Whether you are joining the tens of thousands signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) or for those partaking in the WNFIN (Write Nonfiction in November) challenge, there are certain things you can do to meet with success.
Think of it like going on a road trip with your car. You wouldn't take a long trip without first knowing your destination and following a map. Without a road map, you may end up lost or wandering off course for awhile wasting unnecessary time and fuel. It is the same with setting out to write a novel or a nonfiction book.
Studies show that only about 2% of people who start out to write a book actually finish. If you intend on becoming one of them, then you need to know where you are headed, how to get there, and commit to following certain markers along the way. Otherwise, you risk giving up or getting way off course.
Below are 10 tips gleaned from successful authors for mapping out your November writing project...or at any time of the year. You have a better opportunity for success if you follow in the path of those who have paved the way before you.
1. Set your overall goal. When planning a road trip, you choose a destination. You know where you want to go and you make preparations to get there. What is your intended destination for this month of writing?
Do you want to reach the 50,000 word mark of NaNoWriMo? Maybe you intend to go beyond that. Is it your desire to be included among those who succeeded in writing the first draft of a 100,000 word novel in 30 days? Or do you aspire to complete a non-fiction manuscript for publication in the WNFIN challenge?
Whatever your goal may be make it realistic, although challenging, and write it down. Goals in your head are merely wishes. Writing out your goal lets your subconscious mind know that you are serious. It’s also important to write down the “why.” Your compelling reason will help get you back on track when you come against rough spots or road blocks during this month.
2. Prepare yourself in mind and body. When preparing for a long trip, you make sure that your car is tuned up, the tires are good, and that it’s full of fuel. Fueling your body and mind with good nutrition and exercise is essential for the energy and mental clarity needed for writing.
3. Map out a daily plan. You have an idea of how far to go each day when driving across country. You may decide to drive for 500 miles or for 8 hours total. Plan how many words or how many hours you will write each day.
Consider your total word count for the month and factor how many words you will need to write each day. If you are focused on completing a manuscript, decide how many hours you need to spend each day in order to reach the end within 30 days. Don’t get frustrated if you fall short on some days. Just make up for it by writing more on other days. The main thing is to keep up as best as you can and not get too far behind your schedule.
4. Take frequent breaks. On a long driving journey, you have to take breaks to stretch, use the restroom, and eat meals. The same is important when working at the computer for many hours.
It’s important for your health to take breaks every 30 minutes or so in order to stretch and get a drink of water. You must exercise and keep hydrated. You also need to keep nourished on a regular basis. Don’t talk yourself into “just a few minutes more” only to find that you’ve gone for hours without a break. You will be more productive and write better material if you take short breaks every half hour or so.
5. Don’t text and write. For safety, you avoid distractions while driving. (Hopefully you are not texting or checking your social media while on the road). You schedule times to check in with family or friends during your trip. The same applies to your writing.
Don’t stop to check emails, social media, or texts throughout the day. You are supposed to be writing. Schedule a set time during the day, usually at the end, to check those things. They can be big time and word count wasters if you don’t keep them under control.
6. Ask for directions and help. It’s a good idea to stop and ask for directions if you get lost while on the way to your destination. It’s also helpful, if you are traveling with someone, to take turns driving. Seeking tips and direction from successful writers by reading their blogs or books or by taking their webinars can prove beneficial.
Ask for help from family members or friends during this month of writing frenzy. Turn the shopping or meal preparation or house cleaning or yard work, or other tasks over to others in order to free up time for your writing. Think of how many words or pages you could be adding up instead of wandering down the grocery store aisles. Don’t be afraid to ask. If you take your writing seriously, others are more likely to do so as well.
7. Keep focused on the road before you. It’s easy for your mind to wander when driving down long stretches of highway. You can put yourself and others in danger if you “zone out.” Listening to uplifting music, audio books or motivational tapes can help keep your mind alert. When you find yourself getting bogged down in your book and losing confidence, do something to get motivated.
Read or Listen to “pep talks” by famous authors, or speak your own list of affirmations, or get energized with some high energy music. These sorts of actions can spark a positive frame of mind and keep the words flowing.
