We all need a little push every now and again. For me, I need it pretty regularly. I often find myself staring at my computer screen, ready to work when something more pressing comes up. Pressing--as in laundry, house work, dinner preparation, grocery shopping, you name it.
Now, looking at that list, you could probably say that none of those things are pressing at all. Every single one of them can wait. Or, I could use my time management skills better and have them all out of the way before I sit down to write.
It sounds so easy. But for me, it isn't always so. I have very good intentions when it comes to writing. Things like, "I will write everyday!" and "I will finish a manuscript this year!" are favorites. But what happens when you let your life get in the way?
I'll tell you what happens. You find yourself, six months down the road, with the same blank page you started with. This happened to me. Twice. I went a year without completing a manuscript. Some of the reasons why I didn't complete anything new had to do with the examples above, but there were other reasons, too.
After taking a long hard look at myself, and what I wanted for myself, I decided I needed a better plan. So, I wrote down all the things that were keeping me from writing, and I evaluated them individually. From that list, I made another list. One that keeps me on track and motivated to write.
Check it out below. I hope that at least one of these items will help you keep on track. I know they've all helped me.
1. Don't Let Fear Hold You Back
This may sound very simple, but it turns out that this one simple word was keeping me from succeeding. Fear. After my first novel was accepted for publication, I knew that I needed to get started on the second. But no matter what I tried, I couldn't seem to get the words on the paper.
Questions like, "What happens if I can't write a second book?" and "Maybe I wasn't meant to be a writer." "What if that was the only story I could tell?" "What if my next book is awful?" kept surfacing in my thoughts. I was frozen with fear. I worried that my next effort wouldn't be as good. That no one would like it. That I would spend countless hours on it, and it wouldn't make it past my agent.
Oh, the anxiety!!
Once I decided to let that go, amazing things started to happen. I was able to write! Is it good? I have no idea. Will it get picked up and published? I also have not idea. But, I'm hopeful. And really, if I don't try, I'll never know!
2. Set a Minimum Word Count
When I know life is going to be super busy, or my kids are at home making quiet time impossible my minimum word count is 500. That's not very much, but when the alternative is zero, it is definitely progress. Just think, in a month you will have written 10,000 words assuming you only write 5 days per week. For me, that's about 2.5 chapters. Progress!
When the kids are in school, and I have several hours of quiet time during the day, my minimum word count is 1,000. Still not that much, but if you think about it, writing 1K per day will give you a full length novel in only 4 months!
The bonus of setting a word count is that you know that once you meet the minimum, you are free to do all the other things that have to get done.
3. Stop Worrying About Being Good
This may be a sub heading for point number one, but it's worth mentioning because it is so important.
Writing Well--as is writing brilliantly--can come later.
This was the biggest hurdle for me--giving myself permission to write poorly. When I wrote my first novel, I spent unknown hours revising while I was writing. Not only was it inefficient, but my plot line changed by the minute, and rather than finishing a first draft, I was constantly derailed by making sure everything flowed perfectly the first time out.
This time around, I decided to forgo the editing and just write. No matter how awful, I vowed that I would press forward. No looking back. When I come to a moment and realize something in previous chapters will have to change, I make a comment in the margin with exactly what needs to be done. This way, I put my mind at ease and just. keep. writing.
4. Write What Interests You
I write time travel novels. As far as I know, that's a trope that is never very popular (except for the obvious outliers like Outlander and The Time Traveler's Wife), so you might ask, why spend all that time writing a novel that no one wants to read or possibly publish? Well I have several reasons, but here is the most significant:
Time travel plots keep my interest, and I am constantly (always) searching for more non science-fiction time travel books.
Since the topic is one that I really like, it keeps my interest when the writing gets hard. Which for me always happens around chapter 11 and doesn't end until I put the last punctuation mark on the manuscript.
So, my advice? Write what interests you. Write it because no one else can tell your story.
The last tip I have is simple. Read. Read all the books. But mainly, read books in the genre you wish to write. I read tons of books (in all different sub-genres) of YA and NA since that is where I like to write. It gives me perspective and inspiration, but even more than that, reading helps me learn how to write.
What are your tips for writing? Did I miss something that you find helpful?? Let me know!