Writing is my passion, but for some reason I rarely do it, whether it be because of perfectionism or laziness. This year, I want that to change, so I’ve come up with some low-stakes writing goals and ways to develop a writing habit,
1. Track my wordcount.
I tend to float around from project to project, rarely finishing, with lots of stops and goes until the project passion dies and is replaced by the shiny new book idea I think will be easier to complete. So this year I don’t want to box myself in, but I do want to make daily progress. I made a wordcount tracker that’s color-coded. I get to fill in a box at the end of the day with the color less than or equal to the wordcount. This gives me a better view of any patterns that may arise, like doing most of my writing on certain days or having big days followed by several small ones. I want to track how many words I can be expected to write without putting any pressure on myself. I think just by committing to one word a day on the same project, I can fight my way through the hard parts and actual finish books. If I want to bounce around I can, but I still have to write one word on the main project.
I also find that I can open up the project to hit my one word goal and wind up getting to a thousand words. The hardest part for me is usually typing those first few sentences. Once I get past that, I take off. By not “trying” to hit a certain wordcount, I wind up developing a habit of working on my project and hopefully being less perfectionist or intimidated. My tracker has colors assigned as follows: red one word, orange 100 words, yellow 500 words, green 1k words, light blue, 2k words, dark blue 3k, purple 4k words, pink 5k or more words. I don’t go past 5k, because though I can get to 10k in a day, it’s not great for me long term. It gets me through the easy parts then I feel bad not being able to continue just as easily the next day and wind up not writing. I also tend to burn out after a few 5k days in a row, so I don’t really want those back to back.
What I might do at some point once I’m sure the habit will stick is to try for at least 100 words a day and gradually raise the bar to find what my ideal wordcount day would be that allows me to stay consistent and not feel pressure or burnout. However, if the one word a day is the best fit, I see no reason to raise the bar.
2. Don’t announce projects until they are done.
Sometimes I get excited for a project but the love dies. If I’ve announced it, I’ll feel bad about not finishing it. Sometimes I think a story will be a novel but it wraps up as a novella. I can also get wrapped up in promoting a book before writing it. To keep the focus on simply telling the story, I have to put the marketing aspects on the back-burner and just write.
3. Get ahead.
I haven’t published anything in a few years because I’m always worried about the order I should release things, what series I want to focus on, and how to market the books. So along with not announcing projects before they are done, I want to set myself up for success by banking projects. Basically I’m not planning to publish anything this year so that I can have all my releases for 2024 already done. I’ll create a new Amazon account so that the algorithm doesn’t punish me, and I’ll basically restart my writing career the right way. And by not coming up with the releases I want to do in 2024, I can just fall back into the love of writing and figure out what I want to do with the projects I do finish closer to next year.
4. Work with an author coach.
My BFF and editor is an amazing author who manages to pump out quality books and please her readers while still writing what she wants within multiple genres. Not many people can pull off not having a specific niche. That’s why she’s the perfect person to guide me. I’ve been in the game a lot longer, but time in doesn’t equal success. Her level of dedication is enviable, but people are just people, and she’s one of the busiest I know. She’s able to do it all, and that’s why I asked her to be my author coach. I may know a bunch from how long I’ve been in this world, but she’s actually applied the knowledge, and I get in my head too much trying to make the best possible choices then get paralyzed by them. So I’ve decided to put all my trust in her and listen to her advice and follow through on tasks she gives me and just focus on the work. I can really use a strong guiding hand. I think having that person was always what helped me stay on track with co-written projects. And having her guide me with my solo endeavors will give me the accountability and encouragement I need.
5. Balance my reading and writing.
I tend to have years where I’m either writing a ton or reading a ton. It’s a bit of all or nothing with me, but I think I’ve found a way to balance the two. I’ve created a tracker where I record how many thousands of words I’ve written during the month, and the goal is to write 1k words for every book I read. I read 226 books in 2022. If I had had this goal, I would’ve written 226,000 words. That’s like four novels, which would’ve been a great year. Now I’m not making myself literally do it before reading the next book, though if I start to fall behind I may need to. Right now they just need to equal out (or have the writing be more) by the end of the month. So if it takes me two weeks to read five book and I write 5k all in one day, that’s fine.
Another way to do this would be to write one word per page of reading. This would probably lead to a lower wordcount since most books aren’t 1k words, but not everyone can write several books a year. If you like this idea of balancing your books with your reading, find a system that works for you.
In conclusion . . .
I hope that taking these steps that aren’t really outcome based but rather habit based that I’ll be able to reach an unexpected pleasant outcome by the end of the year. What are your writing goals or habits for this year?