5 Steps to Reaching the Writing Finish Line

“No matter how long it takes, if you keep moving,
you will reach the finish line,”-anonymous

 

Every writer, no matter what writing project they’re working on, has a goal in mind. A personal “finish line” they are trying to reach.

 

But for many writers, that finish line is so far in the distance they can’t quite see it (or even imagine reaching it).

 

Procrastination is a silent, but deadly killer. Well, deadly to your writing anyhow. Luckily, there’s a way to transform yourself from procrastinating writer to completed writer. And according to Cynthia Morris, author of the eBook “Cross the Finish Line! 5 Steps To Leaping Over The Hurdles to Completion,” it only takes 5 steps:

 

1) Identify your Motivation–start by answering the question: “What is important about becoming someone who finishes?” Understanding your motivation for wanting to write/work on your writing project is the way to align yourself with your personal finish line.

“A single affirmation or reminder of your commitment can do a lot toward achieving the finishing line,” Morris says. “Develop your own version of the Little Red Engine’s mantra: ‘I think I can, I think I can!'”

2) Commit to a Project–Oftentimes writers take on more projects than they can handle and end up not finishing any of them (I’m extremely guilty of this!). Morris suggests narrowing down where you will focus your time and energy. One way to do this is to make a list of all the writing projects you’d like to complete at some point. Go thru and number the list in order of importance to you. Then (no matter how difficult it may be) choose one or two projects to focus on, and put the rest on the back burner until you’re finished with your first couple projects. Although this may seem difficult, it’s the only way to ever become a finisher. Taking on too many projects at once will cause you to get overwhelmed.

 

3) Build Structure–deadlines, timelines and accountability will help you to stay on track toward the finish line. So the best way to become a finisher is to set a deadline for finishing your writing project (or mini-deadlines for a longer project like a novel) and stick to it.

 

“Your inner saboteur will pipe in with notions like ‘I’m not a deadline person,’ or ‘Lists don’t work for me,’ Morris says. “Take this as normal resistance that surfaces when you try something different. Sometimes creative people think they need to be free and flexible, but the truth is that structure allows creativity to flow.”

 

4) Stay on Track–figuring out your motivation, committing to a project and setting a schedule are the three most important steps to becoming a completer. Morris says that you must stay on track if you’re ever going to become a completer.

 

“Don’t flirt with your other ideas once you’ve committed to go all the way with one,” she says. “You’ll need to develop your creative stamina, hone your emotional intelligence, and stay connected to all the previous reminders about why you’re doing your project and what’s your payoff for finishing.”

 

5) Acknowledge and Celebration Completion–Morris says this step is an important part of the process, but is often overlooked. Writers start to get more motivated once they complete a project, so they usually just move on to the next one without taking some time out to celebrate their accomplishment.

 

“Before you pop the cork on the champagne bottle, take some time to acknowledge what it took to get here,” Morris says. “Take the opportunity to learn about your creative style and what it takes to bring your projects to fruition. Acknowledging and celebrating will help you build confidence to complete future projects.”

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So now that you know what it takes to become a finisher, it’s time to put the process to the test. Over the next couple days, think about what your motivation is, and try to commit to a project or two. And be sure to drop me a line and let me know how it’s all going.

Need Motivation? Hire A Coach

“You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them,
but by building a fire within,” Bob Nelson

Sports teams, upon winning a big game, often thank their coach. But why? The coach didn’t even do anything…or did they?The job of a coach is to teach, mentor and motivate. And when they do this, they spark something inside that causes you to take action. That’s why a lot of people have life coaches and personal trainers and nutrition counselors. All of these people are doing, in essence, the same job–motivating you to take action and succeed. And most importantly, they care whether or not you succeed.

A writing coach is no different. Their job is to offer you insight, advice and motivation for completing whatever project you’re working on. And they’ll stick with you until the final chapter.

I just hired a writing coach of my own. She’s going to be helping me work toward completing my very first novel. And I am so excited and eager to get started!

