The holidays are over, and real life is setting back in.
To be completely honest with you, I haven’t worked on my novel since…oh, December 15th, I think. And I definitely haven’t written more than a few hundred words since I won NaNo (for the second year running WOOT).
December is my cool-down month. I like to read, and focus on family, church, and the holidays. For some reason this year I was completely flustered the entire month and didn’t feel focused on anything at all, which has left me feeling a little lost now that all the parties are over.
So like everyone else, I’m attempting (and failing, mostly, but still attempting) to get myself back in the groove of consistent work. For me, that means a few things:
1. Get the Little Things Done First
I have a ton of quick emails I’ve been ignoring, a tiny editing project I told a cousin I’d help with, fanfiction that’s been sitting in my head for weeks, and of course my house is a disaster area. I can’t focus on my story with all that stuff hanging around in my brain, so every day I scratch a couple of those things off my to-do list, and get a little bit closer to having my attention span back.
2. Set a Goal
Once I’ve got my brain free from its unfocused bonds, I’ll need something to reach for. Jenilyn Collins just gave us this fantastic post on setting goals for your writing. You’ve got to know how you work, and know your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t set a goal you know you can’t achieve. And if you don’t yet know how you work, start small. In November I could bust out 3,000 words in a two hour sitting. January? I’m not feeling that. I’ll probably start out hoping for 500-1,000 words a day.
Now, if you’re under contract and you have a deadline, these goals aren’t really goals, they’re more like handcuffs. If you have made a commitment to get something done, you need to make the time to do it. Set high goals, and ask for help from your family and friends to encourage and support you in making it happen. You can do it.
The other method, aside from tracking words, is tracking time. If all you have is two hours every other day, you make those two hours count. You think about it beforehand, you tell everyone to leave you alone, you turn off social media and you buckle down for those two hours. Then whatever you get done, you can be proud of.
3. Reevaluate Often
If you’re not under contract, you have things a little easier. Say you set a goal for 5,000 words a week. You think, 1,000 words a day, five days out of seven just in case you slip up, but you can do it. Then life happens, and suddenly you’re two weeks in with only 3,000 words to show for it.
That’s okay. Take a step back and congratulate yourself for writing 3,000 words. If 1,500 words a week or 6,000 words a month is what you can manage, then set that goal. Track it. And if you find yourself writing more, bump up your goal.
4. Don’t Burn Out
Getting back in the groove of consistent writing also means knowing your limits, like I mentioned above. I know I can’t focus if I have a ton of things to do running through my head, so I have to take care of them outside writing time. If I don’t, I don’t write. I also know that I need creative refueling occasionally, so I let myself enjoy a TV show or two each week with my husband, and I’m always listening to an audio book, or I’ll sometimes take a day to read a whole book in one sitting. Rather than that time being wasted, it helps me recharge, and I feel much more ready to tackle my work the next day. You know you. Don’t push yourself too hard.
5. Have Fun
About creating, Brandon Sanderson always says, “Err on the side of what’s awesome.” You need to love your work, or there’s no point making it. Granted, a lot of people reach a point in each project where they hate it and are afraid it’ll never come together. Fight through that. Push forward. Read back on the chapters and scenes you wrote and loved. Remember why you wanted to write it in the first place. Remember your what’s awesome. And then keep working.
What helps you get back in the swing of things after the holidays? Any tips for me? I could probably use them. May this year bring you all the blessings you dream of! Good luck!
Darci Cole is an author of YA and MG scifi/fantasy, usually with a romantic twist. She spends her spare time making magic wands, reading good books, eating good food, and raising two sons alongside her incredible husband.