Here it is! The last of the three posts covering our June 23 workshop. Mark your calendars for our next workshop on September 29! I hope you all will be there.
June 23 WIR Workshop: This Won’t Hurt a Bit: Part 3
For this last bit, let’s move away from the content and talk about how to sustain yourself over a long period of time writing. I’ve been doing this for fifteen years and I can tell you that it’s not easy to write a full-length manuscript. So I use a few techniques to get that manuscript finished. And let me just emphasize that these are highly personal. What works for me might seem very wrong for you. So take what I say with a grain of salt.
Chunk It Up and Make a Plan
This is the absolute number one technique I use to get through manuscripts. I take commissioned work so I almost always have a deadline set by my editors. But for instance I’m working on a book right now of my own about horses, and I’m using the same system, though this book has not been sold and so has no deadline.
I count the number of days I want to work between now and the deadline and then I divide the manuscript by words per day. I build in time for revision and for research on either end, and then I’ll write something in my planner like “Dolphin Book #4 341” – that means I have to write 341 words per day of my dolphin book. That’s no matter what, whether I feel like writing or not, set in stone.
I’m very anxious person and really at this point, a lot of writing is a mental game because it is so entirely solitary and self-motivated. So I feel less panicky when I know that if I do this chunk of work, these 341 words, every day that I’ve written it down, then by the deadline, I’ll have a completed manuscript, no matter how ugly it is. This a very workmanlike way of writing and it works for me because writing is my job. If writing is your recreation, you might think of it differently. But I always feel better when I have a plan.
Finishing Is Hard – Keep Your Rear in the Chair
I will be first to tell you that finishing a manuscript – if you don’t have a deadline—can be very hard. If you’re having trouble motivating yourself, try these techniques:
- Try writing first thing when you get up, before you do anything else. Your brain is fresh then.
- Give yourself a reward when you’re done with your word count, like ten minutes on Facebook, or a walk around the block. But you can’t have it until you do your word count first.
- Give yourself a time limit – tell yourself you’re going to write 200 words in twenty minutes, and set a timer.
You can see that a lot of writing is overcoming the mental blocks that come with working alone – there’s a reason that the writer going crazy ala The Shining is a popular trope.
And there’s something to be said for churning out the words, whether you feel like it or not, whether they’re going well or not. I’m big fan of just plowing through the worst, messiest, ugliest draft you ever saw and then cleaning it up in revisions. Sometimes your draft looks surprisingly good the second time around.