Every January 1, people make a New Yearâ€™s resolution. Theyâ€™re going to lose weight or quit smoking or finish that book. New gym memberships soar at the beginning of the year, as do registrations for weight loss programs and courses to walk away from those cigarettes for good. But there is no such animal for finishing a book that stretches over the long term.
I should mention that there are some tools out there for completing a book in a short amount of time, such as NANOWRIMO (http://www.nanowrimo.org), which is National Novel Writing Month. It occurs every November and encourages writers to complete their book over the course of that month. There is also Book In A Week by author April Kihlstrom (http://www.sff.net/people/april.kihlstrom/), which teaches a method of planning out a book over the course of four or five weeks and then actually writing the first draft in a weekâ€™s time. (Iâ€™m considering using this method myself for my February deadline.) These are excellent programs, which can encourage a writer to put themselves into the chair and make writing a priority, even if just for a short period of time.
But what about the rest of the year?
Very often, more than half the people who sign up for those gym memberships and weight loss plans and kick-the-smoking courses will drop out before Valentineâ€™s Day, even if the change still needs to be made. Everyone knows their list of â€œshoulds.â€ I should lose weight, I should get more exercise, I should quit smoking.
I should work on my book.
The truth of the matter is that all of these changesâ€”weight loss, exercise, quitting smoking, finishing that bookâ€”can only happen when youâ€™re ready for it to happen. It requires dedication and a desire to want that change more than anything. To want it so much that you are willing to throw away that last opened pack of cigarettes or walk away from those home-made chocolate chip cookies or get on that treadmill.
That you are willing to do things like get up an hour earlier or miss your favorite TV program to make time for your writing. That you are willing to join a critique group and put your writing out there for evaluation, or drive over an hour to your writersâ€™ meeting.
If you want something badly enough, you know you will do what it takes to get it. How many of us have stood in line for an hour to get on a ride at an amusement park or for tickets to a movie or concert we really wanted to see? How many of us have braved the airport or the highways during the holidays, dealing with airline delays and bad weather and congested traffic because we wanted to be with loved ones on that special day?
Why not put your writing at the top of your list of things you will make a priority from now on?
Itâ€™s not such a lofty goal. The average mass market paperback is about 365 pages long. That means if you write one page a day for one year, at the end of that year you will have a book.
That doesnâ€™t sound like much, does it? The average word count for one page of a manuscript is 250 words. You probably write emails longer than that. But if you manage one page a day for a year, you will have a completed first draft of a book before the ball drops in Times Square the following year.
Now itâ€™s hard to make long term change without accountability. Get your writer friends and your critique partners involved. All of you can set goals and check in with each other. Get together after the writersâ€™ meeting or start a Facebook group or, for those of you on Twitter, follow trending topic #writegoal, where you can post your writing goals for the day and then later post again when you have completed that goal. (I find this very useful for keeping up with my own deadlines.)
Forget the New Yearâ€™s resolution. Letâ€™s go for the All-Yearâ€™s resolution and keep that dedication going long after the confetti has been cleaned up and the champagne bottles have been recycled.