Monday, February 19, 2018

How Not to Fail by Alicia Dean

I have limited time to write, so I have to figure out how to make the time I have productive, and how to not be overwhelmed by all I'd like to accomplish. I read two articles recently, and one was a blog post by our own Diane Burton. The first article was about creating a 'writing ritual' similar to the superstitious rituals that baseball players go through. Although, in this case, the ritual is more about forming a habit that links to your writing. I love the sound of rain and the smell of coffee. So, I decided that would be my ritual. Thanks to modern technology, there are limitless Youtube videos of rain sounds. The below is one of my favorites, because it is accompanied by a crackling fire...




I also bought coffee beans and I carry them around in an empty spice bottle, and I have them sitting on my computer desk.

The blog post Diane wrote that helped me was about dividing the word count of the manuscripts you wish to complete this year by the number of days left in the year. It somehow makes the projects seem manageable, easy even. I did this on January 5th. My goal this year is to complete four novels and two novellas. When I divided the word count, it came out to 1,055 words per day. About the equivalent of one scene. I can EASILY write one scene per day. Brilliant, right?

That was the fantasy. Here is the reality. I have almost no time to write. Of course, I realize I must MAKE the time, so that's no excuse. The awesome ritual I planned? I've done it maybe 3 times. It DID work, though. It helped me get in the zone, and I know that if I did it daily for at least two weeks, it would become a habit, and I would be more productive.  And the nifty little dividing word count thing? I did that on January 5th, as mentioned above. And, I have only completed maybe 1 or 2 scenes since. The calculations are useless if you don't actually WRITE.

However, I'm not giving up. I recalculated and, to my pleasant surprise, with the projects and the days left in the year, I only have to write 1,142 words per day. I like to think of word count as 'scenes' and my scenes average 1,000 words. SO, that's still just a little over 1 scene per day. I'm going to call it 2 scenes per day so I can be ahead of the game, and also allow time for revisions. And, on weekends and days off my paycheck job, I can write MORE than 2 scenes.

I am determined not to fail. I will get up earlier in order to reach my goal. Or whatever it takes. The only way I will fail, is if I stop trying. By 'not failing' I am not saying I will definitely complete the four novels and two novellas. I am saying I will not stop trying to complete them. And, if I do that, I have not failed.

Do you have any rituals, tips or advice on being productive?


16 comments:

Jannine Gallant said...

4 novels and 2 novellas sounds like A LOT! I feel like if I expect too much, I'm setting myself up for failure. I give myself a weekly count. 5000 words. That's 1000 words a day with 2 days off. Or 1 day off and a couple of 500 word days because we all know life gets in the way of writing. If I exceed my expectations, I'm ahead. There will probably be a week (like this one--ski and skate week at the ice rink where I'm freaking going insane at work! Sorry for the mini-rant!) where I won't be able to make my count. It sort of evens out over time. Anyway, that's my strategy. Best of luck getting back on track, Ally! You are the busiest woman I know!

Leah St. James said...

It sounds like A LOT to me, too, especially for someone as busy as you! Like Jannine,I don't like setting goals too high because I'll feel like a dud if I can't reach them. In fact, I seem to have some contrariness gene that makes me subconsciously work against myself! Right now my goal is to write daily, no specific count. Good luck on making your count!

RE Mullins said...

That sounds quite ambitious but I have a feeling you'll succeed. Good luck!

Alicia Dean said...

LOL, it does sound like a lot, unless you think of it as one scene. That's nothing! :) I'm the busiest woman I know, too. :D I don't mind setting unreachable goals, because I know they are unreachable, but I don't get frustrated, I just do what I can and keep plugging along.

Alicia Dean said...

Leah, writing daily is the perfect goal. Then, you don't put too much pressure on yourself about how much to accomplish. that's my 'mini goal' and if I can get in the habit of writing every day, I know I'll accomplish more than I am now. :)

Alicia Dean said...

