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Burn through the Words is a series of posts suggesting strategies you can use to hit your writing goals. Feel free to use, abuse, or disregard entirely; writing is a strange and personal beast and all advice herein should be taken on the rocks with a nice rim of salt.

Stephen King taught me this one. Not personally. Lord, I wish. It’s in his book On Writing, and it’s something every writer should practice.

You. Are ready. To write. You’ve got your lucky Pickard/Spock mug full of steaming hot caffeine, your bedroom/office/basement door locked, and your document open, cursor blinking away. You sit down in the chair, pound out a paragraph, and then — you hit a snag. Maybe it’s some scientific theorem you aren’t clear on but wanted to use. Maybe you don’t know the name of a city, even though it’s your imaginary city on your imaginary world, because you straight just haven’t made it up yet. Maybe you want to mention the smell of a specific, real world plant. Whatever. Whatever you do, don’t go off on a Wikipedia wormhole.

JUST CAPS IT.

Write, “the air was redolent of PLANT SMELL” and move on. Later, after you’ve hit your goals for the day and are mindlessly half-watching Sherlock for the umpteenth time while simultaneously browsing the internet, that is the time to spend 45 minutes figuring out if it was tulips or tuberose wafting through the air. Not while you are in the hot seat. Never while you are in the hot seat. And, because you put that PLANT SMELL or THEOREM or CITY in CAPS, it will be darn easy to find again, and plug in what you meant all along.

JUST. CAPS. IT. And hit those daily word counts!

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Burn through the Words is a series of posts suggesting strategies you can use to hit your writing goals. Feel free to use, abuse, or disregard entirely; writing is a strange and personal beast and all advice herein should be taken on the rocks with a nice rim of salt.

I mentioned in my last post that I have to write 714 words a day to hit my goal of 30,000 words for Clarion. But do I write 714 words a day?

No. I do not.

714 words is my rock-bottom limit.  I usually write a little over 1,000 words a day. Why do I do more than what I need to?

Because you never know what life is going to throw at you. There have already been two days since the write-a-thon began that I couldn’t make it to the keyboard. I’m sure there will be more. So I write ahead, so I don’t have the guilt and pressure of trying to play catch-up later.

Sure, I can get way behind and beg my family to give me a Saturday off so I can lock myself in the office and indulge in a marathon, but having done one Nanowrimo, I’m not all that eager to do another. For one thing, I don’t have a lot of fun that way, for another thing, most of what I write during those grim dashes is not very useful; often it’s just words for wordcount’s sake.

Do you want to write six stories, or six good stories you might sell somewhere? Set the bite-sized goals you’ve created as the bottom end of your expectations. Plan ahead, and when the race is over and the dust clears, you’ll have some writing to be proud of, rather than … some writing. Which, don’t get me wrong, is miles better than nothing at all, but why not try to do it right the first time, rather than making more work for yourself later?

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Burn through the Words is a series of posts suggesting strategies you can use to hit your writing goals. Feel free to use, abuse, or disregard entirely; writing is a strange and personal beast and all advice herein should be taken on the rocks with a nice rim of salt.

This tip is fairly common-sensical, I think, but it bears repeating, just in case you’ve fallen prey to a terrible case of procrastination.

You’ve set your big goal, and now it looms over you like K2. If you want to summit that goal and raise as much money as possible for Clarion, you’ve got to break your mountain into a series of small, manageable molehills.

This is pretty easy with word count — for example, I’ve got a goal of 30,000 words. This breaks down to 714 words a day. I know that whatever else I do today, I’ve got to write at least 714 words. It’s a heck of a lot easier to wrap my brain around than writing 30,000 words, and then the end result is the same. 

If you’ve chosen a certain amount of short stories, then for goodness sake, don’t wait until week five for inspiration to strike.

Saturday is your deadline: if you haven’t got your week’s story done, get it done, and use the pressure of the deadline to squeeze those words out. If you’re in a group, have them hold you accountable, and deliver those stories to them by uploading them to the forum every Saturday night. If you’re not in a group, deliver those stories to a supportive friend or family member instead. They don’t have to critique them, they just need to receive them.

Break it down and you’ll see success.

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