If this sounds like an option that would help you, I suggest doing some research and finding a writing coach that you feel you can work with. A good way to do this is to interview potential coaches to find out what they’re all about. Then make your decision. Some coaches are better with certain writing styles or certain subjects, etc.

Here’s an article on “7 Questions to Ask Before You Hire A Coach,” to get you started.

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Have you ever worked with a writing coach before? How was your experience?

The Secret to the Writing Life

Brian Clark of Copyblogger.com shared his “staring death in the face” story with us the other day. He noted that right after it happened, he all of a sudden felt alive again, like he had a new shot at life. And he didn’t want to spend that life doing something that didn’t excite him or that he wasn’t passionate about. So he got rid of the old and brought in the new. And he’s much happier now.

Read his inspiring story.

Not only did Brian’s story inspire me to take a look at my life and my dreams to see that the two aren’t matching up, but it also inspired me to take action. Yesterday, I sat down for almost 8 hours and worked on plot and character development for a novel I’ve been wanting to write forever.

It’s unfortunate, but sometimes near-death experiences are the best way to really wake up and realize that you only get one life, you should be living it the way you want to.

So what do you think? Did Brian inspire you to get started on those writing projects pronto?

Why Changing Locales Will Spark Your Creativity

Yesterday I was getting ready to work on a short story I have to turn in to my fiction professor this week as part of my final portfolio. I was sitting on my couch watching TV and trying to psych myself up to get some writing done. But as I looked around my house, I noticed a hundred things that needed to be done–clean the bathrooms, mop the kitchen floor, vacuum–and that’s when I knew I would never be able to get any writing done at home. So I decided to change locales.

I went to my local Starbucks (cliche for a writer, I know!), got myself a Caffè Vanilla Frappuccino, a bottle of water and a chocolate croissant, and found a small table nestled in the corner of the room. I sat down, pulled out my laptop and an amazing thing happened.

I was able to just start writing. There was nothing to distract me from my task of writing (other than my delicious croissant, which I polished off quickly). There were no chores to do, no TV shows to watch, no people around to bother me. It was just me and my laptop.

I ended up deciding to turn the short story I’ve been working on into a novel, and I got the first chapter written yesterday at Starbucks.

Getting writing done isn’t all that difficult. It just takes some focus and dedication. I found it very useful to get out of the house for a bit. It really forced me to concentrate only on writing.

So this week, I suggest you try this method of sparking creativity out. Find your favorite place, or a place that you can go without being distracted, and go there to write. Then drop me a comment and let me know how it went. Where did you go? What, if any, distractions did you find there? How much writing did you get done? Do you think it helped you to change locales?

Two Ideas For Motivating Yourself To Write

I’m always looking for creative ways to motivate, or “trick” myself into sitting down and writing. In the last few days, I’ve learned of and come up with some ideas that I think are worth trying. Here are two ideas to get you started:

  • Write a check to someone you hate–my creative writing professor said that when he was in desperate need of finishing one of his books, he motivated himself in an extreme, but helpful, way. He got out his check book and wrote a $1,000 check to a person that he hates more than anything. Then, he gave the check to one of his good friends and told them “If I don’t have my book finished by January 1, I want you to give this to the person and tell them to cash it.” Although pretty extreme, the idea of losing $1,000–and having it go to someone you hate–is a pretty good motivational tool to get your writing done.
  • Pretend like you’re already done with it–last night while I was sitting on the couch watching Jimmy Kimmel Live and not writing, I had a moment of inspiration. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if I just made a book cover for the book I’m trying to write and then used it to cover up one of the books I own? So I did just that. I made a mock cover for the book I’m trying to write, then I cut it apart and taped it over one of my Stephen King books, making it look like I wrote the book. Then I placed it on my coffee table so that I could look at it all the time. I figured seeing my name “in print” would make me more likely to sit down and actually write the book.

