It’s here – November! An entire new month, or an entire new chance to reset your goals from the month before if you didn’t quite meet them. Maybe you weren’t even halfway to achieving your last month’s goal because it just seemed so overwhelming.
If your aspiration is to be an author, it’s easy to get discouraged when you see endless indie authors producing several books a year (or traditional authors signing an astounding number of contracts!). You’re still struggling with your initial draft while your social media friend announces her tenth book. If they make it seem so easy, why is it so hard for you?
The good news is, regardless of skill or talent, to finish a book, you really only need a solid plan to make consistent, forward movement. Below are some tips and strategies to help you finish that pesky, overwhelming first draft of your current work in progress.
Determine/Estimate Approximate Word Count
If you’ve never written a book before, you might be completely baffled by this step. Isn’t it about telling a story rather than meeting some minimum word count requirement? Yes, it is, but determining a word count goal will allow you to see your progress and set goals to reach by a time of your choosing. A quick search will show you the breakdown of average word counts for different genres. You might even notice that many people have made charts with this information – and it’s all slightly different numbers. That’s because word count expectations for different genres are just a guide, not a rule.
A lot of first time authors will find it easier to meet a smaller goal, but if you’re dreaming of writing an epic fantasy, there’s nothing stopping you from exceeding those average word count expectations. Just keep in mind that editing should shave off quite a few space-filling words, so your sentences flow smoother. Don’t get discouraged if your word count shrinks! You may even need to eliminate scenes completely if you find they disrupt the flow of the story.
Pick a date that you would like to complete your first draft by, and calculate minimum word count per day.
Now, if you have Scrivener as your writing software (it’s what I use!), you can enter in your word count goal and draft completion date, and it will calculate it for you. It will even adjust the number of words that need to be written that day if you decide to skip a day or two. But if your writing softward doesn’t have that tool, it’s easy to calculate yourself.
Pick your day, choose what days of the week you’re going to write on, and find out how many days you are planning to use as writing days between now and your goal date. (Maybe you can only realistically write four days a week.) Divide your word count goal by the number of days, and that’s how many words you’ll need to write on each of your writing days to meet that goal.
You should be able to tell relatively quickly whether that’s an achievable and realistic goal. You may need to adjust your finishing date if your minimum daily word count is too high – and that’s okay! It may feel like a race, but slow and steady is a safe way to keep yourself from giving up or getting overwhelmed.
Set a time of day.
Whether it’s the morning, evening, in the middle of the day, or split between times, having a specified time of day for writing will help you be more consistent on a regular basis and moving steadily towards your goal.
If reaching a specific word count goal is difficult or overwhelming, choose an amount of time to write instead.
Different approaches may seem daunting to different authors. Perhaps a word count goal makes you feel stressed. Instead, set a timer for a pre-determined amount of time, and write that entire time. Once the timer goes off, give yourself an additional ten minutes to finish up, if possible, and then stop for the day, so you won’t feel overwhelmed or burn out. The goal is consistency. An hour every day will get your further than sporadic days of three to four hours, especially if you go for long periods of time between those lengthy spurts.
So, if you’re noticing dozens – or hundreds – of other authors are reaching their goals, just remember, you have the ability to be one of them, too. Find consistency in your writing life, and you will quickly see a change in your productivity. You’ll be reaching those goals much faster!
Thanks for taking the time to read, and good luck on your writing journeys!
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