Thanks, R.E. Yes, maybe a little too ambitious, but I've been behind for too long, and I need to step up my game. :) Thanks for the vote of confidence and well wishes!

Alison Henderson said...

I'm retired and I can only dream of being that productive. Of course, I'm not the only retired person in my house, so that makes a BIG difference in the amount of writing time I have. I set myself a goal of 500 words a day (doable for me), and I'm pretty much chugging along. I aim for one full-length novel every 9-12 months. Since 2017 was a complete bust for me, I'm determined to have a book out this summer, no matter what!

Vonnie Davis said...

I write daily. No word count in mind. I just keep plugging away for 6 to 8 hours. Your mention of athletes routines made me laugh. My youngest wrestled from first grade through college. Weigh-ins were always before the match. I'd stick in a 3 Musketeers and a Snickers bar for after weigh-ins and a bottle of orange Gatorade for between matches. I'd stick a note in one of his wrestling shoes to "Kick Ass!" and "Five on Two" on a note in his jock strap (five fingers on two...ah...dangly things). This put your opponent in pain. One night, the coach ran up the bleachers to me. "Vonnie, Mike's upset. You forgot his candy bars and he's sure he'll lose." I told the coach to tell him I'd be right back and I made a quick run to a convenience store. Mike scarfed them down, smiling. And, no, he was not spoiled. He won every match his senior year. You'll make every goal, too.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Alicia, I say whatever works to get you to the productive level that makes you happy, do it. My only caution is not to make the rituals too complicated and the goal too high or the process will be counterproductive. I have to have coffee to drink and no noise in the room...a scene a day is a good goal, but I'm editing right now...30 pages of edits a day makes sense. Good luck with your rituals and goals!

Brenda Whiteside said...

All I can say is wow, Alicia. That's a big goal. But great on the process. I like the ritual. Nice idea. As far as the word count thing, I've tried it on three books now, and I won't again. The first time around, I got too far behind and gave up. Second time around, I was a task master and the end result was an ms that had to be edited 3 times before it was passable. I thought I might try it one more time, but when I fell behind, I decided not to commit the last mistake and hurry the book and gave up. I now write at whatever pace is good for that week. So...good luck to you. I do know writers who find the word goal very helpful.

Alicia Dean said...

Alison, I know it makes a difference having someone else in the house to distract you. Since I let my daughter move in with me two years ago, I'm experiencing some of that. :) 500 words a day is a good goal. If I wasn't already behind on so many projects I should have already completed, I'd be happy with that. :)

Alicia Dean said...

Aww, Vonnie, you have the best stories!! That's so cute! :) I envy your discipline to write 6 to 8 hours a day. I also wouldn't need to worry about word count if I spent that much time writing. :) Thanks for the encouragement!

Alicia Dean said...

That's so true, Rolynn. My ritual isn't complicated, but my goals are a bit too high. That doesn't mean I can't reach them, and I will not be frustrated if I don't. Promise! :) Yes, coffee in the morning, and silence....bliss... But, I don't drink coffee throughout the day, so I really need to get my writing done early!

Alicia Dean said...

Thanks, Brenda. The ritual relaxes me, whether or not I end up being productive. :) Word count doesn't frustrate me at all, it just helps me be more goal-focused.

Diane Burton said...

We keep telling each other "whatever works." That is so true. Thanks for mentioning my trick with the word count. Since my goal was manageable (500 words/day), I've had great days (over 1500) and days when I haven't written at all (not good). Like Alison, I'm retired and so is Hubs. Although he tries to leave me alone, just his presence nearby is distracting. I could go to my office downstairs, but it isn't conducive to writing. Distractions (music with words, esp.) cut into my productivity. Noise cancelling earphones might help. Hmmm. Good luck with your writing, Alicia. Ambitious goals.

Alicia Dean said...

You're welcome...thanks for the tip! :) See, you're doing great. Since you get more than you need on certain days, it balances out the lean days. :) Thanks, Diane, yes, ambitious indeed!