So take a few minutes this weekend and try one of these motivational tactics out. Which one motivated you the most? And how much writing did you get done because of it? Got any motivational ideas of your own? Drop me a line and let me know!

How To Stop Thinking and Start Writing

One of the main ideas discussed in this blog is how to actually sit down and start writing. It seems like every writer I know is better at it than I am. In fact, I sometimes even feel a bit jealous of my writer friends who are actually writing.

The good news is: we’re not alone! Lots of writers feel this way.

Take Jane Northcote, for instance. She recently wrote her first book, started a blog, and she also wrote an amazing guest post on Copyblogger (yes, I love this site!) called “Getting Writing Done: How to Stop Thinking About It and Start Writing.”

Here are the 7 steps she recommends all writers follow–or at least those who are finding it hard to sit down and write:

1) Remember why you’re writing, and write it down first–Jane says that if you remind yourself about what the chapter/article/paper you’re writing will do for you (get you a good grade in school, impress your boss, get you a publishing deal, etc), you will be more likely to take action and start writing.

2) Stop using energy thinking about it and just do it–This one’s self-explanatory.

3) Remember the actions are finite–Once it’s done, it’s done!

4) Ask someone to manage you–This step works especially well for me personally. I have a good friend in California who is also a writer, and her and I check in with each other once a week to make sure we’re staying on top of our writing projects. Having someone to monitor my progress makes me a lot more focused because, as you all know, writing is a solitary task, so having a friend to lean on every once in a while makes life (and writing!) so much easier.

5) Tell a large number of people you’ll do it–The idea behind this one is not wanting to disappoint people. If you tell a large number of people that you’re going to have such-and-such written by a certain date, then they will not only hold you accountable, but you will most likely hold yourself accountable, as well.

6) Find something you enjoy and treat yourself–writing is a lot easier to handle when you’re doing it somewhere that you enjoy, like your favorite Starbucks location or from your front porch swing. You get the idea…

7) Do nothing else–Also self-explanatory!

And, actually, Jane’s post inspired me to stop thinking and start writing. I’ve recently begun the planning/proposal stages of a non-fiction book about writing.

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How about you? What are you currently working on? Or if you can’t seem to get started, what’s holding you back?

Procrastinator’s Secret Weapon: A Writer’s Notebook

This is advice from the blog, Daily Writing Tips. The author says about keeping a writer’s notebook: “If you’ve ever had aspirations towards fiction-writing, you’ve doubtlessly heard the advice to keep a notebook on you at all times, to jot down those elusive flashes of brilliance that come at the most inopportune moments. It’s definitely a good idea to have pen and paper to hand as much as possible – however, the discipline of keeping a writers’ notebook means more than just scribbling a few words when inspiration strikes.”
Here’s a sum-up of the post—

Get in the habit of writing everyday by:

  • Writing first thing in the morning
  • Spending five minutes writing at some point in the morning, and five minutes in the afternoon
  • Writing just before going to bed
  • Jotting down some notes before starting on your (professional) writing session of the day

The authors say, “If you’re going to stick with writing fiction long-term, it needs to become part of your daily life.”

Here are some topics the authors write about in their notebooks:

  • To-do lists for writing sessions or writing days
  • Brainstorming for competition entries
  • Character sketches
  • Plot outlines
  • Snatches of dialogue
And, of course, if you’re interested in reading the entire thing, check it out here:

Keeping a Writer’s Notebook. 

I’ve kept a writer’s notebook for as long as I can remember. I usually have a few going at one time, actually (one for my purse, one for next to my bed, one in the living room with all my fiction stuff).

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Do you currently keep a writer’s notebook? If so, how is that going for you? If not, are you going to start keeping one now? Why or why not?