8. Avoid danger areas. While on a road trip you need to be aware of danger signs and avoid veering off your intended route onto bumpy side roads. Watch out for road blocks and detours. Use caution at rest stops or gas stations where unscrupulous people may be waiting for their next victim. While writing, notice the danger signs of resistance that blocks your flow. Avoid people who tend to be “dream stealers” while you are writing.
Keep information about your writing challenge and book away from those who would make critical remarks. No matter how excited you might be, there are those who do not share your enthusiasm. These are the people who pass along their false notions to you that writing is a waste of time or that “nobody makes money from books, you know,” or that you don’t have what it takes to be a successful author, or who see your writing as some “little hobby.”
Share what you are doing this month, or anytime you write, only with those who support and encourage you. These might be family members or friends who are excited for you and genuinely support your talents. You can find support by joining a “mastermind” writing group that resonates with you. Protect your talents, dreams, and goals…they are precious gifts.
9. Build momentum. While driving down the highway, it’s important to keep moving along with the flow of traffic. If the speed limit is 75, you’ll not only take a long time to get to your destination if you putt along at 40, but you can actually put yourself and others in danger. It’s important to build and maintain momentum with your writing.
Seasoned authors say that writers must “write, write, write” in order to achieve success. If you go for days or months without putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, then you are in danger of becoming one of the 98% wishful would-be writers. You will lose out on the joy of completing your book, and you deny others the message or entertainment they could receive from your writing talent.
To build momentum, schedule your writing as you would schedule time for work—you are your own employer. If you want to succeed, then view your writing as a business, not a hobby. Stephen King stated that “while would-be writers are waiting for inspiration, the rest of us are busy getting to work.”
10. Reward yourself on the journey and at your destination. After a long day of driving,it feels good to enjoy a nourishing meal and check into a nice, clean, comfortable motel. You may even reward yourself with a dip in the pool or hot tub. Reward yourself in some way each time you meet your word count or complete your daily page goals.
Your self-rewards can be as simple as relaxing with a steaming cup of tea and soothing music, or sinking into a hot bubble bath, watching a favorite movie with your family, treating yourself to a special chocolate bar, or going for an exhilarating run in the beauty of nature. The point is to create a little “celebration ritual” and pat yourself on the back following a successful writing day or week.
Enjoy an even bigger celebration once you reach your month-long goal. Announce your success of crossing the finish line on your social media sites and to family or friends. You might want to go out for a special celebration dinner or host a party.
If you finished your book, you could even write a special press release in your local paper. You’ve accomplished something most people never will. You set a goal and you achieved it. Don’t take it lightly. Take time to acknowledge your accomplishment. You deserve to express your joy and celebrate your success.
You're more likely to meet with success and enjoy the process if you follow a writing road map. Set your writing goal for the month and write it down. You need to know what your destination is in order to reach it. There’s a saying that if you don’t know where you’re going, that’s where you’ll end up.
At first your goal may seem overwhelming—to write at least 50,000 words toward a viable novel or to complete a non-fiction book in only 30 days is no small task! Your mind might start nagging about all the other things you have to do—priority things like working or taking care of family. You wonder how you could ever accomplish your writing goal. You begin to wonder if you’re being foolish and selfish.
Take a breath. You can only see as far as the headlights shine while driving in the dark, but that is enough to get you to your destination. You only need to write one word, then the next, and then the next each day in order to complete your book. You don’t get from beginning to end in one fell swoop. Take it one-day-at-a-time.
Once you reach your goal, be sure to celebrate your victory. Then keep going. The end of NaNoWriMo or WNFIN is only the beginning of the next phase. Then comes the re-writing, editing, final polish, publishing, marketing, promotion—all the “work” of your writing business. But, there’s also all the fun, excitement, and hopefully the financial reward, of putting your creativity, talent, and message out to the world.
After that, it’s time to start the process all over again with your next book.
Happy writing and all the best for your success.
© 2014 Carmen Myrtis-Garcia