It’s that time of year again — everyone is making resolutions for the new year, the new decade, and you once again find yourself looking at that number one bullet that’s been on your list of goals for years:
Writing a book.
Every year, you go into January with good intentions. “I WILL write a book this year!” you proclaim, thrusting your fist into the air. And maybe you start off strong. Maybe you write a few thousand words in the first couple months, or maybe you plot the whole thing out, or talk about your characters to close friends.
But somewhere along the way, that goal falls behind on your priority list, and little by little, day by day, it’s forgotten.
There’s nothing worse than finding yourself at the end of a year feeling like you could have done more to make one of your goals a reality. Writing a book is no easy feat, and let me tell you this: you are not alone in feeling like it’s impossible.
But, I’ve been where you are, and believe me when I say that you CAN write that story that’s burning inside you. With a little discipline, a LOT of bravery, and most importantly — a PLAN — you can achieve this goal.
Here is my best advice for making next year your bitch — writing wise, anyway. 😉
Make A Measurable Goal
This is by far the most important step. So often, we make goals without making them measurable or actionable. For instance: “I will lose weight!” or “I will workout more!” Those are nice things to manifest, but they’re not a PLAN.
Be more specific with your goal. Don’t just say, “I want to write a book this year.” Instead, say, “I will write the entire first draft of my book by December 31st, and I’ll do it by writing 7,000 words per month, and I will make my writing goal each week so I can work around my schedule.”
THAT is an actionable plan.
So, first, make your plan using these guidelines. I’ve given example answers, but fill out for YOU and what makes sense in your life.
My New Year Writing Plan
Estimated words in my rough draft: 80,000
Divided by 12, that means I need to write this amount of words each month: 6,700
Divided by 4, that means I need to write this amount of words each week: 1,675
Divided by 5, that means I need to write this amount of words each day (taking two days off): 335
Here’s who I will ask to read my book as I write it, and I will send them what I’ve written at the end of each month: My boyfriend, my best friend, my mom
Here’s who I will report my word count to each day, to keep me accountable: My writing group online
Here’s what I will reward myself with each month that I complete my word count goal: Bingeing whatever I want on Netflix for a full day
Here’s what I will do or who I will reach out to if I fall off track: Read a motivational book on writing or listen to a motivational audio book on writing
Here’s why this goal is important to me: I have this amazing story that I really want to tell, and I want to start trying to pursue a career in writing.
Prepare in Advance
Okay, now that you’ve written out your goal in a measurable way, it’s time to get yourself ready. Think of writing this book like hiking a 14,000 foot mountain. You wouldn’t wait until the day of the hike to prepare, would you? Set yourself up BEFORE January 1st so that when the day comes, you’re ready to go.
Here are some very important things you should have prepared:
- Figure out your characters. I am having you start here because I think it’s the most important step. Whether you have one main character or five, sit down and really flesh them out. You can use tools like the Enneagram or you can fill out a character beat sheet. The better you know your characters, the more prepared you’ll be to write them.
- Outline your book. Even if you don’t have everything figured out, this is important. Start with how the book will open, and build out from there. Even if you only know four major points and everything else you have to fill in, start thinking about it. Okay, I know this will happen, and this will happen, but how do I connect the two? And now that I know my characters, how will they grow, what will prompt them to get from A to B?
- Make a plan on PaceMaker. This is one of my favorite tools and it’s so easy to use. Plug in your estimated word count, and how often you’re writing, and it will break it all down for you. You can take the weekends off, or write more on certain days of the week, and you can even account for vacations and such. The best part about this is that as you write, you can plug in your word count and see your progress on a graph. AND, if you write OVER your word count one day (or under), your plan will automatically adjust. Sweet!
Restructure Your Priorities
So, you have your goal. You’ve made a plan. You’ve got characters ready to go, outline greased, and you know how many words you need to write each day. First of all, YOU’RE ALREADY DOING AMAZING. Now, time for some tough love:
You’ve got to make this a priority, or it’s never going to happen.
One of the most common mistakes I see when it comes to those writing a book for the first time is that they don’t figure out WHEN to write each day. They push it all off to the weekends, but then something comes up on the weekend. Or, they say they’ll write each day, but they don’t plan for when, so the day goes by as it usually does, and before they know it, it’s midnight and time for bed and not a single word was written.
So, take a look at your life NOW and figure out where writing will fit into it. Yes, I realize we already are low on time. Yes, I realize this will mean making sacrifices. But that’s the way a goal works. If it wasn’t challenging, if it didn’t require sacrifices, then everyone would do it, and it wouldn’t be seen as a goal or an accomplishment.