 

 

 

30 Days To A Better Writer


I came across an interesting method of productivity on Copyblogger the other day. Writer Sonia Simone called it “3 Sure-Fire Steps For Beating The Boring Content Blues,” but I’m calling it “30 Days To A Better Writer.” (This is also known as “The Seinfeld method of productivity.“)
The entire method involves 3 easy steps:
  1. Write Everyday–This means everyday! For the next 30 days (or longer if you can stand it). And you can write anything you want: a scene in your novel, an act in a play, a blog post, a journal entry.

    Get a calendar and a marker. Then mark an ‘X’ across each day that you write. The idea is to not break the chain, and if you fall off or miss a day before you reach 30 days you start over.

    You don’t need to write all day, just set aside at least 20 minutes.”Practicing every day will create breakthrough improvement–if you do it enough days in a row. It will give your work a depth it didn’t have before, a maturity and a new clarity,” Simone says.

    Turn off your inner editor and give yourself permission to write crap. Sit down and write a crappy chapter in your novel.

    “Crap is just fine,” Simone says. “Skipping a day is not.”
      
  2. Post Your Blog Every 2 or 3 Days; Polish Your Work At Least Once A Week–You probably won’t publish every post you write, but try to publish every 2 or 3 days. This will keep your content fresh and your readers coming back.

    If you don’t have anywhere to publish your work right now (all you budding fiction writers!), try to go thru and edit a few pieces at least once a week.
      
  3. Capture 2 Ideas Everyday–Everyday, write down 2 ideas for a blog post or a scene in your short story or a verse of a poem. Make sure you have easy access to this list of ideas. The ideas don’t have to be good ideas; many will likely be pretty bad. What’s important is that you’re capturing lots of good ideas mixed in with the bad ones.

    “If you get completely stuck on ideas for the day, think of two different angles on the post you just wrote,” Simone says. “Or riffs on two current events. Or load up magazines.com and capture a couple of
    Cosmo headlines.”

    A wise writer once told me: “Everyone walks past a thousand story ideas everyday. Good writers see five or six; most people don’t see any.”


    Two ideas a day keeps the writer’s block away.

So, Why Does It Work?

Simone says it works for a couple reasons: “First, you can’t write well unless you can learn to ignore the part of your brain that wants things to be perfect.” and “Second, you’re learning a habit not only of writing daily but of original thinking daily.”
 

The Most Important Thing To Take Away


“You’ll learn what every serious writer knows–there is no such thing as inspiration,” Simone says. “There is work and there is a commitment to show up, and then there is the alchemy that lets you create better writing than you thought you could write. These things are a result of daily commitment and practice.”
The best part of all of this is you’ll have some “reserve writing” for days when you just can’t think of anything to write about or need an idea starter.
And remember, you don’t have to continue this forever…just for 30 days. Unless you want to…
So what do you think? Can you commit to 30 days of writing for at least 20 minutes a day?

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If you commit to it, copy and paste this pledge into the comments section of this blog and fill in your information:
“I, __________, commit to write everyday for the next 30 days. I will keep track of my accomplishments by marking the day off on my calendar. I’ll also post my blog every two or three days/I’ll also edit my work at least once a week. And I will capture at least two ideas a day.”

How To Avoid Becoming A “One Day” Writer

By Jennifer Blanchard
Back when I was preparing for NaNoWriMo, I read “No Plot? No Problem!” by Chris Baty, founder of National Novel Writing Month, and he mentioned something in the book about not being a “one day” writer. And what he said is so profound, I felt the need to share it with you.
[As a sidenote, if you are interested in participating in this year’s NaNoWriMo, but aren’t sure what to write about, check out Baty’s book. It’s loaded with great information about how to get from day one to day 30 with a completed manuscript. It’s definitely a NaNoWriMo first-timer must-read!]
 
In Baty’s book, he says:

“Outside of writing classes, we never quite get the professional-grade push we need to tackle big, juicy, creative projects like novel writing….We’re slammed at work and busy at home…there’s barely enough time in a day all our mandatory obligations, so optional activities like novel writing, journaling, painting or playing music…are invariably left for another day…which is how most of us become ‘one day’ novelists. As in, ‘One day, I’d really like to write a novel.’ Problem is that that day never seems to come, and so we’re stuck.”

