Three weeks ago, I accepted a challenge to finish my book by September 2, and if I miss my deadline, I have to give $1,000 to the presidential candidate I despise. More on the challenge and other productivity hacks for writers here.
I'm three weeks into the challenge, and I've finished nine chapters so far for a total of 42,721 words.
It wasn't hard to finish nine chapters, since I started the challenge with a little less than 30,000 words already written. However, since then I've written about 12,000 words, or about 700 per day.
Let's go a little deeper to see what is working and what isn't:
The last three weeks have been intensely busy. I was on family vacation from July 8 to 14 in Colorado. My house is being remodeled, which means coordinating with contractors and flooring guys.
With travel, family, and house issues, it would have been so easy to put off my writing and pick it up again when things “settle down.”
Of course, the truth is life never settles down. You will always feel like next week/month/year will be a better time for your writing, but that time never comes. Instead, write now.
This is where having a consequence really helps. If I miss a weekly deadline, even because I'm traveling, I lose something. If I miss three deadlines, I lose a really big thing.
Not only is that internally motivating, it gives me the best excuse if I'm with other people. For example, in Colorado I had to bow out of a few activities to write.
Normally, I would have sacrificed my writing to go with the flow and avoid hurting anyone's feelings. But because of the deadline, all I had to say was, “I'm sorry I have to write. If I don't hit my deadline I have to give $1,000 to the political candidate I don't like.”
This takes all the tension out the situation. Plus, I find that I'm more productive and am able to quickly finish my daily word count and get back to work.
I'm using Scrivener to write my book, which has the added benefit of Project Targets.
I set my project targets on the first day, inputing my word count goal, deadline, and the days of the week I would write.
Afterward, it gave me a daily word count that updates each writing session. The nice thing is that if I write more during one writing session, it lowers the word count of the next writing session. Vice versa if I write too little.
The project target has been a huge motivator for me. Several days, I've wanted to give up 300 or so words into my writing session.
However, knowing I only had 342 more words, for example, to write to stay on track helped me push through and get my work done. And the writing itself on those days has actually been pretty good!
For extra accountability, I've been posting my chapters each week to Becoming Writer, which has been a great way to get feedback on the book and stay encouraged in the midst of the writing process.
So far, feedback has been really great. Cathryn Ryan told me, “[C]ongratulations on finding a way to conquer resistance and get your book written. It is heartening to me, a novice, to know that even experienced writers struggle with resistance. There will be a lot of us here cheering you on.”
Sue Weems said, “Loving this memoir. The dialogue between you and your wife throughout cracks me up. The set up with your unpredictable grandmother has kept me reading. The pizza order and your ‘make the best of it' response mirrors what I expect we’ll see through the rest of the book. International travel (especially with family) requires an ironclad sense of humor and ability to roll with the punches. Thoroughly enjoyable. Will watch for the next installments!”
And Gary Little said, “I laughed my ass off at Grandma and the age ‘issue.'”
I think the feedback will get more critical as I get deeper into the book. I've spent the longest amount of time on and feel most confident about these early chapters, but as I write fresh chapters, they will feel more raw and in need of editing. However, right now, I'm enjoying all the praise!
I'm nearly through the beginning setup of the book and am about to delve into the middle, which is always the hardest part of any book. I have a lot of new content to write and a lot of notes, journal entries, and scraps of chapters to weave in. I expect the writing will get harder from here out.
However, I'm also really enjoying this process. Each day I write at my favorite café near my office. After I finish my daily writing session, I love the feeling of walking back to the office, knowing that I accomplished my goal for the day.
Most of the time, I feel genuinely proud of what I've written. But even when I've ended my writing session on a bad note, which often happens, I still feel like I'm making process toward my goal and am going to have some kind of book, even if it's just a bad first draft.
How is your work in progress going? Let us know in the comments!
Today, share your writing with someone and get feedback. Ask a friend to look over it, print it out and hand it to your mom, share an excerpt in the comments below, or join us in Becoming Writer and post it in the workshop. Feedback and accountability are essential parts of the writing process, so seek them out today.