By Francine Puckly
Beginnings. Everyone loves a good beginning. And, no. I’m not talking about the beginning of your novel or picture book, the one the reader sees. I’m leaving that to Annie.(hook-em-into-your-book.html) I’m talking about when you begin anew: take on that new challenge, go after that dream or bucket list item that’s been nagging at you for months or years, or start that new manuscript that you know, deep in your soul, is what you’re supposed to be writing next.
Launching a new project makes us both a little scared and dizzy with excitement. The energy is electrifying.
For a little while, anyway.
But when the meat of the work begins—when you take inventory of the skills you currently lack, but must acquire in order to bring the project or endeavor to fruition—the energy wanes and you are left with the sobering reality that you don’t have a clue what you’re doing. It takes courage to continue when we inevitably falter along the path.
I began four new and intimidating projects all in the same week this fall. What fanfare! Bands played, banners waved, and confetti rained down on me as I sprinted toward my figurative playing fields. But that only lasted a few weeks. Because what I did was begin a new historical fiction novel (something I said I would never do because "I don’t know how to write historical fiction”); took on a sewing project for which I have no skills, no pattern and no training; started alto saxophone lessons which has included trying out various reeds and mouthpieces, none of which sound like music but rather just ear-piercing noise and squeaks; and signed up for a Ladies’ Tap dance class when I’ve never danced a jig in my life. The “good for you!” enthusiasm from family, friends and other spectators only carries you so far. At some point you realize, “I really stink.” And the next thought might be, “Maybe this was a bad idea.” Followed quickly by, “Maybe I should quit.”
Energy ebbs and flows. And now that it has ebbed big time, I’ve pondered the following questions: How can we sustain projects when we’re fearful of the next steps and doubt our ability to finish? How do we stare down our fear and intimidation and increase our odds of sticking with a project when the going gets tough?
Here are a few suggestions I’ve put into play.
1. Pull the fear into positive action. I’ve become an expert at recognizing my fear. It makes daily appearances in the form of procrastination, edginess or looking for a quick fix elsewhere such as social media, online shopping, chocolate or whatever else will take away what I’m feeling. One of the quickest ways for me to wrestle it to the ground is to set my timer. For 8, 10, 15 or 20 minutes or whatever, I say, “Don’t think. Just do.” I race toward one unsavory task that I’ve been kicking forward with the clock ticking.
2. Care for yourself.
Wait. What did I just say? Yep, that’s right. Take proper care of yourself physically and mentally. You can’t continue a project if you run yourself into the ground with negative self-talk, or by skipping balanced meals, proper hydration, sleep and exercise. Because this is the first thing out the window for me, I have to track it daily in writing. If I stop tracking, I stop doing. “Have you been walking, Francine?” is the first thing my 24 Carrot family asks me when I’m in a mental and physical slump. It’s rhetorical, of course, because we all know the answer.
3. Seek out support from trusted sources.
A shoulder to cry on is essential. Those cheerleaders in life must be sought out and embraced when you are tackling something new. Likewise, don’t trust a naysayer with what little energy you have left on a project. Pause before confiding. Will this person be helpful or just convince you to quit?
4. Sometimes it’s okay to quit.
What?! Yes, it is okay as long as you quit for the right reasons. Sometimes this means quitting entirely, like I did with the afore-mentioned sewing project. After spending nearly 8 hours on it one day, I wasn’t even close to being done. It was going to be expensive from a financial standpoint, and even more importantly, it was going to be costly from a time standpoint. I decided I would rather write than sew. So I called my favorite seamstress and let her take over. Someday she’ll read my book, and someday I’ll happily sit on her cushions. It’s a win-win for both of us because we’re both doing what we love. Other times we only “sorta” quit. Like I did with a novel a few years back. I loved my characters but after three drafts, I hated the actual story. I knew the project didn’t hold enough joy for me to spend another year or more revising and rewriting until it was polished. So I lassoed those characters and superimposed them into a new plot! Problem solved. I kept what I loved and abandoned the rest.