I’m sure we can all attest to what Baty is saying. It’s hard to find time for the things you want to do because there are so many things you need to do that come first. But in order to avoid being a “one day writer,” you need to find time–fifteen minutes a day, whatever–to get your writing done. (This is yet another reason why NoNoWriMo is such a great invention. It gives you a 30-day deadline in which to complete a 50,000-word novel.)

And actually, that’s the main way to going to get your novel written–by setting a deadline. I know I talk about this pretty often, but it’s a major factor in being a novelist, especially if you’d like to eventually write fiction for a living.

So to get you started on the path to no longer being a “one day writer,” here are 3 tips:

  • Set a Deadline–Since I just mentioned this, I thought I’d reiterate it. Although it’s sometimes difficult, setting self-imposed deadlines and meeting them will get you on writing faster (and better) than any other thing.

And don’t forget to reward yourself. If you hit a deadline–whatever it may have been–reward yourself. Take the day off from work and get a pedicure, go buy that new book you’ve wanted to read, get yourself something from your Amazon wishlist, anything that will make you feel rewarded and special, which will make you want to keep writing.

  • Step Away from the TV–If you’re going to get your writing done, you need to make time to write, which starts with blocking out all distractions. And a good distraction to eliminate first is the TV. Without even realizing it, TV has taken over much of our free time.For example, the other day I got an e-mail from a writer friend. She was talking about how she “really wants to write her book, but can’t find the time.” So I asked her, how much TV do you watch each night and she said, “Oh, about 4 hours.” Bingo! That’s 4 hours she could be writing.Obviously going cold-turkey on the TV time is not going to keep you away, but maybe, instead of spending 4 hours watching TV each night, cut back to 3 hours, and spend the fourth hour writing.
  • Leave Your Inner Editor at the Door–This is one of the biggest things you can do to avoid being a “one day” writer. Many times writers stop themselves from actually writing because they’re afraid it won’t be very good.This is a common fear for most writers, so don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself falling into this category. The important thing is you recognize it now and can take steps toward actually writing.One thing that I do which seems to be pretty helpful is I drew a “Turn Off Inner Editor” ‘button’ in my writing notebook. Now when I’m sitting down to write something, I first open my notebook and “push” the ‘button.’ Once I give myself permission to turn off my inner editor, I am able to write more without judgment.

So Procrastinating Writers…what say you? Are you ready to become a writer, rather than a “one day” writer?

How To Legally Protect Your Writing (The Cheap Way)

By Jennifer Blanchard

Writers everywhere have the same question–how do I protect my work? A lot of times writers worry about someone stealing their work, but don’t have the money to officially copyright it.

Good news…according to Brian A. Klems, the Writer’s Digest Newsletter Editor:

“Whenever you put something in a tangible format—written on paper, typed on computer, chiseled on stone tablets—it’s copyrighted and protected under U.S. copyright law. No tricks. No magic. It’s as simple as that.”

Klems added a post to his Questions and Quandaries blog this morning that gives more information about copyrighting your work (in an official capacity).

Also–keeping in mind what Klems just told us about copyrighting our work–since the burden of proof falls on you if someone steals your writing and tries to use it as their own, it’s a good idea to take the most recent copy of all your novels, short stories (that are in final form or have been sent out for publication), put them all in separate envelopes and have them sent certified mail to yourself.

Once you get them in the mail, don’t open them. I repeat: DO NOT OPEN THEM. Set them aside and don’t worry about them again unless you get involved in a copyright claim/lawsuit.

Since stuff you send through the mail has a “sent date” on it, you will now have the proof you need to win your copyright claim/lawsuit.

Another option is to seal each piece of writing in a separate envelope and then get each envelope notorized. Libraries usually have free notary services available.

Now get to copyrighting…I mean, writing. 🙂