Monday, February 3, 2014

Topic of the Week: Crossing the Finish Line

7 Tricks to Meeting Word Count Goals

This guy looks like he's about to puke. Writing a novel (and evidently, running a race) is excruciating work, requiring countless hours of solitude and brain work. Throwing up is the best response to that kind of exertion.

But notice, he is crossing the finish line.

And you can too.

Like this:

1. Set a reasonable but challenging word count for each day. (None of this will work if you don't start here.)

2. Pay someone to call you every day to ask if you've reached your word count for the day. Short on cash? Some will do this for chocolate. I would.

3. Learn to write in noisy places. Take your laptop or your pad of paper to a coffee shop, bingo parlor, or bowling alley (advanced writers only) to develop your focus. Ear buds with soothing music work like a silencer. Use them as you would training wheels.

4. Avoid your email, FaceBook, or any other online time-sucking site until you've reached your word count. Try a week-long break from social media. You'll be shocked by your productivity.

5. Think of your writing space as a bunker. Keep an emergency first aid kit and seven days of nonperishable food items stocked by your desk. Hurricanes are not considered a grace period. Sorry. Don't forget duct tape and a generator. No phone reception, sorry again. Turn off and unplug, people.

6. For the gambler in you: Set up a partnership with someone who is dead serious about reaching their word count each day. Agree on a goal. Let's say you spent too much time oohing and ahhing  over friend's pictures on FaceBook, and you missed your word count. That means you owe your partner, who bypassed all social media, a certain amount of money. I know two writers who pay $125 for each missed day. It doesn't have to be that much, maybe $10. But it has to hurt a little. Ouch!

7. Celebrate each day's accomplishments. Meeting a word count takes brain power, and you did it! Self-care is very important for writers. Be deliberate about meeting with real-life people, the kind you can hug. You'll be renewed for the next day's challenge.

How do you get those words on the page? Anything to add?


Megan Sayer said...

Good list, I like it. I like the idea of paying someone to call me every day, although I can see that backfiring pretty quickly (for those of us still in the stages of "another adult to talk to? really??" stages of parenting). I think paying someone if I don't reach my goal would hurt more.

Here are my added tips:
Don't be afraid to write stuff that's truly awful.
Don't be worried that your daily word count goal is too small - it adds up quickly.
Don't be worried that every day you're writing a small amount of really awful stuff...stinky first drafts are the poop that roses bloom from!

Patti Hill said...

Megan: Good additions. You're brilliant!

Susie Finkbeiner said...

I don't have much to add. However, I recommend that the music in those headphones matches the pace of what you're writing.

Battle scene? Last of the Mohicans soundtrack is great for that (I'm nodding at Jennifer Major).

Tender moment? Debussy's Clair de Lune.

Triumphant shebang? You've got to have trumpets.

That helps me keep going and going and going.

Patti Hill said...

Having the right music playing completely transforms my writing. Thanks for reminding us, Susie.

Dina said...

Perfect post as we start February. January had me pondering productivity vs. creativity. Realizing that we have to live in the balance of BOTH has me ready to move forward!

Patti Hill said...

Glad to hear it, Dina. I always hope for January in its post-Christmas quiet to be productive, but there is something about the month, and maybe the frenetic pace of December--that leaves me disappointed. On to February!

Sharon K. Souza said...

The only music I can handle when I'm writing is the music from my incredible wind chimes outside my office window. Does that count?

Patti Hill said...

Absolutely! Are you listening to wind chimes this time of year, Sharon? My house is sealed up as tight as a drum.

Sharon K. Souza said...

I can hear them through my window even when it's closed, but mostly it's open a bit. Much warmer here than there.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

Does composing the words in my head count? John Buchan made a point of showing up early to appointments so he had time to dream and compose. Mozart composed in his head, this is why people remarked on his ability to put notes on paper so quickly.
No, I don't always get the words onto paper before they fly out my ears. And they are no good to anyone else if they don't materialise on computer or paper. But they do form and dance, they do have substance and affect both my day and the story I write.
One tip is, don't expect all the words to go to the same project. Have many projects on the go.....oh wait, is that just my ADD talking?

Patti Hill said...

Henrietta: Composing in your head definitely works, but if a phrase comes to me, I scribble on anything I can find. I may never use those words, but I love collecting them.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

Yes, napkins, shower steam, answering machine at home. Sometimes the joy is so full they just need to be formed in characters.