Tag Archives: word count

Write Like It’s Your Job

For many of us, writing isn’t our primary job. We have day jobs, night jobs, side jobs, odd jobs, freelance jobs, and job jobs. While we’re working toward writing becoming our full-time job, we just do not have the luxury of having it yet. In the meantime, we seize our free hours and moments, developing stories and getting better at our craft.

But this month? No. This month, writing is your job. Priority uno.

The truth about NaNoWriMo is that while 1,667 words a day for a month seems perfectly manageable, it’s realistic that you will not get to write every day. You might miss one day a week, and then you have some extra words to make up. You might miss a few days in two weeks, and your word count will continually snowball from there. It can become overwhelming very quickly.

I’ve only done NaNoWriMo twice, but I have some tips for success so that you won’t feel overwhelmed during November.

  1. 1. Sit down with your loved ones. Tell them you will be writing every day, and it will take at least an hour. That hour is yours. That hour is damn-near holy. Tell them they cannot disturb you during your writing session. Assure them they will survive your absence for that hour.
  2. Write more than 1,667 words per day. When you’re in the zone and you’ve reached your 1,667-word goal, keep going. Go until your brain starts to get tired and fuzzy. Keep going until your alarm goes off or your kid storms in and demands you change his diaper.
  3. Treat yo self on days you’d rather be doing anything but writing. Promise yourself a cookie when you finish your word count. Get a drink at the bar after writing. Ignore the rest of your to-do list and take a magical bubble bath and listen to your favorite podcast.
  4. Go to the library or coffeeshop to write. If you live in the middle of no where, go outside and write. Sometimes, staying in the same place to write can be distracting. Being in our house, apartment, or space can be distracting. There are a hundred other things you could do in your space instead of write. Don’t let yourself become tempted to do something else.
  5. Close all tabs in your internet browser. You can now only use the internet to Google a fact or for research during your writing sessions.
  6. Turn off your phone, or at least silence that mofo.
  7. Commiserate with writing buddies. Don’t have any writing buddies? Sign up on the NaNoWriMo website and find your local chapter. Research a Facebook group or a forum dedicated to NaNoWriMo.
  8. Plan a big reward at the end of November. A small trip, a vacation, a tub of your favorite ice cream, tickets to see your favorite band, a camping trip. Whatever it is, make sure it’s a big deal to you, and make sure you don’t buy your tickets until you have officially written 50,000 words in November.

Got more tips or tricks for staying focused during NaNoWriMo? Write them in the comments below!



The Case Against NaNoWriMo

I started off this month intending to talk about ways to help your writing by shutting out the world, a thing that seems increasingly difficult to do these days. Instead: heresy! You writers of delicate constitution, turn away now! For I am about to reveal to you the case against participating in National Novel Writing Month.

Sure, NaNo’s intentions are pure: provide a structured and semi-competitive environment to get writers writing. What could be wrong with that? Well, frequent readers of my posts at Fictorians will know that I set a lot of store by each writer figuring out what works for them and following that.

And the thing is, for some writers, cranking out 50,000 words in a month is either not doable, or, more likely, not recommended.

Once upon a time, shortly after my very first trip to Superstars Writing Seminar, I wrote the first draft of a 100,000 word novel in under three months. I left the seminar more inspired than I’d every felt about my writing, and was determined to prove that I could write a novel faster than my first, which took … well, it took a long time. For this second book, I averaged 10,000 words a week, more than a thousand a day. That’s not quite NaNo speed, but it’s close, and it continued well past one month.

I wound up with a completed first draft, a feat I was immensely proud of. The problem? It was utter trash, and even worse, I was so burned out I didn’t plop down in front of the keyboard again for several months. When I did, rather than cleaning up the draft, which I frankly couldn’t bear to look at again, I started work on my actual second novel, which I still plan to show the world someday. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to fix up that three-month draft. In the end, I’d done what I set out to do, but I’d cranked it out so fast and with so little consideration I ended up with something I had no motivation left to finish. I’d burned too bright, Blade Runner-style.

