Welcome to 2024! Wishing you a very happy new year, filled with joy, good health, and success in all your endeavors.
Welcome to 2024! Wishing you a very happy new year, filled with joy, good health, and success in all your endeavors.
I gave up making resolutions years ago, but I firmly believe in the power of goal setting, and in this case, setting your writing goals for the new year. Resolutions tend to get forgotten or dropped within weeks. Goals, however, if made correctly, can carry you through the year. What do you want to achieve in 2024?
Start by assessing where you are now. How far did you get with your writing goals this year? Were the goals you set realistic? Manageable? Or did you set yourself up for failure by overloading your schedule? Make note of what worked and what did not. Write things down, in a notebook or your planner or the app of your choosing. Just make sure you track your progress somewhere where it’s easy to go back and review over the year.
Next, think about where you’d like to go. For this stage, think big. Don’t limit yourself to what you want to achieve in a year, but envision a career path and the things you’d like to do along the way. It might stretch five years out or even ten. If you’ve done this before, revisit your previous ambitions and see if you still feel the same. Goals and dreams can alter as you move through your career. Don’t hold yourself to a plan simply because you drew it up three years ago. Let yourself be flexible.
Once you have the big picture down, consider what it will take to get from where you are currently to the next point on your career path. Focus on steps that are within your control. For instance, you night want to get an agent, but the timeline for that isn’t entirely up to you. Instead, making the goal to work toward getting an agent. Set a timeline based on the steps you will take: writing a query letter, making a submissions list, sending out queries in batches.
Even though we are looking at New Year’s goal setting, don’t tie yourself to the one-year schedule. If your goal is to write the first draft of a new project, you might take a year, but you might take more or less than that. Base your writing goals on your own work habits. Maybe you write daily, in which case a goal of 1,000 words per day might get you a draft by the start of April. 500 words per day result in a six-month draft. But if you’re a weekend writer, those same drafts might take a year or two. Don’t set your writing goals according to someone else’s idea of how you should work (unless, of course, you’re working to deadlines).
I find setting a variety of goals really helpful. One major project might stretch for the year, while smaller ones can be completed in a month or a quarter, giving me a sense of accomplishment that motivates me through the year. Not every goal should start January 1st, either. You might have additional stages that kick in come spring or summer. It could be the next stage of an earlier goal, research you plan to focus on during a vacation, or something completely new.
Consider all the steps you need to take to achieve your goals. Break the process down as far as you can go. It’s not enough to say writing 500 words every day will net a draft in six months. When do you plan to write? Where? If you miss a day, how do you plan to make up those words? Will you write on holidays?
Next, determine what will prompt you to work toward your goal. Do you need an accountability buddy? To set calendar reminders? Are you the type of person who works well if there’s a reward? Maybe you’ll treat yourself to writing at your favorite café once a week or celebrate with dinner out once you’ve finally hit send on that first batch of query letters.
Be sure to check in on your progress with your goals as the year goes by. Every quarter, or even monthly, if you have fast-moving goals, take a moment to review your plan. How are you doing? Do you need to change anything to make your plan work more smoothly? Have circumstances cropped up that require you to reconsider the systems you’ve set in place? Your writing goals are yours; only you can determine if they’re still what you want. Checking in gives you the chance to make sure you’re heading down the correct path.
Take the next few days to consider what you want your writing life to look like in 2024. And of course these tips for goal planning work for goals of all kinds. If you enjoy reading self-help books, I’m a fan of The 12-Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lexington, mostly for the way they discuss breaking down goals and using smaller chunks of time to maintain momentum during the year. There’s also a version geared toward writing goals: The 12-Week Year for Writers by A. Trevor Thrall, Brian P. Moran, and Michael Lexington. I haven’t had a chance to read the latter yet, but it’s on my TBR and I’m interested to see how they adapt the concept for writing projects.
Have you already started setting writing goals for 2024? Are you excited for the new year?
Wishing a very merry Christmas to all who celebrate, and a peaceful day filled with love and joy to everyone.
Welcome to this year’s December Writing Challenge. Those of you familiar with the challenge from past years already know how this works, but for newcomers, or for anyone looking for a refresher, here’s a quick rundown on how to tackle the challenge. But first, why should you participate?
December can be a crazy month. The holiday season means days crowded with shopping, travel, entertaining, and a pretty full social calendar. But the end of the year can also bring with it very busy work schedules, with deadlines looming or year-end reconciliation of one type or another. December also tends to be the month when we plan for the new year, setting goals or resolutions. This type of chaos can spell the end of dedicated writing time for anyone juggling a writing project along with a day job and a personal life. So, each year, I set this challenge. I encourage writers to make their writing a priority and keep up with their writing practice, even for a few minutes each day.
