Staying on task and motivated to write can be a struggle–especially when you’re in the thick of the drafting process. One thing that has been revolutionary for me when I draft is writing on the clock. It keeps me focused on production not quality, which is vital at this stage of a book.
I’ve seen a couple different versions of this method. The more popular one is to set a timer and commit to working non-stop until the timer goes off. You control how much time you set, but if you’re looking for a guideline, maybe start with 30 minutes. Here’s an online timer if you need one.
This approach may work for a lot of people–including you–but it wasn’t enough to keep me motivated. I needed to see some sign of success in order to keep going. I’m a goal-oriented person, so it isn’t enough for me to just have dedicated writing time. I need to be working for something. So instead of just writing with a timer, I add some word count goal-oriented checkpoints along the way. This helps me keep my draft moving.
Here’s how it breaks down:
Make a realistic estimate
First, I make sure I have enough time to meet my daily writing goal if I were to work virtually non-stop. If I don’t have enough time, I either adjust the goal or see if I can find more time later in the day. If you don’t know what’s realistic for you, you may have to set the timer and just write non-stop for half an hour to get a baseline.
This step is important! I honestly believe one of the keys to finishing any project–writing or otherwise–is to put yourself in positions where you won’t be discouraged. If you create goals that are too unrealistic for you to achieve in the time you have to work, it’s highly likely that you will get discouraged. Don’t do that to yourself. You are better off planning on taking more time to finish your book and actually finishing it, than getting overambitious, getting behind, and giving up.
Adapt for your own writing window
Once I know how much I can accomplish in a half hour, I adapt that number to the window I have to fill. I typically write in two-to-three hour chunks. My half hour word count, when I work constantly, is about 600 words. My daily goal is typically around 2,500 words, so I know I need at least two hours to meet my goal. If I have less time, I need to consider cutting my goals back. If I have more time, I consider either cutting my time back or, if I have it in me, increasing my goal.
One thing I wouldn’t recommend is having way more time to write than you need to achieve your goals. This defeats the purpose of this approach. In my experience, it makes you more likely to take your time and maybe even wander off to the internet. The point is to stay focused, so don’t let yourself wander. Change your goals or writing window instead.
Create checkpoints within your window
I found that in order to keep my motivation up, the best thing I can do is to create checkpoints for myself throughout my window. You can create your checkpoints as frequently as you want, but I’ve found that the more frequent mine are, the more motivated and focused I am. So for me, I’m not just trying to write 600 words every half hour. I’m trying to write 100 words every five minutes.
Maybe you don’t need to break your goals down quite this much for your draft, but I find it helpful. It’s easier and less intimidating for me to think about writing 100 words every five minutes than 2,500 in two hours. It also keeps me from thinking I can spend five minutes scrolling the internet and “make it up later.” I can’t spend five minutes that way if I know I need to spend that time writing 100 words. Additionally, each time I meet a small goal it reminds me that I can do this and it fuels me to keep me going.
Learn your super-focused rate
You may not have this experience, but I found that once I learned to be regularly focused and on the clock, I could write even faster if I needed to. 600 words/half hour is my manageable goal. I know that if I work at a steady, but fairly calm rate, I can reach that goal without too much extra effort. It’s more about staying focused than anything else.
However, once I learned to stay focused, I found that if I’m really locked in and time is limited, I can write 900 words/half hour. I don’t like to do this often because I burn out, but learning to write on the clock has helped me see that I can write at this rate if I need to. It’s a nice card to have in my back pocket for days when time is tight.
Adapt as needed
Your days and life may be inconsistent at times. There may be aspects of this approach that just don’t work the way you need them to. When that happens, don’t be afraid to mix it up! See if you can nail down exactly what isn’t working and why, then modify to meet your needs. The ultimate goal is to get your closer to finishing your draft. Figuring out how you work best is a big part of making that happen! So definitely make a change if you need to.
I hope this helps you draft faster!
Now it’s your turn: Have you ever tried timing your writing? Does it help? What tricks help you get a draft down? Tell me about it in the comments. If you have any tips to share, you can leave them there as well!