Flash forward a couple of years to the only time I’ve ever truly done NaNo as it was meant to be done, with a new book and all fresh writing. That time, I worked on the first draft of a book that would that would never see the light of day. Starting to notice a pattern? I certainly did. Apparently, when I force myself to write too fast, I end up with books I hate.

As with all good rules, there’s an exception. When I was working on Ungrateful God, I had an editing deadline I had to hit, and I burned myself out doing it. I was pleased with the result this time, but it required a lot of edits once I got it back, edits I wasn’t able to get going with for several months. The pattern again.

I’ve finally learned my lesson. So long as I have a day job (hint-hint, potential fans!), I can only write so fast without burning out. Push it too much past that for too long, and my creative river dries up whether I like it or not.

NaNo is a great motivator for a great many writers. I’ve even participated since that first time, but I relax the rules for myself. Edited words count. Working on a different project (or, say, a blog post for Fictorians) counts. Even if all I do in a given day is some mental planning out of scenes or chapters or arcs, that counts. Because the point of NaNo isn’t to rigidly adhere to an arbitrary set of rules. It’s to provide you a little motivation to get writing in the form of your friends who are doing the same thing. Whether that’s 50,000 works, 500,000 words, or 500 words, the point is the same. Remember: even one word is better than zero.

So take a seat behind the keyboard and, without worrying about how many, see if you can crank out some words this month. C’mon, everybody’s doing it!



About the Author: Gregory D. Littleheadshot

Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (all right, during) classes. His novels Unwilling Souls and Ungrateful God are available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through Amazon.com. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens, A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, Dragon Writers: An Anthology, and the upcoming Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath. He lives with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his Twitter handle (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.


Now What?

A guest post by Sam Knight.

7363117Another day another dollar. Another year, another… Hmmm. A dollar. Yeesh! That’s about what it feels like. When did writing turn into a job? I didn’t sign up for this. Did I? I mean, I guess I did. I didn’t mean to. It was supposed to be fun.

Last year, I attended enough conventions that I actually lost count. Not like I went to a hundred or anything like that. I averaged a little over a convention a month—as a speaking guest, not an attendee or a vendor (although I was also an attendee and a vendor at most of them, too). There is a big difference in the drain on your personal energy. As much as going to conventions and meeting other writers and making new fans revitalizes me, staying in hotels, traveling, and being “always on” wears me out.

By the end of the con season, I actually skipped a couple of conventions. That really surprised me. The conventions were a major part of my personal goals for 2013. Heck, I even got to be on panels at both Denver and Salt Lake City Comic Cons! That was a personal goal I thought would take a lot longer to reach.

But it cost me. It drained me. I still have a family who wants me at home, kids I need to make arrangements for when I’m going to be gone, and money that hates me and runs away at the slightest hint I may have woken up.

I made most of my money by going to conventions and selling my books in 2013. Conversely, going to conventions was also my biggest expense. There is a tradeoff there, a give and take. But there was a hidden take I wasn’t seeing.

My word count, my writing production, suffered horribly. I can’t write while driving or speaking at conventions. I have met a couple of people who can, but I’m not one of them. The best I can hope for is a few flash fictions over coffee, or maybe a half of a short story.

But that is where the money really is—in my word count. The more I write, the more stuff I have to sell, and the more I sell… well, you get the point.

And I do need money to keep doing this. I am not independently wealthy, so I can’t afford to have this be the most expensive hobby ever. Even when my hotel and my vending booth are paid for by a convention, I still have expenses. And bills. And kids.

So that is what I am setting my goal for in 2014. Making money—by writing.

Don’t get me wrong, I intend to be perfectly reasonable about it. I have no delusions that I will sell a bazillion copies of anything. But I have also realized that I can’t keep pitching the same things I’ve already sold. I need more. I need a back catalogue. I need new fans to realize I have ten more things they want to buy. I need to write!

But then, I’ve been there before.

When I first started out, that’s what I did. I wrote. All the time. All by myself. And I felt like I needed to get out and meet people, go to conventions, meet other authors. And I did. Maybe too much. It kind of wore me out.