The rules for the December Writing Challenge are simple. You can adapt them as you see fit, to work with your personal goals and schedule. Writers already working professionally, who have a deadline, might want to ramp up the challenge to meet their goals. Newer writers can feel free to use the challenge as is in order to keep up their momentum through this busy time of year. If you’re coming off of NaNoWriMo, the challenge can be an excellent way to finish up that first draft if you’re looking to take it from 50,000 words to something more publishable. Whatever your goal, the challenge can help you push forward.
1. Write daily. Butt in chair, hands on the keyboard; curled on the couch with a pen and notebook; sitting at your favorite cafe. Wherever you prefer, using whatever medium works for you. But aim to spend at least a few minutes writing every day. I do recommend you try for half an hour, but if you can only manage 15 minutes, call that a win.
2. Ignore word counts or page goals, unless you need to hit a deadline of some sort. This challenge is not about finishing a project or being super productive. You just want to keep your hand in the game so, come January when you have a New Year’s resolution regarding your writing, you can dive right in. The challenge helps keep your writing muscles limber through the holiday season.
3. Write what you want. Fiction, nonfiction, poetry. Work on a novel, a memoir, some essays or short stories. Tackle one project all month long, or write something different every day. Feel free to play or experiment. Stretch your imagination. Whatever keeps you writing.
And that’s it. Those are the basic rules for the challenge. I will say that, regarding that first rule, daily writing is the goal, but it’s flexible. Don’t look at that and get discouraged.
Officially, I give you two free days to use as needed. Swamped getting the house ready plus cooking for incoming guests? A little hung over following your office holiday party? Use a free day. Or don’t. But keep in mind, the challenge should work for you, not against you. So, don’t let it add to your stress if you only end up writing a few days a week.
If you can carve out a bit of time each morning before you start your day, terrific. But we all know how difficult that can be, particularly if you share your house with people vying for your attention. So, a few tips for ways to make writing your priority.
1. Tell people you’re participating in the challenge and ask them to help you keep to your writing time. Put on a literal writing hat (tiara? mouse ears?) when you’re working at home, so your family knows to give you your little window of quiet.
2. Schedule writing dates for yourself, either alone or with an accountability partner. Mark them on your calendar, set a reminder, and go write. Keep that appointment the same as you would a dentist appointment.
3. Keep a notebook and pen on you at all times. Write in the car when you’re waiting in the carpool pickup or the Starbucks drive-thru. Jot notes in the waiting room at the doctor or while getting an oil change.
4. Actually leave your desk during your lunch break, and go work on your own writing instead of working through the meal.
5. Break your daily writing into smaller chunks, especially if you need to hit a deadline or other goal. Several small writing windows instead of one long one might not be ideal, but it’s better than not writing at all for want of a long enough block of free time.
These are just a few ideas to get you going, However you approach the December Writing Challenge, have fun with it. Good luck, and happy writing!
How often do you promise yourself that you will keep up your writing during the holiday season, only to go weeks without a word? December brings chaos, with family and shopping and travel, never mind end-of-year work obligations. I understand how busy it can be, and how writing can take a back seat. Hence my annual December Writing Challenge.
Each year, I encourage writers to prioritize their writing during the month of December. The idea centers on maintaining your momentum, whether you are finishing up a month of frantic work for NaNoWriMo, or are just plugging along on a work-in-progress. Take a little time to write each day. Even fifteen minutes counts. Unless you’re on deadline, don’t fret over word counts or progress made. Simply show up and keep your writing muscles limber.
My own schedule looks crazy this year, but I plan to show up here every few days with some cheerleading for anyone taking the challenge, starting with a full post of tips tomorrow to kick things off. I’ll post on Twitter, Instagram, etc., more frequently, so be sure to follow me for extra encouragement.
Please note: I do not mean to say that a writer has to write every day under normal circumstances. But for this particular challenge, that’s part of the fun. When life cranks things up to eleven, can you find a way to make your goals a priority?
I hope to see many of you join in the challenge. Give a wave here or on socials if you’re participating. It’s always wonderful to see who has decided to play along, and how they progress. Happy writing!
I’m delighted to announce the launch of my online course, Master the Art of the Synopsis. Designed for writers struggling to craft a compelling synopsis, the class divides the process into manageable stages. It expands upon the course I’ve taught for years, both in person and virtually, and adds supplemental materials including a workbook and sample synopses. Students will have lifetime access and be able to work through the units at their own pace.
After spending months–or years–writing a novel, writers often hate having to tackle a synopsis. How do you distill an entire book down to a few pages, or even paragraphs? But don’t let a sense of overwhelm stall your submission process. If you or someone you know needs to polish up those synopsis-writing skills, check out the course today.
Wishing you all the best as we transition into 2023. The last few years have been difficult, so I hesitate to weigh this new year down with too many expectations. But when in doubt, choose optimism. Health and happiness to you in this holiday season.
Wishing a very merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate, and a happy, healthy holiday season to all.
Let’s write! Today marks the official start of this year’s December Writing Challenge. But what does that mean?