I’m by no means out of the woods with my three remaining projects. Days when my fear is front and center are exceptionally hard. That’s when I try my best to focus on the basics—respect myself mentally and physically, reach out to friends, and set the timer and force myself to complete something. Anything.
Whatever new project you’re venturing into, take your fear with you but be sure to keep it on a short leash. Throw a few of these tools in your hip pocket and keep going!
by Francine Puckly
Two weeks ago I dropped my daughter off at NYU. Going from a small high school in Massachusetts to a university with a worldwide enrollment of 57,000 and a freshman class just shy of 6,000 students, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this is a huge adjustment. But it’s not the size of the school that’s disconcerting. It’s the feeling that she’s not quite sure she belongs. As I wrote her a letter this morning, I realized her journey into a film career mirrors mine as a writer. And I believe it’s important advice for me to remember everyday, as well as anyone else in a creative field. It ain’t easy, people. But there are two fundamental pieces of advice I gave my daughter that I believe we all should follow.
First, in the big, bad world of anonymity, when you’re lost in the sea of humanity, when you find yourself in a business that feels large and impersonal, it’s very important we seek out mentors, friends and supporters who will validate our creativity, help us feel welcome, help us to trust our instincts, help us make good choices personally and professionally. The ironic piece of this is that we must step out of our comfort zone in order to step into our comfort zone. We have to knock on doors, attend workshops and socials where we know no one, introduce ourselves over and over until we find those three or five or fifty people who will be our professional family going forward.
When I first set off into the publishing world, it was big and scary and I didn't know where to begin. I didn't know how to meet people, how to get started, where to find a critique group, or how to write a synopsis or a cover letter. I began this journey of building a community by attending an awards presentation and schmooze. After getting lost four or five times and circling on one-way streets, I arrived quite late. A bit frazzled and nervous, I dove into the swarm of strangers and proceeded to ask Lois Lowry if she had ever been published. (She had, in case you were wondering.) Having gotten the worst, most humiliating network experience out of the way, things took a turn for the better after that first night. I persisted meeting new people and, consequently, I turned the big, bad world of publishing into a smaller, family community through workshops, socials, SCBWI conferences, author signings and local bookstore events. I've met great people, made lifelong friends, and have found out that most people are just as scared as I am and are looking for friends and community too. As I told my daughter, we’re all looking for community. That’s the human experience, right? We’re all looking for reasons to get up in the morning and go to work. And the people I assumed would be the least approachable are the ones who were most approachable, and they have turned out to be trusted friends and mentors.
The second piece of advice I gave her was to trust her instincts. It’s often the hardest thing to do. We must trust our instincts and never look back. We shouldn’t wish to be more like "X" unless we truly believe being a little more like "X" will make us better writers, better people. Just as she may think she’s supposed to be like another student in class who receives an abundance of praise for a film style that’s not comfortable to her, we writers are often guilty of the same second-guessing. The biggest mistake writers make (and I made it early on) is trying to follow the market or trying to be someone we're not. We hear what publishers are buying and what they're sinking huge marketing dollars in, and we think, "Crap. I don't write that." And then the next logical thought is, "Maybe I should write that instead." And we try to do that, and we fail. We fail because we don't follow our own voices. Not one publisher out there is publishing what I’m currently writing. Not one. And I'm pretty sure if you were to say to them, "Hey, how about a YA novel about XXX?” they'd spit their coffee out all over their desks. But I've never been prouder of something I've written (and I’m sure they just don’t know they’re looking for it yet!). I believe in this manuscript. I believe in the story. I believe in the characters. I believe in my voice. And I will ride this book to the end of my days, until I find the agent, the editor, the publisher who believes in it, too.
My last piece of advice that went along with that is don't ever apologize for being different. Don't ever think that your voice isn't good enough, isn't polished enough, isn’t incorporating fancy words. Your voice, your vision, your perspective on a story (and life) is one of the most important things to trust. Hone it. Listen to it. Never, I repeat NEVER, apologize for it! Let other people do those other things that you think are more glamorous or sophisticated or whatever. You're not that person. You're something different. You're something better.