So, break down your plan a little further. Do you plan on writing M-F, taking weekends off? Awesome! You’ve got 350 words to write a day. What does that look like? Do you set your alarm an hour earlier to get up and write first while your brain is fresh? Do you write while the kids are napping? Do you write on your lunch break? Do you write after dinner? Do you write just before going to bed?
My advice is to try ALL those options in your first week, and see what works best for you. When do you feel the most jazzed to write, and the most energetic to get the work done? Figure that out, and then restructure your priorities to make writing fit.
Get Your Mind Ready
This is, arguably, the most difficult part. It’s easy to read this article and get pumped up like, “HELL YEAH, IMMA DO THIS SHIT.” But what happens when it’s three weeks in, you’ve hit a block, you’re tired, and no one cares what your new year’s resolution is anymore?
This is why it’s important to get your MIND as ready as your plan.
Here’s my advice on how to do it:
- Write down your why and frame it or stick it right next to your laptop. Ask yourself why this goal is important to you and visualize that every single day when you sit down.
- Visualize how you will feel when you achieve this goal. What will you do? What will you say? How will you feel? What will your friends and family think/say/do that will make you happy? Visualize that day, over and over, at every chance you get. Make this your driving force.
- Make a plan for the bad days. They will come — I promise. Whether you’re tired or stuck or feel like you can’t do it, there will be serious lows on this journey. So, make a plan. Will you talk out writing blocks with a friend? Will you have someone hold you accountable on the tired days? Will you budget more writing days into your plan, so that if you get tired and have to take off a day, your plan won’t suffer? Maybe you shoot for 100,000 words in your rough draft, knowing it will only be 80,000, so that you have wiggle room. Whatever it is, have a plan NOW, on the good day, for when you hit those snags.
- Meditate. Find a great guided meditation for focus, achievements, and manifestation. The Calm app is my personal favorite. Even if you’ve never done a meditation before, do at least 3 before you get started writing.
- Be real with yourself. Admit that this is going to be hard, that it’s going to challenge you, that it’s not always going to be fun. But, remind yourself that you CAN do this, and that when you do, you will feel amazing.
All of us have a story burning inside of us, but only a brave few take the leap to bring that story to life. You CAN write a novel — and I hope this little guide will help get you started.
What’s your biggest fear or struggle when it comes to writing? Let me know in the comments, and check out my Wrangling the Writer series for more helpful advice on writing.
7 thoughts on this post
My biggest fear is not being “good enough” — even as I write that out, I feel a bit silly, but it’s an anxiety that leaves me feeling a little crippled at times.
I’ve been following your Wrangling the Writer series for a bit now and it always puts a pep back in my step.
This is not a silly fear — it’s real and EVERY writer experiences it. I call it “imposter syndrome,” and many artists and creators struggle with it. But, I promise — you ARE good enough. You’ve got this!
Me biggest fear is that people won’t like my work. I know they say that’s fine but my goal is to leave an impact to readers and help them hope and believe in the good things. If not a lot would read it, I’ll fail. And I am afraid of failing. Also, it makes me insecure when I see author bios saying they have this degree in this or that. I didn’t finish college.
But I am very thankful for the tips you gave Kandi. This came at the right time. I’m so glad I’m subscribed to your newsletter. This will help me write my first book. Thank you for the tips and for pointing out the things that should be changed. ?
Hi, Janey. Thank you for your thoughts on this post. First, I want to say that I can absolutely assure you that someone — and likely, MANY someones — will hate your book. Every single book I’ve written has had 1 star reviews bashing it. But you know what? They don’t matter. The ones that DO matter are the five star reviews saying how much my book touched them.
The amount of sales doesn’t always equate to success. For instance, success with my first book was just getting the damn thing done. With my second book, it was having more people read it than my first book. With my third book, it was getting my highest rank to date, and so on and so forth. Your goals will change. Don’t let money be the only determining factor of “success.” Think about it — someone out there is going to read your book, and it’s going to be their FAVORITE. Can you imagine?
I want to leave you with this, as well: it doesn’t matter that you didn’t finish college. There is nothing a university can teach you about writing that you can’t learn on your own. Study the craft, focus on your characters, get a damn good editor, and get that story written! 🙂
This all makes sense! I can’t thank you enough for telling me all these. You made me teary-eyed. This is very encouraging. I do hope that my books will touch the lives of people. I’ll make sure I get better in writing and using the language (English is my second language).
I can’t tell you how serendipitious this article is. Just when I was thinking to restart – I gave up writing around 8 months back thinking I am not good enough – is when I found such a detailed, guided article. Thank you so much, Kandi.
You are so welcome, Namrata! Best of luck with your writing endeavor in 2020!
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