New Year Is Coming…

And many writers, me included, are starting to set up challenges to help us reach goals with our writing. But the question is how to make the goals large enough to be challenging and yet not set up for failure.

So let me tell you how I do it, since I have started and backed off a challenge twice now that I will be starting for the third time on January 1st. I do not consider the two first false starts as failure. Not in the slightest, actually. They were learning.

So that is point one… Never think about failure. Just think positive about the challenge you are setting up for yourself.

If you are still dealing with a bunch of publishing myths, this will be a hard thing to do. And if you still think your rewrite brain and critical voice knows more than you do, this will be impossible. Myths need to be cleared or at least pushed aside. Failure is not an option, as someone said somewhere. (grin)

Point two… Make it a challenge just beyond where you are at in your writing.

For me, I have done challenges where I wrote a novel in five days while traveling. That took a bunch of thinking, planning, and clearing out some myths I had put on myself.

On another challenge, I wrote four novels in one month and hit that as well. Again, a lot of planning.

I have also written 30 stories in 30 days a number of times now, actually enough that I hope to have a series of books called “Stories from (month name).”

The idea that has been eating at me for a time is the 10 novels in 100 days. Of course, I came up with a name for it and will do a book about the writing of that, including the false starts. But that is just beyond what I have already done. Enough beyond as to be a real push.

Why that challenge interests me is the consistency of the writing for 100 days. I can be consistent for a month, but can I be consistent for over three months? I honestly don’t know, so thus a challenge.

So figure out where you have stretched, then set up a challenge just beyond that previous stretch.

Point three… Keep the challenge time limited in some way.  A challenge that stretches over an entire year will be impossible to maintain. That is a goal that a challenge is helping you reach.

So say you want to do 400,000 words of fiction in a year. A two month challenge will help you reach that goal. Then figure out something else for a few more months, and so on. Don’t think about the overall goal. An elephant too big to eat.

Point four… Break down into small bits what you need to do to make the challenge.

This seems like logical advice, but it where most writers fail. They eat the elephant, which means they look at the entire project instead of breaking it down.

So as an example again, let’s look at the challenge I am going to do of 10 novels in 100 days. Sounds impossible on the elephant scale of things. Even to me.

But when broken down, it means writing a 50,000 word novel in ten days. I have done that a bunch, written nonfiction books about it, actually a number of times. In fact I often did 70-90 thousand word books in ten days for traditional publishers. I did Abductors by Jonathan Frakes in 6 days around the cover and it was 90,000 words. So I can do the 50,000 words in ten days easy.

So I need to average about 5,000 words per day. For me that means about 4 hours of writing. Add in a couple hours of exercise and a couple hours of business and email and I am fine at 8 hours.

When looked at in bite-sized pieces, nothing really hard for my life and where I am at in my writing. (Back to point two, make the challenge just beyond your previous level of success.)

Point five… Prepare your world for the challenge.

That is where I missed on the first two attempted starts at my coming challenge. I wanted to get back to writing after the long year of moving and other stuff, but I wasn’t ready yet, not mentally, but in the world around the writing. I wasn’t even moved into the new place yet completely, let alone this office.

So get those around you clear on what you are doing, listen to their concerns, then decide if real or not. Then clear it all out and be positive.

Point six… Have fun and be ready for setbacks. If the challenge causes the writing to not be fun, or adds too much unneeded stress, kill the challenge at once. Writing needs to be a fun, safe place to go play. Now some stress is normal in the creative process, but if the stress is coming too much from the challenge, then you have a problem.

As far as setbacks, they will happen. They key is how you roll with them. For my challenge, there is no chance on any planet that I will be able to write 5,000 words every day for 100 straight days. I have too many other things happening. So I will miss. I am planning for that. So on good days, I am planning on more like 6,000 or 7,000 words.

In other words, the setbacks are planned into the challenge.

So as you start thinking about a challenge for the start of the coming year, those are a few points on how to look at setting up a challenge.

Challenges really do help your writing if you follow those six points.

And again, remember, telling stories is fun. It’s entertainment, both for you and for those who read it.

So keep it fun.