Sunday, November 28, 2010

The 90-day challenge: 90,000 words in 90 days!

Many book editors, reviewers and authors agree that there is no formula for the average length of a book. However, many in the industry suggest that, on average, non-fiction books -- memoir, autobiographies, how-to, etc. -- can range between 30,000 and 200,000 words. Whew! That’s a lot of words. Sometimes the thought of writing that many words seems overwhelming. You wonder if you’re really up to the task. Do you even know that many words? Can you pull them together in an intelligible way that actually tells a story that people will find interesting? Of course you can. There are millions of books out there by people just like you who have done it. So, how did they do it? Well, as the age-old question asks, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” 
The key is to break it down. After all, you’re not trying to write a great book in a day, a week or even a month. Writing is a process and it should be approached in that way. It should be an enjoyable experience, not a terrifying, gut-wrenching, teeth-clenching headache. If you go with the middle of the road with regard to the length of your book, about 90,000 words is reasonable. Now, swallow and take a deep breath. You can do this. You really can.
Think about it, if you were to write 1,000 words a day you could finish your book in 90 days. See how easy that was! Okay, it might be easy to say that, but doing it is definitely more challenging. However, it doesn’t have to drive you nuts. How long do you think it would take you to write 1,000 words? Not as long as you think ... if you write with reckless abandon. Seriously, write what comes to your mind. Don’t get distracted by trying to be so literary. I’ve got news for you, you’re not Shakespeare, so please don’t try to write like him. Instead, just write. Use your own voice. You’ll crank out those 1,000 words in no time. If you do it once, you can do it again, and again, and again. And before you know it, you’ll have your first draft of a 90,000-word book in 90 days. 
Ninety days seems like a long commitment in today’s super-fast society. Experts say it takes 21 days to develop a habit. Some say doing something for 30 days helps you stay committed. The 90-day writing challenge, however, is for writers who have an ache, something stronger than desire, more on the cusp of a need; the need to get the book out. Like a woman in labor who says, “I just want the thing out of me.” And truly, she says it with the best of intentions. But as with a 9-month pregnancy, a 90-day writing challenge can be grueling. What if you skip a day? Well, just pick up the next day. Don’t get stuck on what didn’t happen yesterday, just go at it today as if you never missed a beat. If you feel compelled to write 2,000 words, do that. But if all you can do is your 1,000 words, you’re doing great. 
The point is, write ... everyday. You can do it. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself in 90 days.
By the way, this entire blog post is 580 words. I’m halfway to my 1,000 words today. You see how easy it can be!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Make Writing a Habit

What do you do everyday? Besides the usual eating, sleeping, working and other typical activities? What I mean is, what do you do everyday ... that you don’t have to do? I ask the question because for many aspiring writers, the thought of making time each day to write seems like a major stretch. But it won’t be if you make writing a habit. Yes, a habit, much like you habitually do so many other things in your daily life. You see, when you are truly ready to write your book, you ache to get it out. Your mind is constantly thinking about it. Until you commit to it and make it a priority, it will nudge at you like a scratch that you can’t seem to itch. 

Most people would say that there’s not much at all that they do everyday outside of the necessities of life. However, if you were to examine your life honestly, you could easily find activities (dare I say, habits) that you perform religiously that you could eliminate, or at least decrease, so you can write.
How much time do you spend watching television? I know, I know, that’s how you relax. Well, consider how much more relaxed you would be if you weren’t constantly thinking, “I should be writing,” and you actually turned off the TV and got busy! Okay, how much time do you spend checking personal email or reviewing the posts of your “friends” on Facebook? Ouch! I know, that one hurt, but it’s true. Email and Facebook can be two of the biggest time wasters and procrastinating activities for people who really should be doing something else. I’m certainly not suggesting that you don’t do these things. My point is that if these activities have become a habit for you, it’s worth it to examine how much attention you’re giving them. 
None of your quasi-habits would be so bad, I suppose, if you didn’t have the desire to write. But you do, and the time you spend doing these other habitual things would be much better spent getting your book done.
So, I challenge you to make writing a habit. Make it a priority. Find one activity in your day that you could decrease or eliminate so that you can make time to write. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself for it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

You Have to Have the Want-To

A few days ago, I attended a full-day seminar called “Get Motivated.” Celebrities from all sectors graced the stage and shared their insights on being your best. Some spoke on leadership. Others shared tips on living a joyful life. Yet others talked about the importance of helping others. The common theme throughout the day was that being your best takes commitment, and achieving your highest level of success is an inside job. 
The same is true for you as you write your life. Writing a book or journaling consistently takes commitment. You’ve got to have the “want-to” in order to get it done. After all, if you don’t really want to do something, you’ll think of all kinds of excuses to stop you. The smallest distraction or slightest interruption is all it will take to disrupt your focus and allow procrastination to creep in. Before you know it, you’ll be off track from achieving your goals. Don’t you know that it’s more difficult to get back on track than it is to stay on track!
If you've committed to journaling everyday or even to finishing your book, make the commitment to get it done. Examine your motives and make sure you have the want-to. 
Here are just a few nuggets I gleaned from the “Get Motivated” seminar. I hope they help you stay on track:

“There is no failure as final as a failure to try.”
~ General Stanley McChrystal
How to Succeed Through Change and Transition (Rick Belluzzo, CEO of Quantum Corp.)
  • See yourself as an entity. Become more relevant by building your personal value.
  • Strive to make a difference. Turn your experience into expertise.
  • Be willing to take risks and tough assignments.
  • Be self-aware and open to feedback.
  • Realize that perseverance can pay off.
  • Always maintain integrity. Be hard-headed and soft-hearted.

“You have to put something in to get something out.”
~ Zig Ziglar, author, motivational speaker
Succeeding Through Unexpected Challenges (Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York City)
  • Be committed to relentless preparation.
  • Be able to adjust your existing plans to the situation at hand.