December might well be the busiest month of the year. Stuffed with holidays that require shopping, cooking, travel, and entertaining. That end-of-the-year push to finish up everything your job demands. How can you think of taking time to write? But my answer is, how can you not?
Maybe writing is your job already, and you have a deadline on the horizon. Or perhaps you’re still working to get published. Either way, if writing is important to you, make it a top priority. You don’t need to devote hours each day to putting words on the page, but do set aside a small block of time for your work-in-progress or some writing sprints or a bit of literary playtime. You will keep your creative muscles limber through the holiday season, ready to pounce on those new year’s goals. Plus your friends and family will see, if they don’t already, that writing is a vital part of your life.
Full details for how to tackle the December Writing Challenge in my previous post. I’ll be cheering you on throughout the month, both here and on various social media platforms. You can find me @NepheleTempest on Twitter, Instagram, Mastodon, and Hive.
So pull out your calendar and set some writing dates for yourself. Maybe pick up a new notebook so you can jot down words on the fly. However you commit to the challenge, start by commiting to yourself. Happy writing!
Are you ready for the December Writing Challenge? Each year, I challenge writers to make their writing a priority, despite the busy nature of the month. Between the holiday season and year-end wrap ups, it’s very easy to let your writing time slide, especially if you have not yet made the jump to professional writer. But a writer is someone who writes, not someone who gets paid to do so. And so I challenge you to keep writing during the craziness of December, no matter where you are in your career, even if you only manage to steal a little time each day.
It might sound insane to try to write with any set schedule in December of all months, but there is a method to my madness. First of all, many writers spend November participating in NaNoWriMo. That’s a month-long, very intense attempt to produce 50,000 words. And while it’s tempting to take time off after that sort of slog, I say make the most of the momentum you’ve built up. Your brain becomes accustomed to producing words after 30 days of demanding output. But whether you’ve been writing all month or just on your normal schedule, keep going. Don’t allow your creative muscles to grow flabby. A writing challenge offers a little bit of a framework to help.
The second reason to write through the month of December comes in January, when you’re staring down a brand new year and thinking about your writing goals. Whatever you wish to achieve in 2023, you’ll have a head start if you’re already in the habit of writing regularly. Set your goals and dive in, no need to get yourself back up to speed or to flex rusty skills. Future you will definitely thank present you for putting in some desk time over the holidays.
The December Writing Challenge hinges on a few very simple rules.
There are always people demanding your time and attention, especially during the holidays, so one tip I have is to tell your family and friends that you’re participating in this challenge. Let them know you want their support. Ask them to honor your commitment to your writing by leaving you alone when you have a scheduled writing session (emergencies aside, of course).
Next tip: really schedule that time to write. Look at your calendar at the start of each week and pick a time slot for your writing. Consider it an appointment or date with yourself. Block it out, complete with a reminder/notification, and stick to it the way you would a meeting or trip to the dentist.
If you have writer friends in your neighborhood, set up a buddy system. Meet for a writing date once a week at your favorite coffee shop or the library. If you’re avoiding public places, set up a joint writing time on Zoom. Cheer each other on while you keep each other accountable.
Keep your writing portable and take advantage of downtime when you’re out and about. If you have a notebook and pen in your bag/car/office, you’ll be more inclined to jot down some words over your lunch break or in the doctor’s waiting room or sitting in the pickup line at your kids’ school.
Break your writing up if you can’t fit a full session one day. Try writing for 15 minutes over your morning coffee and again during lunch, if that’s the only time you have. The important thing is to get a few words down and to train your creative mind to show up when you call.
Feel free to set yourself some additional mini challenges, especially if you’re concerned about what to write every day. Maybe you fear writer’s block or think you won’t be able to get going on your WIP in a small window of time, or perhaps you’re between projects and don’t know where to start. Take an hour before the beginning of the month to set yourself a few writing prompts/challenges you can fall back on when you need ideas or a little extra motivation to write. Make them fun or silly or weird—whatever will make you more likely to sit down and write for a while.
A few potential prompts:
Whatever else you have going on this month, try to remember what you love about writing, what started you down this path in the first place. A busy schedule combined with the frustration of a plot that’s not cooperating or perhaps looming deadlines can make writing feel more like work and less like something you love to do. And while writing can be work, it should also have an element of joy to it. It’s not something you should do if you hate the process unreservedly. So take a few moments to embrace the joyful aspects of writing. Allow yourself to play with it. Appreciate the rhythms of a well-crafted sentence. Admire a deft description. Pat yourself on the back over that witty dialogue. Be proud of your writing accomplishments, at every stage of your journey.
I’ll ask again: Are you ready to write? Ready for a bit of a challenge? Prioritize your writing this December. Remember what makes it important to you, and why you love it.
We kick off the challenge on December 1st, here and on various social media platforms. I look forward to hearing how your challenge progresses. Happy writing!