Good advice, right? Now we have to follow it ourselves. If you haven’t found your community, the people who make your world feel smaller and more tangible, get out there and shake some hands and kiss some babies...you'll find your small comfort zone one hello at a time. And if you’re still questioning your worth, your voice, your instinct, to that I say, STOP. Believe in your voice and don’t look back.
One of my favorite quotes is by Rabbi Zusya and his concern about his first conversation with God after he died. “When I die,” the Rabbi said, “I know God's not going to ask me 'Why weren't you more like Moses?' or 'Why weren't you more like King David?' But I'm afraid that God will ask 'Why weren't you more like Zusya?' And then what will I say?”
Don’t let that be you.
by Kelly Carey
Nothing gets me more motivated than a snappy little acronym and a manageable task list. With that in mind, I've decided to give my writing the WRQS!
Pronounced “works”, WRQS stands for Write, Revise, Query and Submit. These four tasks are the Four Horsemen of Writing Success. (By the way, they are much better than the Four Horseman of the Writing Apocalypse; Waiting, Regretting, Quitting and Sobbing. Don’t do those!)
Every month you can apply the WRQS to your writing in an easy weekly focus.
Week One - Writing
Your writing endeavors during the first week of every month will focus on “W” - Writing. This is a beauty of the blank page week. Open a new file and write a fresh sentence, the first draft of a picture book or a new chapter for your middle grade novel. The key this week is to write something brand new.
You can bounce off an idea you jotted down during PiBoIdMo or perhaps one you wrote in the condensation on the bathroom mirror (where do you think WRQS was born?). Give yourself the first week of every month to create freely. Let go of marketing distractions and the pressure to revise. Instead, find your happiest writing self and put your wonderful words down on paper. This is your week to indulge in creating. (See Amanda’s post http://www.24carrotwriting.com/-blog/writing-a-purposeful-luxury. )
Week Two – Revise
During the second week of every month you will concentrate on “R” – Revise. This is a week where you become your own critical editor and with a ruthless purpose, cut, paste and re-imagine an existing manuscript.
I recommend that you pull out a manuscript you’ve let steep for a few weeks or more. Don’t pick the new piece you worked on during week one. That gem needs time away from your brain before you can look at it with a fresh perspective. Besides, that writing was your major accomplishment last week, don’t trash it already! Enjoy that victory. Pick a different manuscript to trash .... err, I mean careful revise.
Week Three – Query
Week three of every month should be set aside for “Q” – Query or Inquiry. This is the week for either writing query letters to agents and/or editors or doing some research or inquiry into what agents or editors may be a good fit for you and your manuscript.
If you have a submission ready manuscript, and you’ve done your research and found an agent or editor that would like your piece, use this week to write a query letter. However, if your manuscripts still need a little R&R (rest and revision), this is the perfect week to troll the webpages and blogs of agents and editors to discover who they are and what they want.
While weeks one and two of WRQS focused on you and your writing, week three is a time to look outward and find your publishing match.
Week Four - Submit
You will never be published if you don’t submit your work. Use the last week of every month to put yourself and/or your writing out into the universe by making it an “S” – Submit week. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways.
The biggest leap is to submit a manuscript to an agent or editor. A word of caution, don’t do this until your manuscript has already received your best WRQ (work); write, revise, query. If your manuscript isn’t ready for submission, use this week to send your manuscript to a critique group.
If you don't have a manuscript that you are ready to share, you can embracing the “S” – Submit week by marketing yourself. Work on a blog or your webpage or open yourself up by taking a class or workshop. Either way, the theme for this week is to put yourself out there and be ready for some feedback. This is your take-a-leap week.
Go ahead. You can do it. Next week the month starts over and you can snuggle back into the writing cocoon and “W” – Write because you are back to week one!
The WRQS method asks you to focus on a different aspect of your writing endeavors each week of the month, BUT you should be writing every week. The WRQS is a way to manage the balance of a successful writing career.
I hope you join me in giving your writing the WRQS this year. We can celebrate at the end of each month with a treat (what we at 24 Carrot Writing call a carrot) - like an ice cream sundae. Just be sure to order it with the WRQS - you earned it!
by Francine Puckly
On a tiny shelf in my writing space sits an even tinier piece of cardstock. One word is spelled out in beautiful calligraphy, though the cardstock is worn and faded.
