Setting Manageable Goals

Mazie-Bishop

Note: As we mentioned in our NaNoWriMo Kickoff post, Mazie will be writing with us for a while as a contributor to The Sprint Shack! Give her a warm welcome and enjoy her first non-guest post!

Mazie Bishop: Setting Manageable Goals

For any writers out there who are balancing a 9 to 5 work week, taking care of their families (or fur babies!), and juggling the other responsibilities life throws at them, goal setting can mostly become overwhelming and–lets face it–faulty. But not if you know how to set manageable goals that are suited perfectly to your lifestyle! Whether you are a full time stay at home mom, working overtime, or finishing up your BA, with the right type of goal setting, anyone can achieve what they want to.

The biggest mistake that people make when setting a goal is immediately jumping to the highest tier as a means to push themselves. I am in no way saying not to shoot high, but while telling yourself that you are going to have your book published by the end of the year is possible, for example, there is no structure to the goal. This will make it super easy to lose momentum, which is something everyone needs to achieve such a hefty feat. Here is my 5 step process for setting effective goals:

Step 1: Define your goal! Example: Write and publish a book by the end of the year or even write 1000 words every day this year!


Step 2:
Break down the stages! Example: 3 months: write first draft, 9 months: edit and revise, market, publish. *Note: The publishing stage can be unpredictable, so be sure to account for unexpected road blocks along the way in your timeline.

Step 3: Take it one stage a time. Feel free to break down your goals into monthly, weekly and even daily goals, whatever is more realistic for your lifestyle. If you are working full time, it may be more effective to break your monthly goal down into daily segments–because, let’s face it, it can be very difficult to write 10,000 words a week. But say you have weekends off, and you have free time, 5000 words a day is more than possible. Its all about planning!

Step 4: Divide and Conquer. As you hit your mini goals, you’ll start gaining this beautiful thing we’ve mentioned, called momentum! You’ll feel more inclined to write because you’ve been keeping up, and you’re right on track. As soon as you clear your monthly goal, keep going, plan your next month and just write your heart out! There is no stopping you now! You’re a power house, remember!?

Step 5
: Celebrate your ultimate success. At the end of the year, when your goal is close, keep pushing through until you hit it. It may involve you locking yourself in your room until you write 4000 words, denying yourself of Netflix and snacks until you hit your daily goals, but hey, in the end, you’ll have a book edited and ready for publishing–or whatever your goal might be.

Everyone will have a different goal style. For example, I write better in the morning and research better at night, but I also don’t have a fixed schedule for work every week, so a weekly break down is better suited for me because I never know what to expect. But for someone who works full time and definitely knows when their shifts start and end, daily goals would be best.

If there is any other tip that I could give to you this holiday, it would definitely be the recommendation of getting a separate planner for your writing. I know you might be saying “oh no no, I have a planner, I don’t need anything else! I can just track my writing to-dos in there with every single other thing I do with my life!”  Just trust me on this one: keeping a separate planner for writing will make it so much easier to focus on hitting those goals if all you see every day is a daily or weekly target by itself, not surrounded by notes about that potluck next week or the dance recital tomorrow.

I have so many tips for organizing a planner but alas, that is for another day! I hope this helped you start thinking about your goals for 2015, and maybe gave some insight on how to plan for those goals a little bit better!


Mazie Bishop is a fiery 22 year-old writer and journalism student from Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. She is a big dreamer who hopes to be writing with the big guys some day and cannot wait for her career to start! Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

The Ridiculous Writing Cleanse

When was the last time you wrote something absolutely silly? What was the last story or article that you wrote which, from the get-go, you knew was so ridiculous you couldn’t image posting/publishing (let alone finishing) it?

For me, that was yesterday. I wrote a flash fiction piece so unbelievably NOT ME, that I couldn’t believe I was spending time on it. It was so far from my typical flowery-prose-poetry-literary style of writing, that I felt uncomfortable writing it.

But that’s just the point of this post: it’s important to occasionally write something that is foreign to you. Something outside your comfort zone. Something that challenges you. Something silly.

I starting writing silly pieces of fiction and goofy articles a while back – things meant to break writers block and that were for my eyes only. And having seen the positives that come along with letting go and writing something ridiculous, I now make it a point to write something silly at least once a month.

So I challenge you to do a Ridiculous Writing Cleanse. Writing something silly (or something outside your typical genre, style, etc.) is hugely beneficial. Whether you intend to publish or burn your silly writings, there are tons of reasons to do a Ridiculous Writing Cleanse.

