• How to Make Writing Easier with Micro Goals

    Let me make the case to you for setting micro goals. Writing a book is a complicated process. Some days, 100 words are more than doable. Other days, it feels a gargantuan task. When I have days like the latter, what helps is telling myself I only have to write one sentence. It’s almost impossible not to talk myself into doing just that much. Usually, once I have that one sentence down, it’s enough to motivate me to keep going with the work.

    Take this blog post, for example. I told myself I was only going to write a topic sentence. But a minute or so has gone by now, and I am still writing the post. I can’t keep this little sprint going for much longer, but it’s given me a solid start. That’s the power of micro goals.

    When I’m working on a draft of a novel, I set a word count goal for 2,000 words per day. It’s been like this for as long as I can remember, maybe since college. But on days when writing feels impossible, like the last thing I would ever want to do, I lower my expectations.

    On days when I’m struggling, I focus on a much lower word count target, say, 500 words, or 100. Once, I even set a target for like, 50 words (a Very Bad Day). Still, it counted as writing, because I was getting words down. Even if my word count goal was lower than I wanted, I still got something done. That is the power of micro goals.

    So, the next time you’re struggling, lower the bar. Decrease the word count goal. This is not only good for morale, but also productivity. You’ll be surprised how much progress you’ll make.

    As I write this, I am dictating it. I’m in the middle of a pretty bad arthritis flare-up, I have it in my hands, so it makes writing difficult. I wanted to get this blog post done, however, so I set a goal to just write the next sentence. Here we are now, at the conclusion of this post. It’s going to be a short one, but I hope it helps someone as much as it’s helped me to figure this out.

    How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

  • How to Survive a Transition Period

    We’ve all been through periods in life where everything is up in the air, for the most part. You might be between jobs right now, or maybe you’re looking for a new apartment or a new relationship. Whatever the case, you might be feeling lost, helpless, and confused. But I want you to know this: you are not alone.

    I’m not where I thought I’d be three months ago. Sometimes that terrifies me. Other times, it’s exciting. My mood shifts every day. As a perfectionist and a self-professed control freak, this is difficult for me. Nothing is going the way I planned, and sometimes, I feel stuck, unmotivated, and anxious about my current situation.

    In moments of helplessness, you might feel as though you’ll never get “unstuck,” or that you’ll be where you are for the rest of your life. Of course, that’s not the case. No matter how confused, anxious, or lost you may be feeling right now, you are not alone, and this transition period will end. Nothing lasts forever, after all.

    But while you’re in the midst of a difficult phase, there are some things you can do to make your life a little easier. Here are a few strategies I’ve discovered for how to survive a transition period in life.

    1. LIST YOUR STRESSES

    The next time you feel anxious or upset about the course your life has taken, sit down and make a list (bonus points for writing it out on paper) of all your current stressors. An example from my own life might say, “Not enough writing time, don’t have my own apartment, live far from friends” and things of that nature. No matter how silly or small what’s stressing you out seems, I want you to write it down. Once you’ve got your list, it’s time to move on to…

    2. CIRCLE EVERYTHING YOU CAN CHANGE

    Chances are, there are several things on your list that are outside your control, such as the deteriorating health of a loved one, suffering from a chronic illness, or anything like that. For this exercise, I want you to try to ignore those points. We’re only going to focus on what’s within our power to change. Let’s look at my examples: writing time, apartment, and distance from friends. These are all within my power to change, regardless of how hard it might be to do so. After you’ve figured out what you can change, feel free to…

    3. LIST POTENTIAL NEXT STEPS

    When you’ve figured out what you can change, you should decide how exactly you want it to change. For me, with writing time, I want to write more. If I make that goal more specific, it means I want to edit or draft at least 1,000 words each day, regardless of the project I have going at the moment. Some next steps toward that goal would be analyzing my time, determining what can be cut, tracking my writing progress, telling friends and loved ones, and perhaps outsourcing some tasks. When you know what all you need to do, go ahead and…

    4. DETERMINE ORDER AND PRIORITY

    Now that you have your next steps, what needs to be done first? Let’s go again with my writing example. I need to track my time and determine what can be cut from my life to make time for writing. I need to outsource some tasks to make more time for writing, and tell friends and loved ones that I’m taking time for myself each day, so they’ll know not to disturb me. I also need to track my progress once I’m writing regularly, to make sure my system is as efficient as possible. So, my order and priority list might look something like this:

    1. Track time spent every hour of every day.
    2. Analyze time, determine what can be cut or outsourced.
    3. Cut any distractions or necessary tasks, outsource others.
    4. Determine writing schedule and block off time.
    5. Tell loved ones of my time block.
    6. Write!
    7. Keep track of writing progress and analyze to determine maximum efficiency.

    Not too shabby, right? As soon as you’ve listed everything out, you can always break it down into smaller steps too, if need be. But when you’ve written out your list, it’s time to…

    5. ATTACK THE LIST

    From here, all you have to do is tackle each item on the list, one at a time, until you accomplish your goal. That’s not so bad now, is it? If you want extra productivity and goal-setting points, you can also add self-imposed deadlines. So for me, let’s say I want to track all my time every day this week, and start my analysis on Saturday. Self-imposed deadlines are a great way to help you stay motivated and on track.