Ten years ago, the leader of my women's weekend retreat walked around our closing circle with a bowl containing strips of cardstock, each bearing unique words or phrases. We were instructed to center ourselves and make a thoughtful selection from the bowl, as it would be the word “we needed to hear.”
As the leader came closer and closer to me, I anticipated which “word” I would get. I was coming away from the retreat refreshed, optimistic about my life and my writing prospects, and excited to take my dreams by the horns. At last she stood in front of me. I closed my eyes and reached in. I waited for several seconds before allowing myself to read it. I prayed about the good things that would be in store for me. Then I opened my eyes.
I stared at the word, full of indignation, and thought, “Why on earth do I need—” WHAM! Before I could finish my thought I was spiritually slapped across the face.
Oh, I was going to need endurance. Lots and lots of endurance.
The creative journey is a long one for most of us. Training for endurance—that marathon of bringing a creative project to fruition—is the only way to succeed. I’ve spent the last several months talking about long-term planning. Visions and detailed plans are critical, but they are only the building blocks of forward movement. The work must be completed. Over and over. Even when no one is buying it. Even when it’s just “not quite right.” The creative mind must keep churning out the material, and we must continue to siphon those ideas off the tops of our brains before they clog up. We must write the pages, sift through revisions, and fill in the character sketches.
24 Carrot Writing is about dreams, goals and rewards—and encouraging small celebrations when we overcome a fear, step out and take a risk, reach toward a new aspiration or take on a new challenge. We’re also about big celebrations when we hang in there for the long haul. For slogging on. For doing something that matters—to us, to our families, and to our readers. For enduring.
As we head into the last few months of the year, holiday stresses and family demands make our shoulders sag. But don't forget we also enter the most popular month of writing and illustrating challenges! This is not the time of year to shrug and say, “Maybe next year.” This is the time to give ourselves the gift we can’t find in a store—time with our pages, plots and characters.
Eight weeks is eight weeks. Sixty glorious days. Numerous writing hours. It’s time to show everyone what we’re made of.
My once-black “Endurance” reminder has faded to a pale yellow over the years. I can only hope to realize the long-sought goal of publication before if fades completely to white. Until then, I will keep taking the challenge, lifting the pen, powering up the laptop, writing notes to myself in the middle of the grocery store, and celebrating the small milestones along the way.
This November set a small milestone for yourself. Then be sure to celebrate your endurance at the end of your challenge!
by Francine Puckly
“We can’t control the fact that we’re going to leave here today older than when we arrived. But what we can control is that we will leave here stronger.”
This little gem of wisdom came from a friend’s Spinning® instructor. His words have become my mantra, guiding me as I attempt to regain internal and external balance and strength in the many roles I play each day. While I want to crawl into bed each night being physically stronger than when I awoke, I also want to be a stronger writer.
To be sure, physical exercise has regained its place of priority in my life, because I've realized I cannot sustain my writing schedule without it. It took me months without a regular exercise regiment to acknowledge that. I walk long distances each morning, resulting in a stronger body, true, but also a stronger, clearer mind.
With that stronger, clearer mind, I can point my energy toward seeking out the skills I need to complete projects. Last weekend I attended the NESCBWI spring conference. New experiences, new topics, and new approaches. I came away with an arsenal of tools to rejuvenate and strengthen my writing--my arms laden with books and my brain sloshing with information to outline my manuscript, query the next agent, and convert my novel-in-progress to Scrivener.
Besides acquiring skills, conferences provide the opportunity to be richly supported by the people around me. By now, you know how important my 24 Carrot Writing peeps are to me. I leave our monthly check-ins older, yes, but also rejuvenated from the various tidbits of craft information we share.
As each minute passes, I’m aging. I will finish this blog older than when I started writing it. And I can’t control that. But I can make sure that with each passing hour, each passing day, each passing event in which I partake, I leave those experiences stronger.
