Some of this might seem familiar to many of you for a reason, but please bear with me.

From an older post.
As I grow older, time seems to move by at warp speed. It seems as though January was only weeks ago. I had goals and plans and, of course, I modified many of them. While I seldom make detailed goals lists, I do have goals. I need them as much as I need flexibility.

I should have two books completed by the end of the year. The second one will probably need editing, but then I’ll have something to work on into 2007. (Not a misprint. I'm making a point, I hope.)

In 2006 I started a new book and completed it. I’m working on another one. Several false starts resulted in partials that remain partials , for now. (I finished two of those and created more partials.)

With Thanksgiving a recent memory, I’m ready to start decorating for Christmas. This year I’ll have a head start because I never took the tree apart to put it back into its box.

It is now 2009 and Halloween is around the corner, barely. I still have leftover goals, though not the goals above. I have completed books and acquired rejections since 2007, but I still have some projects hanging over my head, different ones, of course.

What can you do when you can’t make yourself write?

1.Form a group based on goal setting. Set a regular time to report accomplishments . This isn’t about critiquing. It’s a time to be accountable. You don’t need to beat yourself up if you fall short of your goals, but reporting to others can motivate you to keep working, even if you don’t love what you’ve written.

2. That brings me to activities like the Book in a Month that motivates writers once a year. You might do your own version within your chapter or with a group you organize or join.

You can start an online group at Yahoo or somewhere else that works for you. Such an activity can let you get the story down if you don’t worry about editing, and if you give yourself permission to write crap. You might have a lot of telling now that you can go back and refine later. There might be scenes represented by a few sentences to be fleshed out later. If you could average as much as fifty pages a week, you’d have a good portion of a book done. Maybe you can average twenty -five pages a week. Set a goal you can reasonably meet and adjust as you need to. If you’re a good typist or very motivated and disciplined you could do more, even complete a short contemporary novel.

3. You might have one writer who exchanges emails or calls with you to report to each other. Accountability helps some of us.

4. If you have no partner you’ll need to depend on yourself. Only you know how much time you can make or steal to write. If you can’t set aside large blocks of time, set short ones. If you really want to finish a book you might not have time to edit it as you go along. Keep in mind that a first draft/rough draft means rough. Even if you write tight and clean, you can go back and add details.

5. Keep in mind that if you want to write for a living, treat it like a job. If it’s a hobby, you can treat it like one. People spend lots of time with their hobbies. Some of us even spend less time writing than we do on our hobbies. Guilty? What do you plan to do about that?

6. While I’m so not good with things like time sheets, even I can count pages or words. If you write five pages a week, that’s five you didn’t have before.

7. Consider that if you edit as you go along, you might end up cutting pages you worked hard to perfect.

Organized people plot and organize and might have no scenes to cut. Those people probably don’t need suggestions from those of us who aren’t..

I do recommend learning something about your characters before you move into a serious draft. There are many methods for a writer to get inside the heads of characters.

Read about writing. There almost as many websites with articles as there are published writers. Some of them don’t write articles on writing and some of the unpublished in our midst do.


  1. Pamela Varnado // October 21, 2009 at 3:39 PM  

    I've achieved a lot through goal setting. Right now, I doing a 1000 words a day on my current novel. If I keep it up, which I will, I should be done with the book by the end of the month.

  2. Mary Marvella // October 21, 2009 at 4:02 PM  

    Go, Pam!

  3. Barbara Monajem // October 21, 2009 at 7:26 PM  

    I find accountability very helpful. The GRW writing challenges really worked for me. They forced me to make writing top priority.

  4. Scarlet Pumpernickel // October 21, 2009 at 7:41 PM  

    Pam, you rock girl! Mary, I heard that whip crack over my head! Barbara, GRW has that effect, great group. I think we need to start our own goal group for the pink fuzzies and anyone else who wants to take part! We can report weekly on the blog. What do you think?

  5. Mary Marvella // October 21, 2009 at 9:41 PM  

    Thanks for the comment, Barbara.

  6. Autumn Jordon // October 21, 2009 at 10:11 PM  

    Mary, Reflecting back on a pass post was inspiring. I'm a goal setter too. I'm a little behind, but I plan to catch up soon. A lot of good advice. WINK


  7. Mary Marvella // October 21, 2009 at 10:51 PM  

    Thanks for the comments, Autumn. I'm not good with goals but I need to remember the ones I met as well as the ones I didn't.

  8. Beth Trissel // October 21, 2009 at 11:03 PM  

    This post is a good reminder for me. I've set the goal of three pages a day. Sometimes more, sometimes less. But plugging away on my WIP.

  9. Mary Marvella // October 21, 2009 at 11:13 PM  

    Beth, sometimes we fall short of our goals and it's easy to just let the goals slide away. We need to make ourselves get back on the goals wagon and reset them.

  10. Anonymous // October 22, 2009 at 11:18 AM  

    Lots of good advise here, Mary. Goals are important and so is keeping them but sometimes life gets in the way!

  11. Mary Marvella // October 22, 2009 at 4:46 PM  

    Life does indeed get in the way. Then we need to wade through to the other side, a day later, a month later.

  12. Judy // October 22, 2009 at 5:24 PM  

    Good post, Mary! Keeping up the pace, letting other things slide is difficult at times, but I find by setting a schedule to write in the morning and not allowing anything to interrupt that time is very helpful because I can keep the story in my mind and get into the characters better. Thanks for the reminders...

  13. Joanne // October 22, 2009 at 7:30 PM  

    Great post, Mary. Goal-setting is the key. And Pam, wow! 1000 words a day is fantastic.

  14. Alice Anderson // October 23, 2009 at 4:47 PM  

    I find that what works best for me is timed writing. I literally set a timer for 10, 20, or 30 minutes and then go at it. For some reason that timer puts me in the zone.

    I turn off the internet. Such a distraction for someone like me.

    I keep track of how many words I've written. Don't know where I picked up this tip, but every 10 minutes or so, I do a word count check and write down how many words I've added. Seeing those numbers works more than seeing words on the page.

    I sprint. I get together in a chatroom or on IM (YIM me at aliceranderson if you want to try it) with other writers and we do timed writing together and see who can get the most done. This offers support, and yes, a bit of competition.

    Start the day with your WIP open.

    Write down tomorrow's goal today. Is tomorrow's goal to finish the chapter? Leave yourself a little note on your keyboard. Or on the bathroom mirror. Wherever you'll be sure to see early tomorrow morning. Put yourself in the mindset of writing.

    Find a support group. There are many great groups online, so no need to start your own if you don't want to. Find writers who will cheer you on, even when you fail.