. Some may start out as negative devils again, so work on turning them around. I’ll offer one of my own examples.

– With the help of my CP and my own research, I discovered at least one massive flaw in my writing and particularly plotting. This led to self-doubt, and lots of teeth gnashing.

Okay, see the negativity? Here’s what I gained out of that negative experience this year.

-Finally found a CP worth their salt (possibly two of them!).

-Discovered and fixed a hole in my writing and plotting, improving overall quality.

-Continued to write despite set-backs, and have put into place new methods for productivity measurement, self-encouragement, and affirmation for the low points.

See? Easy. Now it’s your turn. I’ll wait.

Now how’s it looking? Hopefully, pretty positive. I know you accomplished a lot more than you think you have. And if you haven’t accomplished as much as you wanted, well, look at that! There’s a new year on the horizon, ripe with possibility, and it’s yours, if you have the courage to reach out and grab it.

Thanks for reading, and Happy 2013 to you all. See you in the new year!

Strength Training for Writers (post originally posted March 2010)

Hey there! I’m really sorry, but with a Christmas party to host, and gifts to make for the guests still (yikes! am I ever behind!) I don’t have time to write a new post. But, here’s one of my first posts, and still one I really enjoy. Ironically, I think I was writing the first draft of the book I’m currently fighting to rewrite.  Hope it’s informative and helpful to if you haven’t seen it before. Otherwise, hope you’ll forgive me and I’ll have a new post next week. Take care!

Like lifting weights or exercise and accomplishing particular goals, pushing yourself to write and create more and better all the time can make you a stronger writer.

I write fast. There, I’ve said it, and I don’t consider this a bad thing. Just this month, I completed two first drafts, and although the first was started in February, the other was a complete first draft completed, from world-rule establishment and plotting, complete with 100k. Last week, I wrote 37,000 words in five days.

For some writers, this is unheard of. Especially when it comes to that many words in a week, let alone a month, and that’s fine. As with every other aspect of personality, we all have our own timing, preferences, and idiosyncrasies. This was a big deal for me too, but a challenge I wanted to rise to. My goal used to be 1000 words a day (meaning total of 5k a week). Then, sometimes I’d have a great day, and the high of writing that much, exceeding my goals … just like when you’ve been able to run further or faster, or lift a heavier weight, you want to see what else you can do.

Do you want to write 37k words a week? Here’s how.

First, set goals. I started off with 1000 words a day. Then up to 2000. Then 2000 minimum, but trying to reach for 5000. It’s all about increments, and what you think you can reasonably accomplish in the time you have. I know it takes me, on average, an hour and a half to write those 2000 words. Some days, it’s much slower, others, much faster. But if you limit yourself by thinking you can’t write, create, or accomplish it, you can’t. For me, I had a fantastic day of writing 11,000 words in one day, and decided, wait, what if I did this every day? So, I changed my goal to 5000 words a day minimum, always reaching for 10,000. Now, I’m rarely satisfied if I don’t get 10k done a day.

Second, do not expect to accomplish this instantly, either in one setting, or overnight. Be kind to yourself. If you only write, say, 500 words a week now, 10,000 tomorrow may not be realistic, but next month, why not? I also don’t just sit there and pound on the keyboard that long. It’s not healthy, and I don’t have the patience. What works best for me, for body and mind, is to try and work in sessions. If word count doesn’t work, try timing it. Some days when I hate facing the computer screen, I promise myself I have to sit there only an hour for the first session before I get to run off somewhere else. You take a break, do something else, then come back, and it’s back to work. Sometimes it’s easier, sometimes it’s not, but either way, by holding yourself to this, you will accomplish getting pages written, and will get closer to your goals.

Third, be accountable to yourself. There is no one sitting over your shoulder with a whip insisting you be productive and how much you need to do to count as “productive”. The very idea, in fact, makes me kind of nervous. (For those of you who find the whip-master behind you is the best thing ever, hey, whatever works for you). You are the only one who can push yourself as hard as you need to go, whatever that is. Keep track of your productivity. Some writers use a calendar, there are programs out there which demand certain word counts before the program will save, there are probably other applications which I’m not technically savvy enough to know about. I use an old fashioned logbook, where I keep track of how much I wrote, and when, for each of the sessions per day, then with a total word count for each day. Some weeks this will mean you can see you didn’t get what you wanted done, but that’s okay, there’s next week. Other weeks, you can do a happy dance when you have something to look back at and do a happy dance to think wow! This was one week. What could be done in two?

Fourth, find a reason why you want to accomplish this, or need to. For me, I almost always get hit by the negativity gremlins about mid-book. Though all had gone well up until then, I’m getting bored (possibly because of a short attention span), I think everything is terrible, I need to go back to square one, etc, etc. First off, as an artist, you have to push past all that (more on that later). For me, my solution was to write so fast, by the time I hit that point, I was too far into the book, there was no way I was turning back. Fixes will come with rewrites. Best of all, it means I get to start on a fresh, new manuscript sooner! Whatever your reasons, having a reason for your goals makes it easier to keep them (even if it’s an experiment, like for me this month).

Finally, have a reward at the end of the tunnel and your journey. If you’re working so hard, you do deserve a reward. Is this getting to read a new book you’ve been waiting for? Going out with friends? A tasty treat? Whatever it is, use short-term rewards, like getting to do something fun or even time-wasting during breaks between sessions, and a long term reward, like maybe shopping therapy or sitting on your butt and doing nothing. The real reward will be, of course, that you have been productive, you have accomplished something great, and better yet, you can go back and do it all over again, accomplish even more.

May you be productive and happy, and may this article have been inspiration and set into action plans. Happy writing!

Rewriting like a fiend!

So, in an update, my last methods for improving my success rewriting seem to have worked. I beat the wall – actually, I discovered that I just needed to back up, and there was no wall. Therefore, I’m trying to fly through rewrites, and have very little additional time for anything else (there’s also that whole Christmas thing coming up, and since I make most of my gifts, I’m swamped.)

Consequently, a short post today.

I wanted to actually pose a question and share: what makes your rewrites go well? How to you avoid hitting the wall / stalling out, or what do you do when it happens anyway?

For me, this rewrite I’ve done 5 different things:

  1. I have a revision plan (took notes, have a map of the document as it stood, and how it needs to be – mostly chapter by chapter summaries with red-pen scribbled all over them for my planned suggestions).
  2. I’ve found critique partners. Having someone who’s waiting for new chapters all the time helps me keep moving, even (and especially) when I don’t want to.
  3. When I hit the wall, or things stall, I back up and delete what wasn’t working. In most cases, it’s usually a chapter / scene preceding where I ran into trouble that things went wrong, and when I redo that, things loosen up and I can write again.
  4. Have a deadline. Self-imposed or otherwise, this keeps you pushing hard – and will get you onto something else sooner.
  5. Have patience for my method. I understand that like when I’m writing earlier drafts, I often have full steam for the first 1/4, start getting lost around the midpoint, and then gather steam again near the end. My writing and my methods reflect this, so I need to have some acceptance and understanding of this – as well as a plan for how I’ll overcome.

Okay, so speaking of those rewrites? Have to get back to them. What about you? What’s working for you? What’s not?

Thanks for reading. Have a great week, and happy writing.