Editor's Note: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) not your thing? Here are 3 other options for keeping your writing on track that don't entail keeping a daily word count.
If you’re a part of any online or in person writing group, you will hear the buzz starting before a single leaf changes color and hits the ground – writers getting ready for November’s Nanowrimo.
It is billed as a sort ofwrite of passage for anyone who wants to see themselves as a “serious” writer.
But there are many who are devoted to their craft who don’t work well with this challenge. You might not like the pressure of the huge number count or just not have the time to sit down and create every single day for an entire month.
This challenge is about inspiring us to push ourselves and giving us milestones in a practice that can take months or years to complete. It is about getting us into the practice of writing on a consistent basis and prioritizing our author ambitions along with everything else that we have going on.
If you find the 50,000 word count too daunting to take on or you’re looking for some challenges to get you through the rest of the year, here are some ways that you can motivate yourself that you might not have tried before.
1. Set a Time Goal
This one is pretty straight forward and is just about getting the act of writing into your schedule.
Instead of deciding that you need to sit down and write 1666 words a day, decide how many hours you would like to devote to your writing in a certain time period.
If you’re able to, this might mean opening up your Scrivener or Word file for at least an hour a day, or it could be for five hours a week.
Make sure that you have the time blocked out in your schedule and treat it like you would any other appointment.
If you’re someone who is prone to giving up your “me” time to others when asked, the habit that you might need to break is just getting yourself in front of your computer without feeling guilty or as if you should be elsewhere.
You might find that you spend a few of the first hours getting distracted with “research” black holes or checking your email but eventually the words will start flowing if you keep consistently coming back to the project.
2. Set a Learning Goal
While there are those of us who have natural talent, writing is a skill and the more you learn, the easier it will be to get the great story that you have in your head down on paper.
If you’re hoping to turn writing into a profession, it is likely that you have taken at least a few writing classes before. So, maybe it’s time to take more of a niche class that will get you thinking about your writing in a different way.
Or, you might want to brush up on some old skills if you have let daily writing slide over the years.
A big goal might be signing up for a certificate program in Creative Writing with a local college or university. There are also lots of online courses and programs offered through post-secondary schools and independent organizations throughout the world.
If you’re not up for a whole set of courses, look for one that will address one of your weak points as a writer. (We all have them.) Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone.
There are also other ways to boost your skills without signing up for a class or workshop in writing. You might want to teach yourself how to use a new writing tool like Scrivener or look for a local writers’ group to join.
3. Invest in Services to Get You to the Next Stage
Even if you’re planning to self publish, it’s likely that you’re not going to get your book from your computer into readers’ hands all on your own.
If you are planning to publish on your own, then you can start saving for all of the different services that you might need to hire along the way – from editors, to designers, to people to help you with marketing and promotion.
If, instead, you’re hoping to get the attention of a literary agent and traditional publisher, then the main service that you would be looking to hire is a substantive editor.
This is someone who will critique your book with an expert eye and can help you get it up to the level of other books that are currently on the market.
This is a service that can make all of the difference in the world when you’re trying to stand out against hundreds, or even thousands, of other manuscripts.
While we hear stories of authors cashing in all the time, keep in mind that publishing is a risky business where publishers only turn a profit on about ten percent of the books that they buy.
This means that they are not only looking for the best stories, but also want to see that you’re willing to invest in your own work.
They don’t have the resources to go through multiple story edits with you before it heads off to the printing press.
Literary agents are more willing to work with a diamond in the rough. But you will find that they will only give you a few chapters and a query letter to sell your work before making a decision if it is right for them (again, think of those hundreds of other submissions that they get in an average week).
There are professionals who offer to help with those all-important opening chapters.
Wondering about the cost? It can vary based on the experience of the professional that you’re working with.
Keep in mind that you’re likely to get what you pay for. While there are always going to be people who will offer to give you their opinion for a few hundred dollars, they are likely not going to give you a critique that will be anywhere near as useful as a professional. And, in turn, might actually steer you in the wrong direction.
Setting milestones and goals can be the key to bringing your book ideas to life. It only takes a few minutes to map out what you want your goal to be. But then the real work needs to start.
Don’t feel that you need to follow anyone else’s path to finishing your first draft. Consider your own processes and habits to choose targets that are challenges, but you feel are completely achievable.