For writers with a desire to draft, edit, or complete a book, the New Year is a shining beacon of hope and productivity. For 90% of the writing population, the first couple of weeks of January are a feverish haze of churning out words—until real life rears its ugly head, all “Cooey, it’s me, did you forget your (kids/job/dog/grandma’s food shop)?And before you know it, you’ve careened off the bandwagon and your bookish goal has disappeared.
So, how can you stay productive and meet your writing goals for the next 365 days?
First you need goals, but everyone knows that, so I won’t belabor the point. I will, however, say two things:
- If you don’t articulate what you want to achieve clearly and with a deadline, then walking the path to the finish line is like trudging through opaque glue: hard, messy and full of sticky problems.
- Be as public with those goals as you can, whether it’s through a blog, your personal Facebook profile or something else. The more people who know you’re trying to achieve something, the better, because A) there’s nothing like the pressure of ‘expectation’ to keep you going, and B) if they see you working for it, they’ll support you to achieve it.
Peer Pressure Support
There’s a reason kids obsess over fads: peer pressure is super effective. So why not capitalize on it as a writer? Use an accountability partner. They don’t have to be another writer but should be someone with a similar mindset and work ethic as you.
How does it work?
- Have a monthly catch-up (I use FaceTime because we don’t live in the same country).
- Each person set three goals for the following month. Partners should moderate the goals to ensure they’re not too pessimistic or overly optimistic. Remember that the goals don’t all have to be about words; my partner and I tend to have a marketing goal, a word count goal, and a slower-burn project goal.
- Hold weekly check-ins to monitor progress and a review at the end of the month that incorporates a new goal-setting session.
Does it really work?
Hell yeah, it does. Both me and my accountability partner tripled our weekly word count within six months of working with each other. TRIPLED.
Timing Is Everything
Lots of writers set a deadline and work to that date. That’s fine, until your kid gets sick or your laptop breaks. Then you’re pickled, like a gherkin, and no one needs to be sat in a jar of vinegar all day; it’s bad for the writing hands.
Slippage time. When a piece of work has a firm due date, give yourself a deadline that’s a week or two (or whatever is relevant) earlier. That way if anything goes wrong or life gets in the way, you have spare days to make up the time.
Commit To Developing Your Craft
This might seem like a strange one – saying you need to commit to study when studying will inevitably take time away from producing words. But think about it: the better you are at your craft, the cleaner your first drafts are and the more productive you become.
There are some easy ways of doing this without spending hundreds of dollars on courses:
- Don’t passively read. Engage with the stories you encounter by examining the structure, style, and sentence construction.
- Make a list of writing topics you would like to improve on and spend some time researching one each month.
- Watch webinars or tutorials.
- Read more nonfiction writing craft books.
- Get more feedback on your work.
Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Writers are notorious for suffering from Doubt And Imposter Syndrome. It stops you doing the things that will help grow your writing business—which is exactly why you need to get out of your comfort zone.
To counteract this, commit to doing one thing each week that makes you nervous. A few ideas:
- Pitch an article to a magazine or big indie author you’ve always dreamed of working with.
- Pitch a podcast.
- Host a webinar.
- Submit a piece to a competition or your book to an award contest.
- Set a gruelling word count.
Sure, you might hear a few no’s along the way, but you’ll never hear a yes if you don’t try. Be bold, be brave, and I promise you, good things will happen.
Pull The Plug On ‘I Can’t’
Here’s the non-sugar-coated truth: the only thing that can get in the way of you achieving your writing goal is you. If I had a dollar for every time someone said I Can’t, I really would be a wealthy girl. We’re all busy—believe me, I get that. But you are the only one who can make your dream come true. No one else is going to do it for you. I love this quote:
“If you have time to whine then you have time to find a solution.” Dee Dee Artner
Next time you find yourself about to make an excuse, consider the following questions:
- What can I re-prioritize?
- Could that new TV episode wait?
- What chunks of time could I dedicate to writing? (the lunch break, an hour before the family wakes up, during naptime, etc.)
- Do you have a friend or relative that you could ask to sit with the kids for an hour?
- What could you give up temporarily to make time for your writing?
Like Artner says: no more excuses, just solutions. Because the answer is out there.
If you want to make 2018 the year you finally stick to your writing goals, then be clear what you want from the outset. Give yourself slippage time, study hard, try new things, get out of your comfort zone, and get yourself an accountability partner for support and the occasional nudge.
Sacha Black is the author of the #1 bestseller for writers, 13 Steps To Evil – How To Craft A Superbad Villain. Her blog for writers, www.sachablack.co.uk, is home to regular writing, marketing and publishing advice sprinkled with dark humour and the occasional bad word. In addition to craft books, she writes YA fantasy, and her first series, Keepers, is due out in November 2017.