Last post I discussed beginning a new story, how to begin, and what tools we use. I mentioned a often-used acronym, BICHOK. Butt in chair, hands on keys. Here’s where that little mantra really becomes important. Learn it, know it, use it.
First step. How long will it be? Is it a short story? Novella? Full-length novel? The difference is the length, but the process is the same. At this point, you have made this decision and written your outline (or not). Everything’s ready, it’s time to get the words on the page. This means two things: goals and sticking to them. That’s how a draft gets done. So how do goals work where a first draft is concerned? It’s time to do a little math. (I can hear you all groaning now!)
The first step, once you have decided what the overall length will be, is to decide how long you want to take to write it. When do you want to add The End to your draft? Obviously, if you are submitting for a specific publisher’s call, you will have a deadline date to shoot for. If not, then it’s more a matter of personal choice, and your comfort level regarding speed and amount of work per day. Once you have your own ‘deadline’ decided, there’s where the math comes in. Figure out the number of days till you want it done, divide your total projected word count by that number of days, and there you have it. This depends, also, on how many days a week you plan to write. Do you take weekends off? Are Mondays the pits for you? Are you out of town every Thursday? Adjust your number of writing days accordingly and you’ll have a concrete number of words you need to write each writing day to reach your daily and total goals. And you thought this would be hard.
Actually, the math is the easy part. Now comes the real work. The writing. Reaching those goals.
I got a real ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’ experience with my first NaNoWriMo. that stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it takes place every November. The basic idea is to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. A friend of mine had mentioned it to me years ago, and I finally decided to give it a shot. 50,000 words, 30 days. Approximately 1666 words every day. Sound insane? Yes, it is. It was also one of the most exhilarating and fun things I have ever done. I met with a local group of fellow insane writers and we all went at it. And I did it. All because I kept an eye on my goals constantly.
I knew the total daily breakdown/minimum I had to do. That gave me a weekly number, and a running total as I went. I made desktop wallpaper that had a calendar with my daily word count on it. I crossed off each day as I went. The sense of accomplishment was huge, and that visual prodding and feeling of success is what kept me going. This is the key. Find a system that works for you, that will inspire you, push you when you need it, and keep your goals in front of you. Have some sort of tracking system, a visual so you can see that you are being successful. And every day that you accomplish your number will make you feel that much more successful and determined to keep it going.
That’s the real secret right there to getting that first draft written. Make a plan, stick to it, and track it. Congratulate yourself on your successes along the way. And before long? You too will be typing THE END.