5 Rules For Setting A Writing Goal You’ll Stick To

5 Rules For Setting A Writing Goal You’ll Stick To, guest post by SiriGuruDev Singh

Having written only four novels as of this moment, I have a lot to learn about being an author—more than I have years left to learn it in—and I don’t claim to be an expert on anything. But for those of you out there who might be still struggling to make the dream of your first book a reality, I’m much closer to you than an expert is, so it’s with you that I share my first draft writing process.
            Obviously my process is what works for me. My brain is not your brain. I sincerely hope your brain works better than mine does. Mine is easily scrambled when I try to remember every detail of a project. It tends to get confused with character names, fictional terms, locations—and numbers! Especially numbers. So for me I need a pretty firm chapter outline—a fairly detailed map of the what and how and where the story is going—before I can move from paper to computer and begin my first draft.
            Working on the outline every single day, I start with the basic idea for the novel or series, the basic premise of the story, and then I focus all my attention on character. I start with their names, ages, relationships to each other, personalities, physical traits, I print photos of a dream cast, pin down their individual details, etc. and I glue everything into the first pages of the notebook that will remain with me throughout the entire writing process.
            Next comes the details of the plot. I map out the story chapter by chapter, expand plot points, scribble ideas all over the pages of the notebook, tear pages out, paper clip and staple more pages in where they belong, use lots of different colored pens, add sticky notes as I think of details and dialogue. I highlight the main points of each chapter, building and expanding until the story begins to feel complete. Until it feels coherent and whole to me, until it’s beginning imagery mirrors the ending, and it’s characters all have their moments and places within the novel’s world.
            The most important thing for me at this point is that I focus my mind entirely on this story alone. I make myself ignore all other story ideas, I live and breathe this world, allowing new points to come to me as my sleeping brain (or showering brain, or cooking brain) fill in various holes and realize what needs to be added to bring only these characters and this story to life.
            Then, once the outline feels as complete as I can possibly make it, I allow myself to think about the first line, the specific way to start the first scene in chapter one. (Make sure you write each chapter’s first sentence at the top of its page in the notebook to make it easy to jump back and forth as new ideas appear!) When that first sentence comes to me, I know I won’t be able to keep myself from starting, to keep my hands from moving from paper and pen to computer keyboard.
5 Rules For Setting A Writing Goal You’ll Stick To, guest post by SiriGuruDev Singh
            And when I start, a funny thing happens. I settle in at my desk, turn up music that matches the mood of the scene, and begin to actually write the manuscript—and the characters take over. It’s as if while I was thinking about the story, my subconscious fully formed fictional characters into real people with minds of their own. They certainly aren’t always cooperative, and they often surprise me, but it’s a real blast to see what they’ll do—and it’s amazing to me how their words and actions always work out for the story in the end.
            I believe that when we really concentrate, we begin to learn just how wonderful the human mind is.

            Focus. Just write. It’s like The Great Agatha Christie said: “Write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.” Because as John Cleese says: “Nothing will stop you from being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.”
            Just write. You’ll begin to enjoy telling the story even on days where you began by forcing your butt into that chair. Listen to Stephen King, who told us: “When you sit down to write, write. Don’t do anything else.” You will eventually finish. You’ll have that first draft done, you’ll hold those printed pages in your hands, ready for you to sculpt and mold into something you’re proud of. Neil Gaiman teaches us: “Finish things. Whatever it takes to finish, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure that you ever will from something you’ve never finished.”
            Because there is someone out there waiting for your novel. Someone waiting for your words to comfort them, to fill their loneliness, to entertain them, to turn them on and make them fall in love, to let them live those thousand lives that only fiction allows us to live. Guaranteed.

5 Rules For Setting A Writing Goal You’ll Stick To 

1.        Create a deadline for yourself to finish that first draft.
2.        Do the math for a daily word count from now until that day using the assumption of around 2,500 words per chapter, and create a calendar (using colorful markers and such).
3.        Add more time—but not too much time, weeks not months—onto the deadline if the word count comes out to more than 1,000 words a day. You don’t want to feel too horrible if you fall behind an unrealistic daily goal (For me, a more complete 600 words feels like more progress on a daily basis than 2,000 or 5,000—even though obviously you’ll be going over the manuscript again and again until you want to puke)
4.        Get on your professional editor’s schedule, (for one month after this rough draft deadline) so you’re committed and can’t talk yourself out of it.
5.        And finally, ignore word count and focus on writing for at least two to four hours a day in one hour uninterrupted sprints, preferably shared with another writer. It helps to write at the same time every day, so your mind and body begin to make writing a habit, a part of your daily routine. And plus, if you get done ahead of time, you’ll have that much more time for self-editing before sending the manuscript off to pre professional edit plot-betas anyway.

This system worked pretty well for me for four novels, and I hope you find at least part of it helpful.
Happy, happy writing!

5 Rules For Setting A Writing Goal You’ll Stick To, guest post by SiriGuruDev SinghSiriGuruDev Singh lives in New Mexico and Punjab, India with her husband, two daughters, and various extended relatives and animals. She is the author of the YA urban fantasy trilogy The Infernal Guard and Exiled To Freedom, a YA historical fiction novel about India’s bloody Partition of 1947.

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5 Rules For Setting A Writing Goal You’ll Stick To, guest post by SiriGuruDev Singh

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