A Writing Mini-Marathon (Step To My Bones, Day Four)

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When I plan to write, sometimes I really plan to write. I am perfectly content with a daily word count of 2,000 words on a weekday. Those are school nights, and I feel the pressure more acutely to fit in activities with family and to give myself an appropriate amount of time to wind down from the day job. 2K = okay.

But on weekends, there is the potential to blow my word count up. Enter, the writing mini-marathon. When you get a bunch of writers together, inevitably someone will ask the question “How many words do you write per day?

I’d like to qualify my response in saying that, in my personal opinion, there is no wrong answer to that question. It’s a very personal question and varies by writer. So whether you write 500 words or 15,000 words, I will give you big props and tell you that you are awesome. Showing up and putting words down is hard, so if you get the job done and you feel good about it, then more power to you.

So I’ve already answered for you how many words I average on an ordinary ho-hum day. That number is slightly higher btw, than what writers do during National Novel Writing Month. In that challenge, if you write 1,667 words a day, you’ll find that you have a 50k word novel by the end of 30 days. (Pretty cool, huh?) I can write 2,000 words in about an hour, give or take a distraction or two, so I’m very comfortable with that number.

But when the ideas are really flowing and the facet is wide open, that number can grow exponentially if given enough time and space. I wrote the first draft of Shadows Deep in 9 days. That fell out about 58,000 words (and grew to 65,000 during the editing process). But still- send to end, I had a workable manuscript in a week and a half. I did that in April 2012, so since then, I’ve had a good sense of what I can accomplish when I set my mind to it.

For me, it all comes down to the writing mini-marathon. Essentially, I set a goal of 10,000 words in one day. I know that I can write 2,000 words in about an hour. That means that I need five solid hours of writing to reach my goal. Here’s how I do it:

  1. To make it feel less stressful, I break this down into five writing sessions spread throughout the day.
  2. The sessions are all about quantity, not quality. I’m not doing any kind of censoring or editing. It is just about getting new words down on the page.
  3. I start early. I know things are well on track when I’ve got my first session complete by 10am. The ideal schedule would be:
    • Working session #1 = 8am- 9am, 2,000 words
    • Working session #2 = 11am-12pm, 2,000 words
    • Working session #3 = 2pm-3pm, 2,000 words
    • Working session #4 = 4pm-5pm, 2,000 words
    • Working session #5 = 7pm-8pm, 2,000 words
  1. You’ll notice that I give myself permission to take breaks that can range anywhere from 1-3 hours. This allows me plenty of time to do household chores, spend time with the family, run errands, go to the gym, walk the dog, or address any other activity that requires my attention.
  2. If things go awry during the day, I’ll adjust, but I don’t go to sleep until I have at least 10,000 words in the bag.

With this schedule, I’ve cracked 10,000 words multiple times and have written as many as 14,000 words in one day (adding additional sessions). It’s amazing how quickly stories come together utilizing this method.

I’m telling you this because I’m just coming off another writing mini-marathon today, and I’m planning another one for tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted on how successful I am. ūüôā

Step To My Bones Progress

1 writing session (70 minutes) = 2,045 words = Chapter Four draft complete

*NEW* paranormal romance serial novella under other pen name

4 writing sessions = 8,030 words = Six chapters drafted

(Photo credit: Rachel James)

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When You Want to Quit, Do This Instead

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There’s nothing quite like setting out to do something amazingly big and exciting, and then promptly falling on your butt. All of that enthusiasm you initially had evaporates in an instant, and you feel a myriad of emotions that range from chagrin to outright nausea.

Whether we want to admit it or not, failure at any level hurts. The idyllic shine of the unknown that we found so intoxicating gets a little bit tarnished. We grow a bit more jaded. Worse yet, we might swing toward taking the conservative approach the next time we face the same challenge. Nobody likes getting knocked down twice.

Although it’s hard to see in the heat (or despair) of the moment, making a rash decision and quitting is the exact opposite thing you should do in these types of situations.

The best way that I’ve found to work through the emotional rollercoaster of failure is to take swift and immediate action. Any action is better than no action at all, but hopefully the action is guided by what I learned in my spectacular fall.¬†I truly believe that it¬†takes a lot more guts to dust yourself off and start again, and I consider myself up to the challenge (most days anyway). The sooner I do it, the sooner¬†I find that my¬†focus¬†shifts back¬†in a¬†positive and productive direction.

In my writing, I’ve set deadlines and missed them. I’ve gotten less than favorable (and¬†sometimes brutal)¬†feedback about my books. I’ve been positive that certain stories would resonate with readers and then¬†released the work to the resounding sound of crickets. Nonetheless, I continue to write, and I continue to publish. That’s because the act of writing itself is cathartic to me, and adding to the growing bookshelf of work available to purchase is a unique and heady rush. I love it and hate it all at the same time, and I’ve learned that sometimes the story works for readers and sometimes it doesn’t. But those readers who love my books and my characters rave about them, and¬†hearing that¬†kind of feedback¬†never gets old for me, and I don’t take it for granted. Putting myself and my work out there¬†the way I do is a¬†risk, but the reward has a huge upside.

When it comes to my life and my day job, I’ve had some epic failures- some of them¬†painfully visible to family, friends, and colleagues. What I can’t do is crawl into bed and try to forget that life exists. Pity and self-loathing gets me nowhere. At some point, I have to stop feeling sorry for myself, pull my chin up, and face the world. And you know what I find? People are usually gracious, and second chances come easier when the other person sees that you aren’t willing to give up. In fact, moving forward and learning from a failure like that will often earn you respect that you couldn’t have found otherwise.

