How To Stay On Track With Writing & Blogging

Vero @ Hochzillertal

Hey guys! I’m back from my holiday ski-trip with all bones intact, and can’t wait to start blogging again! I hope y’all had a great start into the new year, and that you’re gonna make 2013 your best year ever. Here’s to grabbing opportunity by the throat!

Shall we begin? :)

Let’s talk about staying on track with writing & blogging.

I love to improvise and try out new stuff, go against old wisdom and even do things that used to scare me just to test myself and refresh my sense of who I am. It’s a great way to make life more interesting and fun. Everyone should try it! But unfortunately, this is not the best way to achieve critical goals, like becoming a successful writer or blogger.

When it comes to pursuing the things we really want, we should leave as little as possible to chance.

I like to be flexible and unhindered by schedules in my every-day life, but when it comes to my writing, I’m as organized and focused as can be. I don’t allow the most important activity in my life to be governed by whims and moods and fleeting interests. I’m dead serious about this—I want to become a successful author, and a successful blogger on top of that (or below it, or wherever it wants to), and I don’t want to just cross my fingers and wish really hard for it to happen someday.

So here’s my plan to get ahead of chance.

 

WRITING FICTION

Outline, outline, outline!

When I sit down to write, I don’t find myself staring into a smoke-filled abyss with creepy howling sounds coming out of it, chewing my nails and getting blood-shot eyes from fighting with frustration.

I’m looking at mellow hills with colorful patches of ripe crops and orchards full of tasty fruit. There’s a winding path between them where I can drive my little orange tractor and harvest the fields one by one, while I whistle under my strawhat.

Each scene you write is like a crop. You’ve gotta work hard and break a sweat to harvest it, but the results will feed you and others for a long time. The trick with crops is you’ve gotta plant them first, and let them soak up some sun and ripen before you get any satisfactory results. That’s what good outlining does, it allows you to seed your ideas in advance, and allows them to grow while you work toward them bit by bit. Outlining offers you perspective, it shows you where you’re headed, so you don’t feel like jumping from a skyscraper into rush-hour traffic every time you sit down to write.

Without the constant worry of what you should write next, you can invest your imagination and creativity into making the scene you’re writing right now become the best scene you can possibly write.

 

Have Wordcount Goals

Nothing strict like how many words each scene or chapter should have, or even how many words your short story should have—not even if you’re writing it to a prescribed size. Wordcount goals work best when they’re loose and generous, but not so slack that they fall apart. Here’s what I mean.

Goals like “I want to write 1,000 words before bedtime”, “I’ll write 7,000 words this week” or even “I’ll write 50,000 words this month” are great wordcount goals. They are challenging and steep, but they are not impossible. They fulfill every criteria of a SMART goal—they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timed. That’s why NaNoWriMo works so well, and that’s why writers who have a daily or weekly wordcount target consistently write more and easier than those who rely on bouts of inspiration or the full moon to get their fingers moving.

Try to set a wordcount goal for yourself, and watch your productivity increase and your results become better each time. Just make sure it’s neither too low (no challenge) nor too high (no chance), and that you fine-tune it every once in a while to accommodate for life being life, and for your increased productivity which is guaranteed if you follow through.

 

BLOGGING

Set Up A Calendar

The best way to kill blogger’s block, and the best way to become one of those bloggers who seems to shake awesome posts out of their sleeves without breaking a sweat, is too plan ahead.

This is how I’ve done the A to Z challenge in 2012, and how I’m tackling it this year too — I make a calendar. That means I already know what I want to blog about every day of April and I can barely wait for it. I’ve put in some effort, and brainstormed several topics for every single letter, and all it took me was an afternoon and a bag of chips. Now, I haven’t actually written any of those posts yet, and I usually only write… one, maybe two posts in advance. Why? Because things happen, the world moves, the internet mutates, and I don’t want them to sound outdated and smell old and musty. I want to them to be crisp and immediate. But having that calendar makes sure I have something to blog about every single day, and don’t need to despair or get frustrated.

Also, brainstorming can bring up some really crazy ideas from the bottom of the barrel, things you can’t possibly come up with on a normal day. You should definitely try it!

 

Sign Up For A Challenge

There’s a blog challenge for everyone, and if you don’t like any of those and want something different, just invent one yourself. We’re creative people, it’s our job to come up with crazy stuff that keeps people on their toes.

Here are the most popular challenges to choose from:

Advantages of participating in blogging challenges:

  • they help you create a habit of writing content on a regular basis, which helps tremendously with your ficition writing as well
  • they turn your blog from a random thing that just exists in the ether of the web, into a vibrant, living thing full of potential
  • they bring you new readers and blogger friends, and help you integrate into a community
  • they provide accountability. You sign up, and dozens—if not hundreds—of other bloggers will check up on your progress and encourage you, and some of them will stay with you on the long run. ;)

Disadvantages of blogging challenges:

  • seriously?
  • just sign up already!

 

These are the basics of my strategy to keep on track with writing and blogging. What’s your basic strategy to get the most out of your creativity? What’s your battle plan?

 

Comments

  1. J.W. Alden says:

    Welcome back! Glad to see you didn’t leave any limbs behind. Looks like you had a blast. And of course you return with great advice, as usual. I agree, top to bottom.

    I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to do the A-Z Challenge again this year. A large part of me is going, “What are you saying? Of COURSE you’re doing it again. It was so good for you. And you have even more free time now than you had last year!” But there’s another tiny part that says, “What on Earth are you going to write about? And remember what the end of the month felt like?”

    In the end, it will come down to what my other writing goals are looking like. I’m sure the first voice will win out, but I’m looking forward to April with a nervous anticipation at all that blog time.

    • Vero says:

      Thanks, James! I hope you’ll do the A to Z challenge again, I really enjoyed your posts last year. But I also totally understand the energy investment issue… I will participate, but I doubt I’ll be able to get much writing work done that month…

  2. Yay! You’re back! Hope your vacation was singularly delightful! I’ll be running back to FB in a few to check out your photos.

    Terrific post, Vero. Way to come back swinging. I agree that setting daily word count targets is enormously helpful in keeping on track and writing every day. It’s so easy, when the goal is simply “write every day,” to decide that 200, 100 or 50 words is sufficient.

    I’ll be doing the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge again this year, too–I’m so pleased that you’re going to be there to share the crazy. Are you going with a theme again this year? Or…?

    • Vero says:

      Thanks, Kern! :D
      I’m not going for a theme in the A to Z this year, but there is a logic to my madness — there will be categories of posts, repeated each week, like Mondays are for How To’s and list posts, Tuesdays are for X vs. Y or Pros and Cons, Wednesdays are for debates… and so on. :)
      I can’t wait, and I’m so glad you’re participating again too!

  3. Elisa Nuckle says:

    Yeah I really need to get better about blogging consistently. I think the calendar part would help me, and writing at a specific time while blogging at another, so I can get my wordcount in without stressing. As it is, I have longterm wordcount goals but not daily, or even weekly, ones (like do 1000 words between 2-4pm, or something solid like that). Maybe if I did I’d be hitting my desired amount of words more often.

    • Vero says:

      Having wordcount goals and a decent schedule that allows flexibility will improve your output FOR SURE. How else can we accurately measure if we’ve made progress or not, whether we invested our time wisely enough, or whether we’d better spend more attention on one task over the others? Schedules don’t limit us, they can’t dictate what we create, but they’re very useful in showcasing where our discipline lacks and where we can improve. :)

      So basically, yeah, hoping for progress bad, schedules good. ;)

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