“Love your post in 40 days… WOW really???? 2 hours a day? or a week? I must be crazy to even consider it!!! And I gather this is completely fiction? Right?? Where do I even come up with a story line??? You’ve got me half ways over a barrel!!”
That response to my 40 Day Writing Challenge, issued yesterday, was when I realized just how intimidating the thought of committing to writing a book in 40 Days is to someone who has never written their first book. We’re all trained to believe that writing a book should not only be very hard to do but that it should take a really long time to do, so getting one produced in 40 days seems incredible. But don’t let the thought intimidate you.
However, I want to reassure you that you can do this. I’m providing some of my very best tips to help make the challenge approachable and do-able for you.
Setting a Word Count Goal
Your goal at the end of 40 days is to have 50,000 words written. That means that starting November 1st, your target word count goal per day is 1,667 words. If you’re a really slow writer or you’re writing by hand at 20 words per minute that will take you 84 minutes – or a little less than an hour and a half to finish.
But that is assuming that you know exactly what you’re going to write the minute you sit down to write, and it’s rare for that to be the case. So I give you an additional 36 minutes scheduled so you can wrestle with momentary writer’s block and still come out where you need to be.
Breaking Your Writing Into Bite-Sized Bits
If you’re thinking to yourself, “I don’t have an hour of free time for myself, let alone 2 hours a day!” You’re not alone. You probably don’t have the luxury of 2 solid hours to yourself. However, you probably can find six 20 minute sections of time to write, or twelve 10 minute segments of time. You get breaks at work, and as long as you come prepared to take advantage of those, you can get a lot done in those short segments of time.
Organization Is the Key
I wrote an article last week about creating a portable writing kit that you can keep with you so that whenever you have that 10 minute or 20-minute window of time, you can pull it out and get to writing. Yes, it will require a little additional time because you’ll have to type that all out into the computer at some point, but it will keep you making progress forward. It’s an inexpensive, simple solution to the problem of finding time to write.
It can be really hard to switch from work mode to creative mode unless you have something with you that allows you to get back into your writing quickly and easily. This is where creating a story outline and bringing it with you really helps. You can whip out that outline and remind yourself of where you were in your writing so you don’t have to waste time trying to remember where you left off when you were last writing.
If you created the binder with the characters and the reference material, you don’t have to wait until you get home to figure it out if you come across a problem or a question and need to look something up. It’s all right there at your fingertips. The more organized you can be, the less time you have to waste looking for or thinking about things.
If You Miss a Day, Don’t Panic!
Okay, nearly everyone I know who participates in a challenge like this experiences it. We miss a day of writing. Then another, then we drop out because we figure the project is hopeless and we’ll never be able to catch up. Don’t do that to yourself. Instead, readjust your calculations for your per-day word count to fit the extra words in so you can still finish on time.
Yes, it’ll be a little bit harder. Yes, you’ll have to write an extra minute or two to get those words in, but you can do it. And, remember, you can use days off – and November usually has plenty of those – to your advantage by spending some extra time writing.
Commit To It Publicly
It’s a lot easier to get this done if you commit to it publicly in front of your friends and family. The thought of embarrassing yourself in front of them and risking being teased for failing may be all that you need to keep going when you’re tempted to give up and give in on your story. Post your progress daily so they can see that you’re living up to that commitment and can cheer you on. That doesn’t mean that you have to post your writing if you aren’t comfortable doing so, but it does mean you post how many words you got done.
Gather a Support Network
If you’ve already joined 40 Day Writers, great. We’ll be happy to support you in this journey. Ask your questions, share and get feedback, let us know you are participating and we’ll be there to cheer you on. You’re going to get discouraged, you’ll reach points where you feel tempted to give up. Reach out to your support network and let them help you remember why this is all worth it.
Now that I’ve given you that pep talk and shown you how to get past some of your biggest hurdles, it’s time for day 2’s work. Today, you’re going to sketch out some of your characters and put together the dreaded single page synopsis. Don’t worry, this process will make it easier than you thought possible. Follow the link and you’ll find all the information you need.
Check in with 40 Day Writers and let us know how your writing is coming along. Don’t be shy. We really are interested in helping you.