So, yes, we will finish today older than when we started. But the most important thing is that we must leave stronger!
by Kelly Carey
This year I’m excited to participate in Carrie Charley Brown’s ReFoReMo. ReFoReMo stands for Read for Research Month and it invites picture book writers to read picture books every day during the month of March.
Exploring picture books currently on the shelves is a key component in improving your own writing. Just last month, at a craft chat at The Writers’ Loft, writer and agent Ammi- Joan Paquette encouraged writers to read books in their genre. I have heard this advice often and I heed it - my local librarians can attest to the fact that I take out about a dozen picture books every week.
While it is hardly a hardship to snuggle in and read a pile of picture books, you need to be sure you are reading with the critical eye of a writer. In a recent post, Caldecott winner Mac Barnett said, “Don’t just spend an afternoon in the children’s section of a bookstore. Read seriously. The more you read, the more aware you’ll be of why books work or don’t work, and the better your book will be.” http://www.buzzfeed.com/macbarnett/how-to-write-a-picture-book-i066#.irAJWNAZjd
ReFoReMo gives picture book writers the opportunity to read with a community and with the guidance of daily author-educator blogs to make sure your reading is guided and impactful. With ReFoReMo you will read with purpose and enhance your craft.
ReFoReMo is recommending that you track the books you read in a notebook. I would also encourage you to add them to your Goodreads book shelf. I love Goodreads as a way to build a virtual library and create a great reference for comp titles. See my November 2014 post for more on Goodreads http://www.24carrotwriting.com/-blog/use-goodreads-to-build-your-virtual-library .
ReFoReMo is free and the sign up is easy. Just make sure you sign up before March 1! Check out the ReFoReMo site at http://www.carriecharleybrown.com/reforemo , join a community and spend the month of March reading.
by Amanda Smith
This is my carrot for completing PiBoIdMo 2014.
When it is in my kitchen it reminds me to follow my heart and go write.
When I carry it upstairs to the office, it reminds me of what is essential for writing success.
Heart. Brain. Tea.
When it sits on my desk, it reminds me to get to work!
During 2014 I participated in a number of online writing challenges. When November came around, I felt worn out from a productive writing year. I had numerous manuscripts in various stages of completion and I almost, ALMOST did not sign up for Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo. Between shopping and packing for a visit to South Africa, and planning for a 14 hour layover whirlwind trip though Paris, I could not foresee room in my brain for 30 story ideas.
And yet, when the time came to sign up, my heart led me straight to Tara’s website. Having participated in PiBoIdMo the previous two years, I knew the joy and satisfaction this challenge brings. During the month I was surprised at how easy the ideas came. PiBoIdMo certainly was not my focus this year, but still, somewhere throughout each day and idea would come knocking and I would jot it down in my notebook, thinking “Well, that’s nice.” Lo and behold, the end of November came and I had 33 new ideas.
On the first day of December, I cleared my writing desk, filed all my works in progress and declared the office closed for December. I somehow remembered to sign the PiBoIdMo Winner’s Pledge. December 8, a mere 4 days before our planned trip, I received an email from Tara announcing I am a grand prize winner. I never win anything. Ever. Except this time! I had a week to “flesh out” five story ideas and submit them to one of her lovely agents for critiques. Can you say tizzy?
We flew out of Boston on a Thursday evening. We whirled through Paris on a wet Friday. We landed in South Africa on a sunny Saturday and reunited with family on Sunday, and on Monday I sat down in a bright corner at my sister-in-law’s dining room table to put meat on the bones of my story ideas.
Here is what I've learned:
Keep writing. And some day, when you least expect it, you might get the “grand prize winner” e-mail.
Click http://taralazar.com/piboidmo/ to find out more about PiBoIdMo. Registration begins the last week in October. Thank you, Tara, for creating wonderful opportunities.
by Kelly Carey
Many writers began writing when their own children were young and the thrill of snuggling in to share a good book awoke a desire to write a good book. What a wonderful way for your writing self to awaken. But what happens when your kids grow up? How will you still understand your child reader when you have no children in your house?
