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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Non-Traditional Tips for Surviving Camp NaNo: Mini-Goals

I thought I'd write about this other nifty trick to surviving Camp NaNo because I'm actually a bit pressed for time. Because of this nifty trick. 

Today's tip: 

Set small, easily achievable mini-goals. 

I don't know about you, but I used to find a 50k words in a month goal to be a daunting prospect. Especially when I'm writing by hand. See... when I write by hand, my writing speed is pretty much halved. However, the benefits to writing by hand much outweighs the disadvantages, so I've had to learn to adapt. 

One way I've adapted was to break my big goal into little goals. Usually I work something like this: Each day, I aim a bit higher than the daily average. I do it in such a way that by the time I day six, I can take day seven off. 

(And I do take at least one day a week off from writing. Even in NaNo.) 

But I don't stop there. I try to write in such a way that there's always a widening surplus of words between the goal and my writing. Because a few hundred extra words don't take all that much out of me. On the other hand I know that towards the end of the month I might get tired. So it's good to have a buffer. 

The reason is actually the same as why I set mini goals. It's actually easier to say: "Hey, today I only need to write a thousand words and tomorrow I can take the day off." Than I have to write "30k more words to win." 

Yep. It's all psychological. 

This month, I have to write 2420 words every day to stay on par. Which means I'm trying to write 3k every day so I can take one day off per week without falling behind. 

Now 3k per day might sound daunting in itself, but I've easily been able to beat it on most days. My average for the days on which I write is 3223 words per day at the moment, and I'm not done writing for the day yet. (Hence my comment from earlier.) 

How I do it: 

1) Because I'm working on seven projects, I work out how many words I have to write per book to get to my goal. This is 429 words per project. Which equates to about four handwritten A5 pages. So I aim to write five. 

Again, this is a psychological trick. "Only five pages" is easier than saying "I have to add 3000 words to my writing." 

In truth, I almost never write less than 500 words into any of my projects at any given time. And furthermore, I don't ever write in all of my projects on a single day. 

The trick is that I say: "I'm going to start writing and for now, I only need to write 500 words." My mind takes over from there and I write until the scene is done. Obviously, the more I write, the easier it becomes for me to start on the next story.

Because the amount I'll need to write in any subsequent session decreases as I write. Which makes it so much easier for me to write without really worrying about whether I could possibly reach my goal. 

2) Word sprints. You'd think that with my slow speeds I wouldn't sprint on Twitter. You'd be wrong. I do it almost as often as the sprints are happening (assuming I'm awake. Damn you time zones!). Again, it's purely psychological for me. 

Don't tell me you find the idea of writing for ten minutes daunting. Especially not when you take a five minute break afterwards. But twelve ten minute sessions add up to two hours of writing. (Math. I know.) The thing is, you're probably going to find yourself writing easier because you can keep your inner critic at bay for short stretches of time. And writing easier means writing more. 

So even if you do have say three hours available, try 10, 15, 20 and 30 minute sprints followed by short breaks to recover. 

This method also means you won't be as likely to burn out in the long term.

If you're on twitter, you can follow @NaNoWordSprints or check out #NaNoWordSprints if the account isn't active.

And that, my lovelies, is my tip for today. Trick yourself into thinking each writing session you do is a cinch, and it will be. 

Anyone else doing Camp NaNo? How are you doing? 



Terry W. Ervin II said...

Achievable goals are important, and re-framing them makes sense, especially if it helps one to succeed.

Misha Gericke said...

Thanks for stopping by, Terry. :-)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Short goals are easier. Not so overwhelming. I know how long it takes me to write 1700 words, so I aim for time rather than word count. (Although five hours probably scares some people.)

Huntress said...

Bookmarking this page :D

Crystal Collier said...

I'm all for word sprints. Does someone want to take my kids for a couple hours? ;)

Liz A. said...

Small, achievable goals. Yeah, I'm there.

Southpaw said...

Sprint is a good idea. I have several projects and I end up stuck because I don't know which one to focus on for the day. I like your idea on just working on them all (more or less) in shifts. I'll give that a try.

Anonymous said...

Writing is a lot like physiological warfare. I love word sprints, even it's just me against myself and maybe my cat. Also, the fact that you're writing by hand is super cool. I'm starting to redraft/rewrite (who's counting anymore?) a WIP, and doing it by hand may be just what I need despite the hand cramps. :)

Misha Gericke said...

Alex I could do that too. It takes me about 3 hours to hand draft 2000 words. But 3 hours sound daunting. :-P

Glad you find it helpful, Carol.

Crystal yeah ten minute sprints might work better for you. :-D

Thanks for stopping by, Liz.

I definitely find it easier to be more productive that way, Southpaw.

Madeline, the cramps are only an issue for the first few days. Your hand muscles get fit after that. These days I only really start feeling my hand aching at about 5k words in a day. :-)