Monday, September 1, 2014

How To Survive A Word Challenge

This morning I'm about 2K words away from the #10KbyLaborDay goal I set on Friday. I'm currently working on a first draft, which is the hardest for me. For me, first drafts are the most painful because I just need to get stuff down on the paper.

To be honest, I wasn't completely sure I was going to make it. But here are some tips I picked up along the way.

BICHOK! That is Butt In Chair. Hands On Keyboard. Really, make any excuse you want, but that's the only thing holding you back from writing 500 words or 10K words.

Find some friends to take the challenge with you and hold you accountable. Confession: Honestly, the only reason I got my butt in that chair Sunday was because I knew everyone on the hashtag was asking where I was. I was toying with the idea of skipping the whole day and just finishing up 4K on Monday. Nope! My #10KbyLaborDay-ers held me accountable. I wrote 2K Sunday night. Thank you, friends!

The writing challenge is not your whole life. No way! I still did laundry, went for walks, watched my favorite TV shows, went grocery shopping--and even cleaned out my fridge (which I made Jodi Meadows watch on FaceTime--hahaha!). I heard other people say they were in the car with their families, spending time with their kids, going to church, but they came back. If you try to chain yourself down to the challenge, you're going to burn yourself out. Set times to sit down as your writing time (usually for us it was an hour or two in the early afternoon and later at night). Live your life--but don't let your life make excuses for why you can't get some writing in!

Hit a tough spot? Skip it. Even though I outlined before, I kept hitting little rough spots where I wasn't sure how things would connect up or why someone was doing something. So I highlighted the parts I knew needed to be developed skipped around a lot. I wrote the dialogue I knew was solid and action I knew would definitely happen. And when it got really rough and I started to sputter out, I wrote the scene I just plain wanted to. Even if they were much, much later in the story.

Warm ups. What do you think this blog is? A warm up so I can write 2K (or maybe MORE) today. Taking breaks to write anything else--an email, a Facebook post, a letter to your ignored family members--can help you get your writing muscles warmed up for the challenge.

Block out all your distractions. Like my mother always said, a clear desk is a clear head. When I'm sitting down to write, no books, no iPads, no nail polish or cosmetics (I tend to get distracted by those most easily) are allowed in my working space.

Keep a notebook handy. Nothing interrupts the flow more than "Uggg! I forgot to add a dog to this scene!" (or whatever it is you forgot). Don't worry about it. Just keep going dogless. I keep a notebook handy and make a For 2nd Draft List. Anything I know needs to be layered back in but I need to develop later.

Set small goals. This entire time, I have not been worried about making 10K. For me, it's all about 1K more. 500 more. Set your goals small. I mean, look, if I have 1,500 words at the end of this weekend, I win because that's 1,500 I didn't have before. So anyone who wants to jump in late to a writing challenge, just do it. It will help you get further along than deciding not to and then watching Netflix all weekend (although, God, I wish I was watching Netflix this weekend).

Make it to the finish line. The other thing about small goals is that I noticed that when I realized I just needed 200 more words to hit goal, those would be the hardest 200 words to write EVER. I could've easily shrugged it off and said "close enough" and gone to bed. NO! Finish it. 200 words is a paragraph. And once I got that paragraph moving, I'd go over the goal I set anyway. I'm way happier starting off this morning with 8K and some change than I would've been 200 behind.

Take your eyes off the number. A watched pot never boils and a watched word count will not climb. The faster you stop  lose yourself in the scene, the more the numbers won't matter. Don't let anything interrupt that flow--not checking in on the hour on a hashtag, not a ringing phone, and especially not a number goal. Just write.

Hope this helps anyone out there writing today! 
Come join us on Twitter at #10KbyLaborDay!

1 comment:

  1. This is excellent advice! Simple things that can make a huge impact on your word count. (And yes, I'm stalking you!) :)


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