SHONNA SLAYTON is the author of the YA novel Cinderella's Dress, out June 3, 2014 with Entangled Teen. She finds inspiration in reading vintage diaries written by teens, who despite using different slang, sound a lot like teenagers today. While writing Cinderella’s Dress she reflected on her days as a high-school senior in British Columbia when she convinced her supervisors at a sportswear store to let her design a few windows—it was glorious fun while it lasted. When not writing, Shonna enjoys amaretto lattes and spending time with her husband and children in Arizona. She blogs here: ShonnaSlayton.com and so far, always answers her email.
One of the hardest things for writers is finding the time to write. I know that sounds strange. Writers write, don’t they? Well, writers are also dreamers and sometimes they spend more time thinking about writing, or learning about writing, or (ahem) reading, that by the end of the week they realize, “Oops. I didn’t get any words on the page.”
To make sure you actually write, it’s a good idea to put some routines in place to set yourself up for success.
Some people like to write every day so the “wheels stay greased.” If you fall into this category, you can try things like:
* Nifty 350. This is novelist and writing teacher James Scott Bell’s trick. Before doing anything else, he writes 350 words…or up to his Furious 500 words, just to get things flowing.
* Daily word count goal. Some people decide they won’t go to bed unless they’ve written a certain amount of words that day. Or before they get their words in they won’t let themselves check email, or play video games, or, eat chocolate (say it isn’t so!) etc.
* Content Goal. Instead of a word goal, how about a content goal: finish one chapter; write one scene; write all the dialogue for a chapter; write all the setting bits for the chapter…
If you have a weekly goal for yourself, you can be a little more flexible in your schedule. If you meant to write 500 words a day and you ended up going out to a movie with friends instead of writing one day, you can pick up the slack guilt-free during the rest of the week. Or, if you set a goal to finish through Chapter 5 by Friday, you can vary how much you write each day, as long as you keep an eye on completing your chapters by Friday.
Writing challenges help with the motivation to write.
* NaNoWriMo. Events like National Novel Writing Month are great to pump out a lot of words in a short amount of time. (NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November. There is a teen track here: Young Writer’s Program as well as Camp NaNoWriMo in select other months.)
Think about the brilliance of NaNoWriMo! If you complete this one challenge, you could write a book a year. This is actually how I wrote my debut novel, Cinderella’s Dress. I completely organized my life in November around writing as much as possible and pushing out the first draft. Then the rest of the year you can revise and edit at a less crazy pace. I love NaNoWriMo so much I gathered a bunch of fun videos and comic links on my blog here: NaNoWriMo for Students.
* Twitter word sprints. There are several groups that get together to do word sprints—writing as fast as you can for a designated time period, like thirty minutes. I think this started as a NaNo thing, but continues on throughout the year. Use #wordsprint and someone might race you.
If you set your sights on entering a contest, you will be more motivated to polish up those chapters. Google writing contest for teens and you’ll find a bunch.
Both online and IRL, writing pals will help hold you accountable. Together you can decide how often you want to meet. You can exchange your work for critique, or if you are shy and just getting started, it can be an accountability group. Ask each other: Hey, did you write this week?
Tomorrow is a New Day
And like Anne of Green Gables would say, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no missed words in it yet?”…or something like that (!) Don’t beat yourself up if you missed your writing goals. Start over right now and keep writing.
And don't forget the coming word war, which is a great way to get some writing done!