[Guest Post] Micro-Goals; or How Word Sprints Save Your Sanity

NaNoWriMo is a beast: a 50,000-word minimum juggernaut that’s defeated far more seasoned writers than myself… and if, like me,  you’re  trying to tackle the dragon for the first time, it might be beginning to seem rather like an epic quest in nature. The daily climb to 1,667 begins to look like a repetitive trek up a literary Mount Everest—but there are ways to make the journey easier. Heck, there are ways to make NaNoWriMo look like a walk in the park.

The best tip that I’ve discovered so far? Micro-goals. Forget 50,000, forget 1,667; just concentrate on writing as many words as you can 1 hour, 30 minutes, 20 minutes, 15 minutes, even 10 minutes at a time. It doesn’t only help your word count, it may also save your sanity.

There are hundreds, even thousands of writers who are tackling the challenge and triumphing over the world-wide writing marathon one quarter hour at a time. Don’t have a stop watch? Doesn’t matter. Don’t have friends willing to take the plunge with you? You will soon.

If you haven’t already, go to NaNoWriMo.org, sign up, then look under the Tab ‘NaNo Near You’ and Find Your Region. Select the city nearest you, then scan the forum for write-ins, meet-ups, and other events for the chance to join up with other local writers write, celebrate, write, lend each other support, keep each other sane—and participate in the face-to-face version of the motivational micro-miracle ‘word sprints’.

Don’t feel like heading out? No problem, you can also participate online. Go to Twitter, follow @NaNoWordSprints (the official NaNoWriMo profile for word sprints) and get ready to rock your NaNovel like a hurricane. @NaNoWordSprints is run in shifts by different volunteers worldwide, so no matter where in the world you are, you’re never very far from a wordsprint — and if you don’t feel like going through official channels, trying searching for #NaNoWriMo or #wordsprint to see when random users worldwide are gearing up for a sprint—or add those hashtags to your own tweets along with an invitation to join a wordsprint at :00, :15, :20, :30, ect…

Once a sprint starts, write like the wind for its duration, then take stock & add up the words you’ve set down. Chances are you’ll be surprised. Only a handful of sprints and you’ll reach your daily quota. If you’re inspired to keep writing beyond that, you could well surpass it.

For example, I participated in a 20-minute word sprint on Twitter. I wrote 604 words. I didn’t come in first in the sprint, but I won something else: inspiration. I kept writing. Reached 1,364 words, took a break to eat dinner, then participated in another word sprint — this one was 30min long.

By the end of it, I was up to 2,017 words. I really felt like I was hitting my stride. By the time I was done, I’d cranked out 4,746 words in one sitting—and before you think I’m some sort of NaNo rockstar or ringer, I’m a noob.

This is my first shot at NaNoWriMo and I still hunt & peck because I never learned to keyboard. My daily word count on for the three days prior to the wordsprint was 342, 0, and 564 respectively. I’ll be the first to admit that staring a screen, wondering how I’m going to crank out 1,667 words much less 50,000, makes me cringe. But writing my heart out for 20 minutes? Now that I can handle. Heck, it’s painless, it’s fun, and there’s no masochism involved in going back for more.

Word sprints, or micro-goals, are fantastic ways to tame the beast, to take NaNoWriMo and break it into something much easier to handle, to find your way to the finish line with some semblance of sanity, and create your NaNovel one quarter hour at a time. They are awesome at giving you a running start before NaNoWriMo runs you over; try them and see!

Eryn Lockhart is an independent romance author whose debut novel, After Midnight, was released earlier this year. She’s also an unrepentant chocoholic, bookworm, Rockband addict, and movie-hound.  You can find her online at her blog, on Goodreads, on Facebook, and at her homepage.

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