If you haven’t been able to sit down and write for the past few months and you think maybe you want to start again; if life has pulled you away from your writing for a long time and you’re ready to dive back in; if you’re getting started on a new novel, or maybe you’ve written several short stories and now you want to try writing a novel but it feels like too big a thing; then this is for you.
Let’s first acknowledge and celebrate your decision to write. It isn’t an easy thing to do, especially if you have been away from it for a while. The good news is: writing is like riding a bicycle. Once you know how to do it, you never forget. You only get better. The hardest part is putting on the shoes and getting the bike out of the garage.
You’ve done that, though. You’ve decided you want to write. You want to complete the novel you were working on. You’ve decided you want to take your writing to the next level. You’ve got your shoes on, and the bike out of the garage. And that, my friends, is major.
Now what? How are you supposed to just pick up where you left off?
You start with baby steps.
You may remember how to write, but your creative writing muscle is a bit out of shape.
The first step I want you to do, is go over to thedaringwriter.com/jumpstart, and download my free guide to Jumpstart Your Writing. This guide will walk you through a few short exercises to remind you why you love writing, why writing this (and every) story is important to you.
Well that’s great, you’re thinking. But how does that help me get the words on the page?
The guide will help keep you motivated and committed to your writing. The second step to getting words on the page is my most favoritest thing, my jam, Achievable and Exceedable goals.
Ugh. Not more goal setting!
Well, kind of.
Achievable and Exceedable goals are the baby steps you need to get your creative writing muscle back in shape.
Setting yourself a goal of 2,000 words a day right out the gate, is not likely going to happen. And when it doesn’t, you’ll feel frustrated with the writing process, disappointed in yourself for not living up to your expectations, and it won’t take long until you’re not writing again.
Call it a goal, call it a plan, call it an actionable step. Start with a small daily word count. One you know you can reach easily, and probably exceed. Start with 250 words a day. Start with a sentence. Start with a paragraph. Any words are better than no words.
Don’t stop at 250 words if you feel you can keep going. 250 should be the minimum.
But be consistent. Do it daily. Do it every other day. Just be consistent.
Consistency, writing a little every day, or every other day, or once a week, it keeps the story at the forefront. You’re thinking about it, working through plot problems, character arcs, discovering new story elements, when you aren’t writing.
The more you think about it, the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Once you’re regularly achieving your word count goal, I would say after a week or two, increase it. If you find you’ve been exceeding the 250 words, for example, and you’ve been regularly reaching 400 words, increase your word count to 500. Push yourself to do more, to let yourself dig into the story a little longer each day.
When you’re regularly reaching the 500 words, and exceeding it, increase your base minimum again, maybe to 750 words.
Wash, rinse, and repeat.
How high a word count should you aim for? When is it enough?
You will know it when you reach what I like to call the sweet spot. This is the number of words you can write in a session, when the words are flowing, you are in your groove, and you’re not pushing yourself.
My sweet spot is between 1,200 – 1,500 words. Generally speaking, any more than that, and I am creatively and mentally exhausted, and I run the risk of setting myself back a day or two because I’m too tired to write the next day.
That isn’t to say that I am writing at the sweet spot every day. When I’m starting a new novel, it takes me time to build up to it. I don’t know the characters, I don’t know the conflict yet. So I give myself a little time to get to know the story first. I let myself build up to that sweet spot.
Your sweet spot may be 3,000 words. Your sweet spot may be 750 words. Or anywhere in between. If it isn’t a right fit for you, don’t feel you have to write 2,000 words a day just because Stephen King says he does and you think he’s the best writer ever!
We all write differently. Some write fast, some write slow. Embrace your writing speed and style. The point is to write regularly. Write to your sweet spot so that you aren’t exhausted after each writing session, so that you will want to come back to your writing the next day.
Ease yourself into it with Achievable and Exceedable goals. Download my free guide to Jumpstart your writing and stay motivated at thedaringwriter.com/jumpstart.
Just start. A word, a sentence, a paragraph. Any words are better than no words.
Next week I’m going to talk about the importance of keeping our focus on what we control, and I’m going to give you more details on my upcoming free masterclass on Mastering Your Writing Habits and how to reserve your seat.
Until next week!