Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How to Succeed at Writing With Really Trying

By Cindi Madsen

Since we’re to that time of year where goals are all the rage, I figured I’d talk some about how to make writing resolutions that will work for you. I write fairly fast, and when people ask me how, I often say Mountain Dew. And I’m only a little bit kidding. 

The truth is, with any project I’m writing, I make goals. If I think, "I have to get this entire book done by such and such a date," it feels overwhelming. But if I break it up, it suddenly becomes possible. So I have a daily word count goal. You want it to be something that challenges you, but not something so hard to reach that you get frustrated. I’ll tell myself, "Once I hit today’s word count, I can read that book/watch that movie/etc." Often, I’ll get caught up in the story and surpass that goal. Those are the good days—I love those days. 

But sometimes it’s all I can do to reach my goal, the entire time feeling like I’m wading through mud in my five-inch stilettos, and I know the last two paragraphs are total crap and are going to need to be re-written the next day. But I pushed myself and there are words on the page. I can now spin and edit those words until they work for the story. They're words I wouldn’t have if I didn't push myself to reach my goal. 

It can be time instead of word count if that works better for you. I have friends who swear by setting a timer for fifteen minutes and doing writing bursts that way. Whatever you can fit into your life, do it. Because your goal is for this thing you’re working on to become a novel, right? And it happens a couple pages at a time. Figure out what works for you and go with it. Make it a habit. Hold yourself to it.

Once you’ve got that manuscript done, it needs to be revised. Again, thinking about revising a three-hundred plus page novel can be overwhelming. Break it down. Make another goal: either a certain number of chapters or pages to get through every day. Then give yourself a reward at the end of the day. Take some time to relax, because tomorrow you’re going to need to hit your next goal. Life will get in the way if you let it. There will be lots of distractions along the way. But if you set goals, one day you’ll find you have a book that’s ready to submit. And then you get to set new goals all over again. 

Good luck!

About the Writer:  Cindi Madsen sits at her computer every chance she gets, plotting, revising, and falling in love with her characters. Sometimes this makes her a crazy person. Without it, she’d be even crazier. She has way too many shoes, but can always find a reason to buy a new pretty pair, especially if they’re sparkly, colorful, or super tall. She lives in Colorado with her husband and three children. Look for her YA novels, All the Broken Pieces with Entangled Publishing, and Demons of the Sun with Crescent Moon Press. More information can be found on her website:


  1. This is perfect for people like me who are just getting ready so start writing for the first time :)

  2. Yep, completely agree. I shoot for at least one hour a day. Two hours tops. After that, for me, it's a case of diminishing returns.

  3. Great tips on how to break it down. I found it easier to break it down during the writing phase, but more difficult during revisions. Still working on revisions.


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