600,000 words in 365 days. In December 2011, that was my goal. I honestly didn’t know if I could do it. That was like writing words equal to NaNoWriMo (50,000) every month for an entire year. As of Dec 20th, 2012, I hit 609,548 words for the year.
I had to set some ground rules for myself. I said that only writing that I intended to try to publish in some form would count, and the prewriting that I did for any novels or short stories. Anything I did for work, emails, etc would not count.
I also thought that I needed to keep very good track so I could have exact word counts. My first step was to create an excel spreadsheet with 12 tabs, and label them for the months. I took a cell and set it up to display the total of the all numbers in the first column. Then, any time I wrote something, I put the word total in the next open cell in the first column. This kept an automatic running total with little hassle. I then set up a cell in each sheet that added up all of the total cells, so I could have a running total of everything I had done for the year.
This sheet helped keep me motivated. I could always tell how much progress I had made and how much I had yet to do.
I then evaluated my writing style. I know that I work best when I have a few projects going at a time, and so I mapped out the things I wanted to work on next and decided to work on each of these projects every day. I prioritized the projects to work on the ones I wanted to get done first early in the year.
Then, there really wasn’t a big trick to it. I committed to writing every day and anytime I could. I tried to bring my laptop with me for times when I had a few minutes. If I didn’t have my laptop, I wrote using my iPod. If I didn’t have that, I kept a notebook handy to write, or prepare myself for writing so that I could move more quickly when I got to it.
The biggest thing is to know when your best productive times of the day are and really use them for all they are worth. During these times, minimize distractions. Turn off Facebook, check your email once before you got to the writing zone, or whatever you need to do. Pinterest will still be there when you get back. There are even programs such as Cold Turkey, which will allow you to block these sites for a certain time limit while you write. Pretty useful.
I experienced some major setbacks. I had some really busy weeks, such as the week before “The Secret Garden ” opened, in which I was an actor. Two LDS General Conferences and countless other events for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Looming deadlines for work, a complete hard drive meltdown, severe sickness and many other things inhibited my ability to write. There were times when I fell way behind and had to rush forward by writing 10,000 words on the last two days of the month.
I’m here to tell you that persistence pays. Just like in running a marathon, it does not do you any good to spend all of your energy in one burst and then stop running. You must keep a steady pace, with occasional bursts of speed to catch up in order to do your best. I believe that goals help writers push themselves to accomplish more than they normally would. Here’s a glimpse into what I wrote this year:
The Canticle Kingdom Book III
The Last Archangels, Books II and III
The Death Seer (Partial)
The Ward Choir Survival Guide
The Ultimate Morning Study Companion (German/English)
Voices in My Blood (Partial, co-authored)
Personal History 2012
Many, including ones for two anthologies “Sing We Now of Christmas” and “Carol of the Tales”.
When Death Comes (Musical)
Christmas Spirits the Musical (Partial)
Canticle of Dawn
Canticle of Twilight
Age of Archangels Seasons I and II
Dozens of articles for GospelIdeals.org
This next year is going to be taken up in revision and getting these and works from past years polished up and better ready to submit. If anyone else is up to the challenge, I highly recommend it. I accomplished so much this year and it is great now to look back and see that it all worked out. I am committed and serious about writing and will continue to put in the long hours that it takes to realize my potential.
What are your writing goals for the coming year?
A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!