The perks of The Ridiculous Writing Cleanse:
– Gets your creativity going
– Allows you to let go of perfection and have fun with your writing
– Busts through writers block
– Clears out the ridiculous ideas you have bouncing around your head and distracting you from your other writing projects
– Challenges you to write something different and makes you a stronger writer
– May even turn into a useable piece of writing

So if you’re in a writing rut or want to give yourself a challenge, give writing something silly a shot! It’s weird and a little counterintuitive (why write something you know you’re likely going to end up throwing away). But it’s fun and it reminds you to shut off your inner-editor and just write. Give it a try and let us know how it goes!

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What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever written? Let us know in the comments below!

Why I Didn’t NaNo This Year (And Why I Regret It)

Hey there, Sprint Shack readers, and long time no speak. As you may not have noticed (since Skye and Taylor have been doing such an awesome job picking up the slack!), I haven’t been around much. Not only on The Sprint Shack, but on Twitter, my personal blog, and basically any other social media or publishing platform that holds me accountable to my writing. And I have one thing to blame, if we’re getting more specific than simply “myself,” and not using easy excuses like personal issues and a busy schedule:

I didn’t NaNo this year.

In our NaNo kickoff post, I did say I was doing NaNo, and that’s because I had every intention of participating as of the first day. The only problem is that, due to a trip in the last few weeks of October and much less free time than I originally anticipated, I didn’t properly prepare myself long enough in advance. I had no plan whatsoever and defaulted to finishing my WIP, which is a complete mess. And so the first day went by, and then the second, and then the first week… and I was quickly resigning to letting 2014 be a pass.

I suppose I’m the opposite of Taylor this month. While she wrote recently why she shouldn’t have NaNoed, I feel like I should have. There’s no way I would have completed the 50k—that’s a given. The fact is, this past month was too busy for me to properly dedicate to NaNoWriMo, for a variety of personal and work-related reasons.

However, in light of all I had going on, I forgot the point of NaNoWriMo: not to write a book, not to write 50k, but simply to write. Regularly. And so, I dropped off my other writing duties. I didn’t update my personal blog, I barely logged on to Twitter because I knew I’d feel jealous and ashamed while seeing everyone else chip away at their word counts, and I dropped the ball on several scheduled Sprint Shack posts and #TNightSprints sessions. I fully believe that if I kept up with my writing, it would have caused a chain reaction to hold me accountable for all these other related things.

Because that’s the kind of positive habit that writing every day eventually forms. It’s the idea behind NaNoWriMo and WriteChain, and heck, it’s even the idea behind word sprinting.

So, all in all, I wish I NaNoed this year. But since I didn’t, I have zero excuse not to rock next November and the Camp NaNoWriMo sessions before it!

Did you participate in NaNo this year? Why or why not? Let us know how it went or, if you didn’t, how you feel about your decision!

How to Keep Writing Even After NaNoWriMo’s Over

How to Keep Writing Even After NaNoWriMo: Here are two places to find motivation and support, even after NaNoWriMo has come to a close | www.sprintshack.wordpress.comNovember is always a whirlwind month for me. With the mountainous goal of 50,000 words to reach, two blogs to write for, and a plethora of word sprints to host (though the sprinting certainly helps with those first two), it can feel as though I have no time for anything other than NaNoWriMo. But once December arrives…

Silence. (Can you hear the crickets?)

Suddenly, all those hours spent frantically cramming words onto a page as I try to reach my quota aren’t necessary. The looming deadline of November 30th has passed. The pressure to carve out time for writing each day is gone. So where do I get my motivation from now?

Does this situation sound familiar? Don’t worry. Just because NaNoWriMo is over doesn’t mean there’s nothing to keep pushing you forward. Here are two places you can find the motivation and support to keep writing, even after November becomes a fun (and very frazzled) memory.

Word Sprinting

NaNoWriMo may be over for another year but the sprints certainly aren’t! The Sprint Shack hosts word wars throughout the week, all year round, come rain or shine. Here’s an overview of our regularly held events.

Word Scrimmage

When is it? Held from 10-10:30 p.m. GMT / 5-5:30 p.m. EST / 2-2:30 p.m. PST, every Monday and Wednesday
Hashtag to follow? #Wordscrim

TNightSprints

When is it? Held from 2-3 a.m. GMT / 9-10 p.m. EST / 6-7 p.m. PST, every Tuesday and Thursday
Hashtag to follow? #TNightSprints

Tales And Tea

When is it? Held from 4-6 p.m. GMT / 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. EST / 8-10 a.m. PST, every Saturday
Hashtag to follow? #TalesAndTea

Sunday Scribes

When is it? Held from 6-7 p.m. GMT / 1-2 p.m. EST / 10-11 a.m. PST, every Sunday
Hashtag to follow? #SundayScribes

Our regularly hosted events take place at the same time every week, which means you can drop by then for a guaranteed sprint. Keep your eye on our Twitter account outside of these times too, as we often host spontaneous sprints whenever one of the Sprint Shack ladies has a free moment and a manuscript open!

