Thursday, November 18, 2010


As any athlete knows, momentum is the most unstoppable force in sports. The only way to stop it is if you get in your own way, start making stupid mistakes, or stop believing in yourself. —Rocco Mediate

I’ve learned how to keep momentum in my exercise program. Trite as it sounds, Nike had it right when they said, “Just do it.” I’ve adopted tactics to make just doing it easier—working out with the same people every day, being accountable to friends, and building gym time into my daily schedule. How do you keep momentum in writing?

1. Schedule. After more than eighteen years of writing, I’ve learned that if I don’t build writing time into my schedule, it won’t happen. Every week I set aside specific days and times to write. I also schedule specific projects for each time slot—just like I’d schedule a client. When I wake up in the morning, I write because it’s on my daily agenda.

2. No blank pages. I’ve learned to end each writing session in the middle of something—so that I never have to start with a blank page. National Novel Writing Month participant Elizabeth McKinney, a PR professional from Winston-Salem, had this advice: In the pre-NaNo kickoff with Winston-Salem Writers, we learned to stop at an exciting point in the plot, to leave yourself something to automatically begin writing when you sat down the next day.

3. Curiosity. Writing has to be a grand adventure of some sort or it gets boring. But what if you’re writing the literary equivalent of milquetoast? Imagine you’re a newbie who doesn’t know the answer. Get curious about what happens next. If that doesn’t work, skip to tip #4.

4. Conflict. Without conflict, writing gets boring—for both writers and readers. Even DVD manuals have built-in conflict. They are designed to present problems and then teach the reader how to overcome them. NaNoWriMo participant Nicole Gustasa, Monterey, California, solved her novel’s need for conflict this way: Whenever I was stumped for what was going to happen next, I'd throw ninjas at my characters. I was writing a wacky screwball-comedy spy-and-nerd-on-the-run farce, so it worked well. Your mileage may vary, although personally I think serious literary fiction could benefit from a few ninjas (and vice-versa). I don’t know if I’ll add ninjas to my NaNoWriMo novel, but I like the spirit of this idea. Create momentum for your work by adding conflict, surprise, or just something different. If you get stuck, ask yourself how you might move forward if you added a new villain, a poem, or the opposing point of view.

5. Deadline. Sometimes we maintain momentum because we fear the wrath of our editors. For NaNoWriMo participants, the looming November 30th deadline helps to keep their butts in their chairs. Deadlines work. If you don’t have a real deadline—and a boss ready to fire you if you don’t finish the project—create one. If you need someone to hold you accountable, hire a coach or enlist the help of a friend.

We write because we have something to say—something we believe will change the world or a small part of it. When we don’t finish our work, our words cannot help anyone. Momentum is the key to finishing the writing you start. Once you have momentum, you become an unstoppable force for good in the world. Now that’s a reason to just do it!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Get it Written

Don’t get it right. Just get it written. —James Thurber

I cannot think! I have too many words flowing in and out of my head. Since National Novel Writing Month began, I have faithfully written 1666 words a day. But don’t think the work has been easy for me. My inner editors are driving me nuts! The other day, one of the editors told me that my characters all sound alike. Another inner editor picked apart my book’s structure. A third told me that my protagonist sounded like a 30-year-old instead of a nine-year-old girl. I kept writing, but I was mighty tempted to stop and edit the book.

Here’s the trick: quiet your inner editors. Send the editors on a short vacation. Give the editors tickets to the movies. Invite  them to go to the kitchen and eat the rest of the Halloween candy. (Remember to speak kindly to your inner editors. Those of us who are editors can be quite sensitive.) Then, when the editorial voices are gone, write like crazy. Invite the editors back in March for National Novel Editing Month!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Walking Writer

Did you see the article, “Prolonged Sitting Boosts Bad Health”?
Yup, it’s true. People who sit a lot, even those of us 
with overactive imaginations, are at an increased 
risk for disease. So what’s a writer to do?

Get in your 10,000 steps a day. Most experts agree that 
walking an average of 10,000 steps (approximately 
five miles) each day can increase health and reduce 
weight. Walking also boosts brainpower. When you 
add more steps to your day, you will increase your 
ability to add words to the page. That’s good
news for those of us trying to write 50,000 words 
this month for National Novel Writing Month
Here are a few tips for reaching  your 10,000 steps:

1. Take one 30-minute walk a day. I’ve worn a 
pedometer off and on for more than five years. 
The only way I’ve found to regularly hit 10,000 
steps is to take a 30-minute walk.

2. Take a walking break each hour. Get up once 
an hour to walk to the water fountain, throw in 
a load of laundry, or make the beds. Make up 
tasks just to get out of your chair and stretch
your legs.

3. Do errands on foot. If you live in a pedestrian 
neighborhood, walk to the grocery store and 
mailbox. If you live or work in the country or a 
suburb, drive to a shopping area and walk 
between stores as much as possible. When you 
go to the mall or grocery store, always try to 
park far from the door.

Writers, as you madly scribble your 1700 words
a day, also try to amass 10,000 steps a day. In 
the end, you’ll be a healthier, happier, and 
more productive writer! Promise!