So for 2014, I plan on attending conventions, but maybe not quite as many. I plan on meeting other writers and getting together with those I already know, to revitalize my writing energy, but I will be more selective about where and when and how. And I am upping my writing game. I am going to find a way to get more work out there into the world.

When all is said and done, my goal in 2014 is to find balance. I want to find the sweet spot where I can write until I’m ready to take a break, yet still be able to take the break because I don’t have three things due already. I want to go to conventions, yet still feel giddy about going. I want to be able to run things like a small business, yet still think of myself as a writer. I want to stop thinking “Ach! When did this become a job! It was supposed to be fun,” and start thinking “This is a job? How fun!”

Guest Writer Bio: 

Sam Knight PicSam Knight refuses to be pinned down into a genre. If the idea grabs him, he writes it. Once upon a time, he was known to quote books the way some people quote movies, but now he claims having a family has made him forgetful, as a survival adaptation. He can be found at www.samknight.com and contacted at sam@samknight.com.


Keeping the Day Job

“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”

C.S. Lewis

45382430The other day I found myself shopping for a spiral-bound, college-ruled notebook for my son. Holding the notebook, brought to mind a series of memories. As a child I saved up to purchase similar notebooks, then I would fill their pages with adventures. I dreamt of someday becoming a famous author, sharing my stories with the world.

At the beginning of 2013, I found myself wanting, craving that childhood dream. It had been years since I had written anything, though I often felt the stories inside me, demanding to be heard. I fantasized about the day I would have enough financial independence that I could quit my day job, allowing me time to dedicate to my craft.

I realized that I had found many, many excuses not to write. I had friends with families, busy jobs, and demanding schedules that still managed to produce a novel, and see it published. It came time to commit to my dream or move on. I began to write.

I used 2013 as an opportunity to better my craft by composing a series of short stories to practice various aspects of good writing. I found a tribe and continue to build relationships with those that support and encourage my endeavors. And I attended Superstars Writing Seminars where I received a barrage of information related to becoming a successful, professional writer.

 “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”

Zig Ziglar

Superstars helped me clarify my direction. As the presenters adamantly suggested, I decided to abandon the fantasy of quitting my day job. I took some time to discover why I am driven to write, and have determined that I do so, not for fame or fortune, but to inspire. With this newfound direction, I began planning and setting goals.

My greatest hurdle isn’t vocabulary or punctuation (though I tend to use too many commas). It isn’t voice or point of view or plot development. My greatest impediment is me, more specifically my time–those 24 hours a day.

In a matter of priorities I have evaluated those things that occupy my time.

  • My day job, at times can be very demanding. I seldom work less than fifty hours a week and have occasionally logged seventy or more.
  •  A lot of my free time is spent in volunteer service for the Boy Scouts of America; I estimated about 30 – 40 hours a month.
  •  And of course there is my wife and five kids that support my writing as long as I fulfill my other expected duties first.
  •  Though I call it research, I do spend several hours a week watching television or playing videogames.

 “This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve decided that work and family time will be and should be what they are. I’ve resigned from several duties with the Boy Scouts that will significantly reduce my time commitment there, and I have budgeted the remaining time between writing and research.

Writing everyday has helped in the past. I notice that as work and other responsibilities grow more demanding causing my writing to suffer, it becomes more difficult to pick up where I left off. To counter this, I write daily, if only just a hundred words. Additionally, I read my stories to the kids. This allows me to rough edit and gather feedback, all while being a good dad.

A good goal is attainable, measurable, and within the maker’s control. While getting published is a dream of mine, it wouldn’t be a good goal because it is outside my control. The following are my goals for 2014.

  • This year I will write something everyday, if even just 100 words.
  • I will write at least 20,000 words each month.
  • I will submit at least one work to be published each month.
  • I will finish writing at least one novel this year.
  • I will attend at least one writing seminar and at least one con this year.

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”

Henry David Thoreau

 Share your 2014 writing goals in the comments below.