    Pro tip: Tackle one goal at a time! Although it might be thrilling to try to change everything at once, you’re much more likely to see success through building habits one by one. Wait until you reach one goal before rushing on to the next one. 🙂

    I also recommend writing your goals out, including the order and priority of your next steps, and keeping them somewhere you can see them every day. That way, you can be constantly reminded where you might be heading, instead of where you are.

    What are your tips for staying focused on your goals?

  • My Upcoming Writing Projects

    Photo Credit: H is for Home on Flickr
    I think almost everyone knows by now that I’m waist-deep in the first draft of my YA urban fantasy novel Reflections. I’m over halfway through it now, which means I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. With that being said, once I finish this draft, I have no plans of slowing down. You all know me better than that.

    No, once I finish Reflections, I have some other writing business I’d like to attend to. There are several projects rolling around in my head right now, and I’d like to get them finished sometime in the next year.

    Someone on Twitter the other day asked me what my upcoming writing projects were. I realized I hadn’t shared them. I’m fixing that now.

    Here’s a (very) tentative timeline of everything I’m hoping to get done in the next twelve months and ahead into next summer:

    1. Reflections—first draft done by June, second done by August, out in August or September. It’s been a long time coming. I just hope it’s worth the wait.
    2. The Palest of Pinks—first draft done by September, second done by November, out in December. A lot of you know about this book already, but I think it will be fun. Definitely lighter fare than Blood and Water and Touch.
    3. Blood and Water #2—first draft done by February or March, second by May, out in June. I have only the vaguest idea about this book, but I am excited.
    4. Blood and Water #3—first draft done by August or September, second by November, out in December. I still can’t believe I’m doing a series and I am so scared but also thrilled to be writing it.

    Now that I look at all of that, it’s quite an ambitious timeline. Then again, I’m quite an ambitious woman, too, so maybe that works out. Of course, this is my ideal writing timeline, not accounting for real-world things such as work and travel and things of that nature. Still, it gives me something to shoot for, which helps me stay motivated.

    What are your writing goals for the next year? How do you feel about these upcoming projects?

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    .@brianawrites wants YOU to hold her accountable! Check out her writing goals for the next year. (Click to tweet)

  • Writing Resolutions for 2016

    Like I mentioned in my previous post, 2015 was a big year for me. Here’s hoping 2016 will be even bigger. This year, I want to do everything I can to improve my writing. I’m always looking to improve, and I won’t give up on my dreams. I want to make some serious progress in the next twelve months. With that in mind, I’m sharing my list of writing resolutions for 2016.
    Writing Resolutions for 2016

    It should come as no surprise that I’m a fan of setting goals. Last year, I set goals for my birthday and for the end of autumn. I keep a running goals list in my planner to remind me of what I’m working towards. Having these goals written somewhere that I’ll see them every day keeps me focused and motivated. The goals apply to all aspects of my life, including health, finance, work, education, social intelligence, and even writing.

    As we move into the new year, I’m more focused than ever on my writing career. With that in mind, here are my writing resolutions for 2016:

    • Publish Reflections. I’m working on the first draft now and making solid progress. I haven’t felt this strongly about a novel in a while–I could’t stop thinking about this story while editing Blood and Water. That’s got to count for something.
    • Publish The Palest of Pinks. I wouldn’t normally challenge myself to put out two novels in a year, but I have almost 30K of this one written already, so it shouldn’t be impossible.
    • Update the blog one or twice per week. Three times per week is too much. If I go with once or twice a week (leaning more towards once), that takes off some pressure, and the quality of the posts will improve.
    • Post one vlog per week. For now, this frequency works. If I get much busier, I may have to scale back to one every two weeks.
    • Send out newsletter every two weeks. Or maybe once a month. I haven’t decided. Let me know what you think, please!
    • Get more editing clients. Now that I’m writing and editing full-time, I need to do whatever I can to make sure I can pay the bills. If you know someone who needs an editor, feel free to give my name out!
    • Swap more work with betas. I owe so much to my Blood and Water betas. For Reflections, I’ll definitely need some betas, and maybe even alphas once I’ve finished the first draft.
    • Take something out of the drawer. There are so many novels I tried to write in high school and college. Maybe, just maybe, one of them has potential. At any rate, they might be fun to take out and read–if nothing else, just to see how far I’ve come since then.
    • Get featured on a podcast. I don’t know why I want to do this, but I definitely want to do this.
    • Do more interviews. This resolution is more marketing-related and goes along with the above. Still, since I used to be so shy, I want to work on opening up to people and sharing what’s important to me.

    These are just a few of my writing resolutions for 2016. I’m sure I’ll come up with more as the year goes by, and I’ll try to keep you all updated on my progress as well. Let me know what resolutions you have for the coming year so we can hold each other accountable!

    What are your writing resolutions for 2016?

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    What are your writing resolutions for 2016? Check out @brianawrites’ goals for the next year. (Click to tweet)