I stay connected to my target audience by volunteering in the local elementary school. I began by shelving books in the library. It was a natural fit since, like most writers, I love books. During my time checking out books for students, I noticed trends. Who is this Captain Underpants? Why are they fascinated by Ripley’s Believe It or Not books? Look, they still love Corduroy just like I did. No sooner had the Star Wars book gone back on the shelves than someone was checking it out again. They wanted books about fairies and football and yes, even a dog that farts. These books became my study guides. I poured over them like text books.
I watched as the kids reacted to read-aloud stories the librarian shared. Froggy created hysterical laughter. Kids would freeze and stare open mouthed wondering how Wemberly would survive his first day. I watched as they fidgeted through readings from books that failed to really grab them. I studied those books too. My time in the library was fantastic research.
I took it one step further and began substitute teaching in the school. Our school district requires a college education but you do not need any specific teaching degree in order to be a substitute. Getting in the classroom and interacting with the kids helped me to remember how they talk to each other, how they phrase questions and what situations spark what reactions. Every day in the classroom the kids showed me what matters to them, what makes them laugh and what makes them cry.
It’s not enough to connect readers with your writing. To make your writing truly resonate with your audience, you need to make sure that you are connected with your audience. I highly recommend looking for ways to actually interact with your target reader. For me, working in the school library, and substitute teaching have allowed me to keep my dialogue true and my subjects relevant.
Get connected with your audience – your writing will thank you.
by Francine Puckly
As much has been said and written about revision as developing a first draft. Most manuscripts go through several major transformations before reaching an acceptable format to be shared with external readers such as agents and editors. The second draft especially receives, or should receive, a complete and major overhaul, whether you’re writing a 500-word picture book or 100,000-word fantasy novel. And it is this drastic reconstruction process that I’d like to discuss.
If you have completed the first draft of your manuscript, congratulations! It takes a tremendous amount of dedication and conviction to climb over the numerous hills and descend into the subsequent valleys of story creation. It’s the mark of true accomplishment when you deliver an entire story from one single thought or tiny seed of an idea.
So you’ve finished. Now put the manuscript away. Let the words and phrases simmer in a desk drawer or in the recesses of your computer storage for two to six weeks without looking at it. Not even one little peek. Instead, celebrate! Go get that “carrot” you promised yourself when you were writing the first draft. Refill your creative well—go to the movies, see a musical, plunk out a tune on the piano. Work on a different project or play with new ideas. Clean the house. Do anything but read your manuscript.
Once you’ve allowed the manuscript to rest for the acceptable designated period, pull out your draft when you have a large block (or blocks) of time to devote to a reading session. Use your favorite pen. Take copious notes either on a paper copy of the manuscript itself or on a notepad next to your computer so that you can refer to these changes and suggestions as you work on the next draft. Read your manuscript with fresh eyes. Study it. What works? What moves, what slows, what questions have been left unanswered? Which characters are critical to the story, which characters add color, and which characters can be removed or combined? Comb over your words. Mull over the draft. Once you’ve gotten through the manuscript and have taken all the necessary notes, delete it.
Delete the whole draft?!
Making such a suggestion, especially as NaNoWriMo comes to a close and thousands of writers are chugging caffeine and working late hours in order to hit word count goals, is downright blasphemy. Yet drastic measures must be taken with the second draft in order provide the writer freedom on a blank page. This purging of the first draft prevents “tinkering”, a type of revision best saved for later drafts when the story has matured. Tinkering is not the revision method of choice when major parts of the story are still being honed, crafted, and invented. If we don’t separate ourselves from the first draft, we get locked into what is instead of what can be. The process I suggest takes the very best of what you, the writer, delivered in the first draft and mixes it with a new vision. Re-vision.
If you’re too nervous to completely release that first draft, print a paper copy before deleting. Or at the very minimum promise yourself you won’t open the electronic document unless absolutely necessary. Trust that your story is imprinted in your mind and on your heart. Releasing that first draft will blow open your writing, because the path has already been laid out in front of you. Now you have the opportunity to enrich the setting, hone in on which elements of the plot march your story forward, and develop depth of character that will make even the most reluctant reader keep turning the page.