For a full break-down of our sprinting schedule and the writing events held by our wordy comrades across the Twitterverse, check out the Upcoming Sprints page. If you ever find yourself in need of a push towards writing, join us for a sprint or two and watch as your word count soars!

The Write Chain Challenge

If your goal is to make writing into a habit, something you do on a day-to-day basis even outside of NaNoWriMo, then come join my Write Chain Challenge. The rules are simple: set yourself a goal and write it each day. For every day you reach your goal, you earn a link. When you reach your goal for several days in a row, these links form a chain, but skip a day and the streak you’ve built up breaks. Your incentive? Don’t break the chain.

What makes the Write Chain Challenge an ideal post-NaNoWriMo challenge is its flexibility. Your daily goal can be anything (a word count, a page count, a certain amount of time to write for, and so on), involve any part of the writing process (writing, editing, plotting, etc.), and can be for any project you care to work on (fiction, non-fiction, poetry or a script, to name but a few). Pick a goal you know you can easily reach each day, join the Write Chain community, and make writing an integral part of your life.

Are you serious about making writing into a habit? Then you’re my kind of person. I’d like to invite you to take part in my upcoming programme, the Writember Workshop, a 30 day e-course in which I take you through the top four obstacles that stop people forming a writing habit and give you the tools needed to overcome them.

Want to learn a little more about the course? You can check out what’s included on the Writember Workshop page here.

Whether you word sprint with the Shack, join the Write Chain Challenge or Writember Workshop, or decide to go it alone, keep on writing, even after NaNoWriMo has finished. Use the momentum you’ve gained, gather together some extra incentive, and write to your heart’s content.

Good luck.

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What do you struggle with most when trying to keep writing after NaNoWriMo?

Finding Balance: Why I Shouldn’t Have Done NaNoWriMo This Year

With 5 days left in the month, I crossed the 50k finish line and nabbed my NaNoWriMo 2014 “win”.

I use the term “win” loosely, because – and this is a horrible confession for me to make – I truly feel like I shouldn’t have participated in NaNoWriMo this year.

In the past, NaNoWriMo has done wonderful things for me. It’s bolstered my confidence in my ability to write every day and it’s produced interesting and impressive pieces of writing. And above all, it has connected me with other writers who are just as enthusiastic about writing as I am.

However, this year NaNo went a bit south for me. While I pounded out those 50k words, dutifully writing nearly every day this month, I did so for no other reason than to get the 50,000 words done with.

I’ve hated everything I’ve written this November – and sure, that may just be my inner-critic talking, but going off past experiences, this manuscript is so far from saving (even with some heavy editing), that I feel I truly wasted my time writing what turned out to be a mere shadow of what someone might call a “novel”. It wasn’t at all what I had envisioned for the story or the characters. After all is said and done, I feel like I took a promising idea and mutilated it.

But here’s the thing: it’s my fault that I feel this way about this year’s NaNoWriMo experience. I knew, going into November, that I had next to no free time. That doing NaNo would mean less sleep – which leads to less energy and creativity – which leads to less fruitful writing. And instead of saying to myself: “Maybe I should sit this one out and focus on creating a smaller amount of high-quality writing”, I raced head-long into the gauntlet that is NaNo.

The result has been a month filled with stress, frustration, and negative self-talk.

As a disclaimer, I want to say that this post is in no way meant to discourage people from taking on the NaNo challenge. It’s only to make the point that sometimes you need to be honest with yourself about your limitations. By all means, take risks and push yourself with your writing. But don’t lose sight of your own mental, emotional, and physical health. Make sure you have the time – or can feasibly MAKE the time – to take on a month-long novel-writing marathon, before you sign up.

So I learned something valuable this November: If you know with certainty that you are too busy to churn out a sloppy, yet satisfying 50,000 words, take a break from the writing craziness and focus your efforts on creating what you can.

I’ll be wearing my NaNo winner’s shirt come December 1st, but I’ll be feeling like I did anything but win.

~

How did your NaNoWriMo experience measure up this year? Hopefully better than mine! What did you learn about yourself and your writing? Tell me in the comments below!

 

Guest Post: Mazie Bishop – Being A NaNoWriMo ML

It was a rainy afternoon in August when I received the email from the lovely staff at NaNoWriMo. The email was regarding my application to be a Municipal Liaison for my region of Niagara, an application that I sent the day after NaNoWriMo 2013. I think it was more exciting to me because it had been so long since I applied that I completely forgot of the possibilities. But now that the possibility has become the reality, there are a lot of responsibilities.

Being an ML means my awesome partner Christine Banman and I get to plan the regional events and organize write-ins for our Niagara participants. It also means that we get to organize online word sprints, discussions on the forums and basically just make sure that everyone is having a pleasant November.

