by Lorraine Reguly (@lorrainereguly)
Well, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has come and gone for another year. That means there are likely to be thousands of authors with new drafts or manuscripts. But maybe you didn’t participate, or maybe you tried to complete the challenge but just couldn’t get it done. Well, don’t despair, help is here. Today teacher and author Lorraine Reguly shows you how you can incorporate a personal writing plan into your work to make sure you meet your writing goals.
Writing. Authors love it. Writers do it. Dreamers want it done. Being published doesn’t just happen. It takes planning. Do you have a writing plan? A monthly plan? A five-year plan?
Do you even have a plan? If you do, do you follow it?
As a certified English teacher who participated in NaNoWriWee (National Novella Writing Week) during a weekend in late January 2013, I attempted and failed to write a novella. Since NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) recently ended, many of you may be feeling a bit negative, especially if you had goals that you attempted to but were unable to meet (for whatever reason) in November.
I am actually quite thrilled with the fact that I failed.
Instead of doing nothing and being in the same spot I was three days earlier, I ended up with a notebook of characters, a plot, and a mystery that I’d love to read! I even wrote a few chapters, but didn’t like what I wrote. I didn’t have a plan, and because I didn’t have a plan in place, I didn’t do what I set out to do. However, I did write the blurb for the back cover, which is often the hardest part for writers to do (or so I hear) and each time I read it, all of my thoughts come rushing back. In my head, the book is planned. All I have to do now is find the time to write it!
When NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) rolled around this past November, I knew in my heart that I would simply not have the time to dedicate myself to writing this novel (or even a novella), since I had many other things on my plate. (None of them included turkey, either, since I am Canadian and celebrated Thanksgiving in October.)
Also, opportunities arose and many things seemed to happen at once. I began the month offering editing tips to bloggers and then wrote another guest post for the launch of 20 Blog Post Must-Haves. I worked on a few chapters of my memoirs (another of my writing projects), outed my rapist while accepting an award, reviewed a few books for authors I interviewed and featured on my blog, hosted a couple of book giveaways, created additional blog posts, and spent time connecting with others on social media.
Because I didn’t enter the NaNoWriMo event, I also didn’t have to deal with failing again. But I did develop an attainable plan I could follow on a weekly basis, using my personal experiences to do so. My hope is to help you learn from me and to give you some ideas so you can create your own personalized writing plan.
I had formed good writing habits as a result of my participation in a 30-Day Writing Challenge this year, making a commitment to write for 10 minutes per day, every day, for the month of April. I found that my optimal writing time had changed. No longer was it in the evenings, as it had previously been. The best time for me to write (type) is now as soon as I turn on my laptop!
Imagine my surprise! I tend to get carried away with cleaning out my email inbox and reading blog posts from the blogs I follow and lose track of time while doing these things (sound familiar?) and so, by recognizing this, I have developed a plan that I can follow each day I choose to go online.
Since I perform this simple action five or six (and sometimes seven!) days a week, I now get a lot of writing done and am more productive. I also created a weekly plan for managing my time.
Do you have a weekly writing plan yet? Do you follow it? A plan is not good to have if you don’t actually use it, you know. (Duh!)
Dos and Don’ts to Consider When Devising your Writing Plan
DO write at your optimal time and use batching strategies and techniques. 20 Tips for Batching to Save Time and Cut Stress is a great article that explains what “batching” is and that will help you get started on your own writing plan.
DO strike a work-life balance that works for YOU.
Don’t think you are going to be able to play “catch up” because you never will, regardless of how many times you tell yourself that you will just “write for one extra hour tomorrow” (or whatever deal you make with yourself). By accepting this reality, you will learn to make each moment count and avoid feelings of guilt when you don’t meet your personal goals. Instead, create deadlines that work for you, and stick to them!
DO use a calendar to help you. Make note of holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and other annual events. Prioritize and plan your writing tasks around them. You know you aren’t going to be writing on those occasions!
Don’t use your sleep time for tasks other than sleeping! Sleep deprivation is detrimental to your health. This is a proven fact.
DO be accountable to someone other than yourself to ensure success. Another proven fact is that you will be more productive if you write your goals down, in ink, on paper, and then tell someone about them. This is done best if you find an accountability partner with whom you can share your successes – and failures!
DO allow for flexibility. As writers, we often set lofty goals for ourselves and, in our minds, we somehow think we will be able to attain them. But life overtakes us, situations we were not prepared for arise, and we get sidetracked. New seasons of our favourite TV shows start, we learn of events we want to attend, family emergencies require our attention, something in our homes breaks and we have to fix it, and everything seems to happen all at once, overwhelming us and diverting from our writing projects. Before we know it, a lot of time has passed and we seem to be moving further away from our goals instead of closer to them! If you devise a personal plan that works for YOU, you’ll be able to meet your goals, even if it takes you a bit longer to do so.
Don’t forget to give yourself some down time! Give yourself a day or two off each week. You need time to recharge and regroup. You’re not a super-robot; you’re human with limitations!
DO reward yourself often. Celebrate your victories, regardless of their size! This will help motivate you to continue reaching your goals.
Don’t beat yourself up if you fail every now and then. Forgive yourself and move on. Since you allowed for flexibility, this should be easy!
DO use some type of planner, whether it’s a digital one or not. There are ton of free digital and printable ones on the web! Search using the terms yearly planner or yearly planner for teachers (even if you’re not one!) to find one you like. If you want to use a weekly planner, this one looks great and has a lot of features.
If you get started now, you’ll be prepared for 2014. Make it a resolution to get more serious and productive with your writing projects. I am.
What methods do you use to keep your writing on track to reach your goals? Let me know in the comments.
Lorraine Reguly is writer, teacher, editor, poet and blogger who loves connecting with others as much as she loves writing. Join her each week on her blog, Wording Well, for her True Tales Tuesdays and Featured Fridays posts.