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Fist off, not every post I make is going to be “5 Tips to…” But this is based off a post I wrote a couple of years ago about how to hit your word count every day that I thought would be a good follow-up to my last post about how to start writing.
Whether you’re a planner or a pantser, writing consistently is the number one best way to finish your book before you die. I am a daily writer. When I am working on a novel project, I put down words every single day until it’s done. I’m not saying you have to do that or that it’s the only way to write a book. BUT, if you want to strive for a daily writing practice, these are the things I have found most helpful over the years.
- Get some sleep! This one isn’t going to be popular, because writers as a group are notoriously bad at sleep. We stay up too late or get up too early. We have all our other real life commitments to tend to, and while this might look very different in fall of 2020 than it did in Spring of 2019, we’re still juggling a making sure we have a clean mask, working remotely, and possibly even distance learning *shudder* (Sorry, that’s us.) And on top of all that we’re supposed to hit our word count and sleep? There aren’t enough hours in the day. I get it. I feel the same way and will often sneak words in on my phone while my kids are watching class videos. But seriously, if you’re trying to join #5amwritersclub, and you get out of bed at 4:30 and trying to be coherent enough to write by five o’clock in the morning that probably means you went to bed before 9 pm. But if you’re like me, you went to bed closer to midnight and you’re scrimping by on four hours a night. It’s no wonder you have trouble focusing. I too stare blankly at my laptop screen when I would rather be sleeping.
- Put Your Phone in Another Room. It’s way easier to scroll through your Instagram feed than it is to write, and chances are, your phone is also getting low on battery. Plug it in to charge somewhere else while you tackle those words. Snap the photo of your writing desk when you’ve triumphantly hit that word count!
- Choose an Achievable Goal. Yes, we all want to be able to write 5000 words a day, but for most of us that isn’t practical because we still have full-time jobs, families, hobbies, and you know, basic needs to meet. Set the bar low if you have to. 500 words a day is still 500 more words than you had yesterday, and 500 more than you would have had waiting for your chance to write 5000 and then not getting any. I am starting a brand new project today. I’m trying to cram 3000 words a day into the next few days before school starts, but when distance learning begins next Tuesday, that number’s probably gonna be a lot closer to 500.
- Be Flexible. This is how I meet my word goal most days. I almost always draft in google docs, that way I have access to my work in progress no matter where I am. At my desk I have a fantastic self-saving word processor set to automatically backup to my desktop and the cloud. And like I said, I can sneak in words wherever I am. And sometimes, the time we had planned just doesn’t work out, and that’s okay too. You’ll start again tomorrow.
- Use a tracker. Make a paper graph. Create a spreadsheet if that brings you joy. Download an app, whatever you do, keep track of how much you write in a way that’s satisfying for you. My favorite is using Nanowrimo’s goal trackers. Even if you don’t Nano, it’s worth creating an account just for those. They are completely customizable, and watching those little bar graphs stay above par is what keeps me motivated to get my words in every day.
Since this whole pandemic hit, I have had to put that flexibility rule to the test. I have had to learn how to write with noise, and how to walk away mid-sentence because my kiddos need love. How to take frequent breaks for them and to forgive myself for needing a break. What’s your biggest daily writing struggle? Tell me about it in the comments.
Tarot Card For Building a Daily Writing Practice: King of Cups, Reversed
I love that these “5 tips” articles have had reversed cards so far. Because it implies that we’re struggling. That there’s something that we want to do, but haven’t been able to achieve it yet. Which means we need to take a step back and examine why we’re not developing a daily writing practice when we know that is what’s going to help us achieve our goals. The cups are the suit of water, which means when we have a cup card, we need to focus on the emotional, the internal. What’s going on beneath the surface that’s blocking us from knocking our word count goals out of the park? But we also have a King card, which speaks to passion, power, ability. Even in his reversed aspect, the King of Cups is powerful. He wants you to connect with that passion burn bright enough for your words to flow like mighty stream.