Writing Tip: set a goal

You know what keeps me writing sometimes? Setting a goal that I know I can attain. If I know I need to write so many words by such and such time, I know that I have to sit down and force the muse to produce for me. Eventually, the uppity brat gives me an idea that I can run with. Like yesterday morning, for instance.

I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, which is sort of like a choose-your-own-torture NaNoWriMo project. I’ve set a goal of 25,000 words in April. They assign you to a cabin of up to 12 others, and you update word counts and have fun. But for some reason my project, a story of a small desert militia in the days of the dissolution of the Union, has met Resistance in the form of the muse not giving me ideas to work with beyond the first one (a resupply mission to a forward observation post that goes south). As a result, I’m at 7372 words when I should be at 10,833.

So what to do? The answer is easy, I have to get up and write. I have no other option if I am to meet my goal, take care of chores, file taxes, and do my normal day job and all the other things I normally do. I set the coffee pot to automatically turn on at 5:30 when my alarm goes off and I force myself out of bed.

Does it work? Sometimes. Yesterday I woke up at 5:30 and couldn’t find sleep again because an idea was rattling around about a riot that comes along as a result of … something that happens earlier in the story. I managed to crank out 808 words, which beat my previous daily average by several hundred. Of course, this doesn’t meet the necessary 1000-word average I have to meet to get back on track, but I’m closer than I was before and more importantly, I have an idea that I can run with for the next few days.

So if you’re having trouble enslaving your own muse, set a goal and use it to get your mind focused on where you want to be.