One of my favorite writing tools is a datebook. The one I have right now has teal, round flowers on both covers and the pages contain bright colors. I think it might have been designed with teenage or college age young women in mind because of the colors and that there are pages in the front for a school schedule. But I’ve also noticed that all of the datebooks without those schedule pages have single color on the covers, black and white pages, and are just plain boring. I guess the choice is really up to personal preference. I like the bright colors, and I don’t mind the extra pages.
My datebook serves a couple of purposes, but the most important is that it keeps track of my word count.
I’ve always had a difficult time staying motivated when I’m working on a novel. I’d love to write a few thousand words every night, finishing an eighty thousand word novel in a few months. The reality of my life is that there are nights when I don’t write at all, and I consider myself lucky when I manage to get a few hundred words onto the page. My full time job takes up the majority of my day. After the commute to and from, time spent with family, and eating dinner, I’m lucky to have forty-five minutes to myself at night. Then the internet and television often win out in the battle for my attention. It’s easier to let my mind relax into the quietness of watching a friend’s vlog online or a rerun of a sitcom on television.
So I record my word count in my datebook whenever I finish writing for the day. Usually I grab a pen from the plastic mug on my desk and jot down the title of the work and the total word count. That’s it.
Keeping track of my word count this way keeps me motivated.
I often find myself struggling with my novel, trying to coax myself to keep writing even though I hate this scene, even though my writing in awful, and even though the reruns on television are so much more interesting. Doubt chimes into the conversation, saying that I’m never going to finish this novel. I’ve been working on it for so long. I don’t work on it every day like I should. And when I do work on it, I’m not breaking four hundred words a night. That doesn’t get first drafts written. That doesn’t get novels anywhere close to where they can be sent out to agents.
Then I look through my datebook. I see where my word count was at the beginning of January. And then, as I flip the pages, I see how it increases. It doesn’t grow by leaps and bounds in a week. But there is definite progress. I’m getting somewhere with my novel even if it doesn’t feel like I am.
Let me give you an example. I started “King’s Shadow” in November and wrote about 30,000 month in that month. Then in December, it seemed to stall. I began recording the word count on January 1st.
Jan. 1: 47,109
Jan. 29: 55,335
Feb. 10: 57,040
Feb. 28: 63,608
Mar. 7: 64,961
Apr. 7: 69,101
Apr. 13: 69,869
Apr. 28: 70,498
Those days were by no means the only days I wrote, but that gives you an idea about how progress over a few months looks. I can see the end of this novel. I know I just need to write another ten thousand words or so. And then I’ll be done. I’ll be done with the hardest part: figuring out exactly what I’m doing. The fun will start next, revising and making it polished. But I first needed to get the rough draft done.
How do you keep yourself motivated? Do you have any tricks of the trade? Tell me about them in the comments section below.