What surprised me most, when I first started everything was how much preparation really goes into planning the events, and how much the staff at NaNoWriMo are actually there to help you. We have our own helpful forums, with all kinds of resources and ideas. We have a great guide that covers everything from writing an email to handling stressed-out participants.

Am I nervous? Yes! Who wouldn’t be? This is the first time in a few years that Niagara has had an ML, never mind two of us! There is a lot of pressure on us to make sure that this month goes smoothly for everyone, but my excitement overrules my nerves almost completely. I am so excited that I get to meet all of these writers and that I get to contribute to their success, and give them more opportunities in our region than they have had in any other year.

I would honestly recommend applying to become a Municipal Liaison of your region to anyone who likes to meet new people and to anyone who has passion for writing and community. It gets a little stressful sometimes, but it’s all worth it when you see how many people you are helping out.

As it stands right now, we are hosting 3 large events throughout the month, as well as hosting 5+ write-ins a week! In my region there is a University and a College and my goal is to host write-ins on campus and to spread awareness for this amazing organization and community.

NaNoWriMo warms my cold autumn hands and gives me an excuse to make time to write and honestly it has bettered my life, so I think that’s why I love being an ML so much. It means that I can help more people better their lives through writing too.

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Mazie Bishop shares her NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison story at www.sprintshack.wordpress.com.ABOUT MAZIE

Mazie Bishop is a fiery 22 year-old writer and journalism student from Canada. Self-published as well as has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. She is a big dreamer that hopes to be writing with the big guys some day and cannot wait for her career to start! Currently she is in the process of writing her second novel and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures and read her work or gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

Break Through the NaNoWriMo Brick Wall with this Super Simple Technique

Break Through the NaNoWriMo Brick Wall with this Super Simple Technique | www.sprintshack.wordpress.comEvery NaNoWriMo journey has its ups and downs, and one of the hardest downs to overcome is the Brick Wall, also known as Writer’s Block or, to anyone experiencing it, Despair.

It’s a common problem around this point every NaNoWriMo. You’ve been going full steam ahead with your work-in-progress all month and now you’re beginning to run out of said steam. You don’t know where to go from here. Maybe your story’s turned stagnant, your characters aren’t cooperating, or your interest in your project is idling. Whatever your problem, you’ve hit a mental brick wall and you need to get past it fast if you want to win NaNoWriMo.

I had this exact problem during Camp NaNoWriMo in 2012. I’d lost interest in my novel, I had zero motivation to write, and midnight was fast approaching. What did I do? I opened up a blank document, set a timer for 10 minutes, and started to free write.

What is the magical technique that is free writing?

Much like word sprinting, free writing involves writing without stopping for a period of time. How free writing differs from word sprinting comes down to what you write. Whereas sprinting usually involves working on your current project, free writing involves splurging your thoughts onto the page without censoring anything.

What you write doesn’t have to be about your work-in-progress. It doesn’t have to be fiction. It doesn’t even have to be coherent. When free writing, you simply talk about whatever is on your mind at the time—maybe a problem you’re having with your plot, the backstory of a character, how you feel about your project and what you wish for it in the future. Nothing is out of bounds.

The important thing about free writing is that you keep going until your timer goes off. Don’t stop, don’t hesitate, don’t edit, don’t correct spelling or punctuation. What you write may sound awful (no, scratch that—it will sound awful), but it doesn’t matter. Just write, and if you can’t think of what to say, write about why you think that might be.

Why is it so crucial that you keep writing, no matter what? It helps you to shut out that critical inner voice and let the muse run free. Fantastic, creative, brilliant ideas that your inner editor might otherwise have dismissed can come to the surface. Your muse can show you what you want to write rather than what you think you should write (and that’s an important distinction—writing the former is much more fulfilling, fun and motivating than the latter). You can find the enthusiasm to keep writing and break through that brick wall.

This was the case for me during Camp ’12. During my 10 minute free write session, I wrote whatever scene came to mind and ended up with two characters I knew next to nothing about, a plot that was a mystery to even me, and a genre I’d never written in before. But that scene connected with something in my soul. Suddenly, I wanted to learn more about these characters, keep writing to discover what would happen in the story, and indulge in a genre that pushed my imagination to its limits. And before I knew it, I’d reached my NaNoWriMo goal.

Besides giving you a plethora of new ideas, free writing is also great practice for when you work on your NaNoWriMo project. You become skilled at silencing your inner editor while writing that first draft, which allows you to churn out more words (no hesitating over phrasing allowed), get further in your story (which gets you to the good stuff quicker), and stumble upon more creative gems (your unleashed muse has some truly amazing ideas). That’s something very advantageous for a WriMo.

So, if you ever find yourself staring at the Brick Wall of Writer’s Block, set a timer for 10 minutes and give free writing a go. It’s a super simple technique that could very well salvage your NaNoWriMo.

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Have you ever done a free write session before? What did you find most interesting about it?