Like so many things, the writing life is easier if you celebrate the small victories along the way. Example: If I hit 1,000 words in my work in progress – Yay! Although, if you’re like me, it’s more like: I hit 1,000 words – gosh, only 79,000 more to go.
It’s that feeling of stepping on the scales at Weight Watchers after being really, really strict on your diet all week. You expect (fantasize) that that you’ve lost at least five pounds, only to see that you’ve lost one pound, maybe. And that’s after skipping lunch in anticipation of the weigh-in. You think: Big whoop. I passed up eating that cookie I really, really wanted for this?
You’ve probably guessed by now that I need to up my game when it comes to mental toughness and discipline. I admit it. But, I have found a great trick, if you will, to help me out in this department. And I’m going to share it with you. (This probably won’t help those of you who never skip going to the gym or always hit your 3,000-a-day word count. But if you tend toward being a whiny slacker like me, who knows?)
By the way, this is a writing tip. When it comes to weight loss, I got nothing.
Ready for it?
Not all words count equally.
We can give ourselves extra credit for some words. For instance, when you finally work out the first paragraph in the novel, and you know you’ve nailed it. Bam! That’s worth a whole day’s word count. Seriously. You can take the rest of the day off!
Why? Because that’s the most important passage in the whole book. When someone’s browsing through the bookstore, trying to decide which book to buy (assuming it’s by an author they’re not already familiar with), they first notice the title and cover art. Then they flip the book over and scan the teaser on the back cover. Then, if they’re intrigued thus far, they open up to the first page and read the first paragraph. That first paragraph, or two if you’re lucky, determines whether they buy the book or stick it back on the shelf. So, go ahead and give yourself extra credit for nailing the first paragraph! Yay, you!
It’s like final exams where some questions are worth more points than others. Here’s my scale, you can adjust to suit yourself. First paragraph: full day’s word count. Wrap up (ending): full day’s word count. Big reveal scene (unmasking the killer): Full day’s word count. Figuring out who the killer is and the pivotal clue to his identity and how to make that work: TWO full day’s word count, and a cookie.
Allowing myself to celebrate these successes motivates me. I work super hard to hit these milestones. And the truth is, if I have the first paragraph, the ending, the big reveal, and the killer/pivotal clue worked out, then the hardest parts of the book are already written! That’s reason to celebrate.
Readers, do you have special ways of celebrating your small (or big) successes along the way? Any tips for how you stay motivated on projects? Share in comments.
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