It’s hard to take action in the face of failure, no doubt about it. But at the end of the day, it’s easier to look at yourself in the mirror when you know that you’ve given it your all, and you’re still willing to get back in the ring and fight another day. With that kind of attitude in your life, you’ll be unstoppable.

(photo credit Krissy Venosdale)

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Need a Kick in the Productivity Pants? Try Journaling

¬†This is Day 2 of my 31 Days of August Awesomeness posts. Click here for how it all started…

¬†Ask anyone who has known me for any length of time, and they will confirm what I am about to tell you: I am a lifelong procrastinator. ¬†It is a crippling habit when paired with my other “p” weakness: perfectionism. What do you get accomplished when you are a perfectionist procrastinator?

Nothing.

I have had a bazillion false starts in my writing career. That’s why I spent 7 years working on the Edge of Shadows manuscript. That’s right: 7 YEARS! I wrote it, I edited it, I changed it, I got brave in 2009 and gave it to a bunch of beta readers, I edited it some more based on their feedback, I lost that version (whole other story), then I tweaked, moaned, and edited some more. It still wasn’t right. I felt like I still wasn’t ready, and so I shoved it away for another day.

Now that easily could have been the end of my story. Aspiring writer finds reality and trudges back to day job content to live out the rest of her life. 

Then quite by accident, I stumbled across a reference to a book on a writing blog called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. If you are an artist, not even a writer but any kind of creator of artistic work, and you are stuck, you must run (don’t walk!) to Amazon and buy this book. I’m absolutely serious- the book will change your life.

I’ll wait.

The single most important habit that book taught me, and a habit I continue today is to journal. I journal three long-handed pages almost everyday. I started the self-paced The Artist’s Way course in October 2011, and as you can see by the picture at the top of this post, I’m on my 5th journal.

Why do I consider this course and this habit life-changing? I got out of my own way.

Consider this. Prior to October 2011, I had written two 50,000 word manuscript drafts which were both collecting dust in a drawer. Fast forward ten months. One of those manuscripts I published (Edge of Shadows), and then I’ve written and published 4 more. Ageless is written and with my editor, so that’s really 4 1/2 by my count. And I’m well underway on the next book.

My writing has been taken to a whole new level. I’m not afraid to take risks. I’ve had my share of failures and lessons learned, but that is far outweighed by the massive burst of energy and productivity that I’m leveraging on a daily basis.

It all starts with my journaling. In it, I allow myself to be whiny. I allow myself to be self-deprecating and get down on myself. I nit-pick dumb things I’ve done. But I also plan out what I want to get accomplished each day. I pat myself on the back for every victory. And I have a fabulous record of my writing journey. I get shivers thinking about being able to come back and read my first entry in my first journal five or ten years from now.

It’s heady stuff, powerful stuff. And it’s addictive.

Journaling has opened up my mind and jumpstarted my productivity. It’s one of my awesome productivity secrets, and I’m delighted to be sharing it with you.

By the way, you may be thinking “Well sure, Cege, you’re a writer so journaling is easy for you.” I may have written in a diary a couple of times when I was a teenager, but this kind of structured writing has never been part of my writing routine. Finding the time and sticking with it was a challenge. But in the end, it became part of my day and it’s something I look forward to.

So if you are looking for a way to shake up your routine and find massive loads of inspiration? Try journaling. Plus, it’s a great excuse to go shopping at your local bookstore. ūüôā

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Public Accountability = Getting It Done

Every Sunday I go through the same set of motions with my writing goals. I review the upcoming week and I think about what I need to get accomplished and backtrack my to-do list from there. I realized today that I should be using the same philosophy for everything in my life that I want to button up on, because my life isn’t just about my writing (contrary to what my husband may believe).

One awesome way to shame motivate you to accomplish your goals is to make them visible to other people. Not that anyone’s going to come rap your knuckles if you don’t do it, but there’s something about declaring your intentions publicly that makes things feel more real. Plus, an upside is that often you’ll find other people who share the same goal so you celebrate or commiserate together. (Accomplishing goals can be social and fun? Who knew??)

So in the spirit of sharing a little bit more about me, I’ve decided to share my weekly goals over the course of the next few weeks. ¬†I’ll do this on Sundays. Then the following Saturday, I’ll let you guys know how I did. If anyone else wants to play along because you see something on my list that’s one of your goals too, then drop me a comment and I’ll cheer you on too. ūüôā

Cege’s Goals- Week of July 22nd

  • Launch Twisted Souls (Twisted Souls #2)
  • Finalize draft of Ageless- it’s due to my editor on 7/28!
  • Attend 2 workout classes
  • Walk 10,000 steps- put my Fitbit pedometer to good use
  • Track my food intake for the week
  • Read 1 book

None of this is hard or earth shattering, but all are things that I could struggle with if I don’t proactively keep up with them.

Even if you aren’t tracking to some of the things I am, I’d still love to hear what you are up to this week. Sound off in the comments below and have a great week!!

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The Best Writing Advice

The is nothing profound or difficult about the best writing advice that I’ve found over the course of my writing journey. ¬†It is simply:

I think it’s natural for us to want to overcomplicate things. It’s our brain’s way of throwing up roadblocks that keep us from doing what we say we want to do.

If you give yourself too much time to think about doing your writing, I guarantee you’ll find at least twenty other things that need to be done right this minute (like laundry, mowing the yard, doing the dishes, cleaning out the garage, etc.) except writing. Your best defense is a good offense.

So if you want to write, sit down and write. Don’t think about it. ¬†Just do it. Tune out the external world. ¬†Discover how exciting the world inside your mind can be. And if you visit frequently enough, your characters will draw you in with less resistance than before.

But that resistance will never entirely go away. Fight it with the best weapon in your arsenal: just write.

Photo credit: Sean MacEntee

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