So are you ready? Take heart and take a deep breath. Trust your story. But more importantly, trust yourself. And go after that second draft with the same gusto you did the first time around. You and the reader won’t be disappointed.
by Amanda Smith
Let’s face it: Sometimes it is hard to actually sit down and write. Even if it is what you really want to do. Even if you have blocked off time just for your writing. Even if writing is the thing that fills your cup.
Sitting down and actually WRITING can be pretty darn hard. There are just too many distractions. That is why giving an account is essential to my writing process. And progress. Here are a few practical suggestions for finding accountability partners:
A Writer’s Group:
Recently Annie wrote about the importance of integrating in the writers’ community (http://www.24carrotwriting.com/-blog/the-importance-of-a-writing-community-conferencestwittercritique-groupsoh-my). More than support, our writers’ group offers me accountability. Here is how it works. Every month we say, “Last month I did _____” and then we offer praise and support (and always some awesome jokes) and then we say, “This coming month I plan to do _______.”
The sheer thought of having to look these three women in the eye and say, “This month I wrote nothing. Nada. Zilch. I was out chasing squirrels.” makes me quiver in my boots. Of course, if that were the case, they would be completely understanding and supportive, but I would feel like I didn't keep my end of the deal.
Your accountability partner does not have to be a fellow writer, though. On a particularly unproductive morning, a dear friend sent me a quick message. As I lamented my lack of productivity to her, she challenged me by saying: “I’m setting my timer for 20 minutes. You do the same and see how much you can get done and then we’ll check in with each other.”
I got to work like a squirrel in fall. Because I did not want to tell her in 20 minutes’ time that I am still browsing the internet. And then I got so involved in what I was doing, I didn't check in until an hour and a half later. Now, she wasn't writing. She spent her 20 minutes cleaning her kitchen counter and her dining room table. But knowing I had to check in with her got me writing. And it felt wonderfully productive.
Yip, the old timer can also be your accountability partner. You can do 20 minute miracles like Francine (http://www.24carrotwriting.com/-blog/20-minute-miracles). I like the hour bucket principle. You write for 45 minutes and take a 15 minute break. Honestly, though, sometimes I ignore that timer after 45 minutes and work until I get to a natural break in my work. But the timer certainly helps me to START.
Writing challenges can also be wonderful accountability partners. And November most definitely is writing challenge month!
For the novel writers out there, the challenge is writing a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. Even though I have not participated in this challenge, setting a word goal and tracking your words are great ways to provide motivation and accountability.
The premise is simple. You write down at least one picture book idea for each day of November. This is about as low key a writing challenge as you can get. You don’t have to develop those ideas, they don’t even have to be complete ideas. They just have to be. But this is one of my favorite challenges, because I find myself LOOKING for stories in everything. This challenge has taught me to think creatively, to always look and listen for stories (and to write those ideas DOWN before they disappear into the land of lost stories). It keeps me in “writing mode” every day. Few things feel better than having those 30+ ideas at the end of November! Hurry, you can still register for PiBoIdMo 2014!
12x12 flowed out of PiBoIdMo for those who wanted to develop their ideas. The concept is to write one picture book draft a month. The end of each month brings a check in and one can earn cute little badges on one’s profile for each draft. I covet those badges. I work for those badges. Those badges keep me accountable. I have 10 colorful draft badges under my name. That is 10 picture book drafts that I did not have in January!!! Because 12x12 kept me accountable. Sign up for 12x12 is in January.
Our critique group submits picture book manuscripts to one another once a month. We have a week to critique and return the stories. Knowing I have to submit something “share-able” to my critique partners each month keeps me writing and revising.
A rose by any other name…
Not so much, Shakespeare. I am a writer. That, right there. That is my biggest accountability partner. Because when I say those words, the inevitable follow up question is, “So, what do you write?” I want to have a timely answer to that question. Not what I wrote last month, or even last week, but what I am working on right now. Because I don’t say those words lightly.
Who keeps you accountable as you pursue writing? Tell us in the comments section if you have found some particularly motivating accountability partners.
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