If you want to get your driver’s license what must you do first? Every state is different, but typically there are certain rules you have to follow to achieve this goal. In most states you have to take a driver’s test. And usually you need to study first. At least a little. Some teens take a class to prepare them to pass this test.
Writing a novel, a short story, or a magazine article is similar. To achieve success–your goal–there are certain steps you should take. The first is to set a writing word count goal. If you do this, I guarantee you’ll write more than you thought possible.
Setting a goal might sound simple but you wouldn’t believe how many wannabe writers don’t do this. Why? Because they have excuse-itis (my made-up word). “I don’t have the time, I’m working too many hours, I have exams this week, etc.” But if they added up all their texting, facebooking, tweeting, and talking-on-the-phone minutes they could come up with at least an hour three times a week to write.
Make it a priority. If you don’t make it a priority it’ll never happen. I promise. Stop right now and prioritize your time. How? By physically jotting down those things that are most important to you and listing them in the order of their importance. School and homework might be first, exercise or work second, and somewhere on this list should be WRITING. Where does it fall? Is it before talking to your friends? If so, turn off your cell, and any other device that will interfere with your flow. Writers LOVE interruptions. But distractions won’t help you achieve your word count.
Once you have your priorities set, specify how much time you’ll devote to writing.
Don’t look back. Write without stopping until you reach your word count. RESIST the urge to edit. Don’t. For now, your goal is to complete a certain amount of words–not create a publishable scene.
Challenge yourself. Make an attainable goal. Plan your week. If you have a week of exams or two track meets to attend you’re not going to have the same amount of time to accomplish your goals.
Reward yourself. Set your favorite chocolate in front of you. Tell yourself you can’t indulge until you’ve completed your word count. Don’t worry if the writing is crap. Who cares? This is practice. Bulldoze through it. You don’t have to care until the rewrite stage because the first draft should be non-stop without an internal editor stopping you along the way to change ANYTHING.
Find an accountability partner. I hate to let my friends down and if I say I’m going to do something and DON’T I feel terrible. So I found a writing partner who agreed to swap word-count updates every Friday. She sends me her stats and I send her mine. Her goals aren’t the same as mine, but it doesn’t matter. They don’t need to be. And I don’t care if she reads my email (well, okay, I do because she always encourages me and I love that) but sending her my weekly stats makes me accountable to someone besides myself. Sometimes I share my frustrations, and other times I share my successes. But either way it’s great to have someone who “gets” the whole writing thing.
Keep a log of your success. If you have stats on your success it’s measurable. You’ll see your progress.
Think of this: Let’s say you’re going to write three days a week, 1500 words at a time.* Your writing goal for the week is 4500 words. If you do this for three months you’ll have 54,000 words. Many published YA novels have close to this word count. My point is, you’ll have bragging rights. You’ll be able to say you finished a novel. Will you let someone read it? Probably not if it’s the first draft but YOU will know what you’ve accomplished and that’s what matters.
*Do you know how to determine your word count? If not, read on. Otherwise skip this paragraph. Click on the TOOL toolbar at the top of your blank page WORD document. Scroll and click on WORD COUNT. You’ll find all your writing stats here. Do you write in SCRIVENER (like I do)? If so, click on the PROJECT dropdown box and then on STATISTICS. To find word count in Mac Pages, look at the bottom left-hand corner of your document.
What is your weekly writing goal?