Do you get all starry-eyed when you finish a good book? Do you find yourself thinking . . . I would love to be able to do that, to make people feel like this . . . I could do it too, I know I have a great story in me! ?
If you do, you might be in terrible danger of . . . becoming an author. Ahhhh!
I used to feel that way. For many years, actually. And for a long time, it was just that: a feeling, a fleeting desire. As years passed, however, the feeling morphed into a sort of itch. It bothered me. Didn’t leave me alone. So one day I had no choice and—idea in hand—I sat down to write a first chapter. And lo and behold, I did it. I wrote one chapter! Yay!
Except that was it. The story didn’t go anywhere. Not so yay :(
Through the years, the itch attacked me few more times—enough for me to sit down again to write another first chapter and sometimes even a second. So much that today, the openings of several different books live stuffed in drawers and old folders around my house. Those stories never went anywhere either, especially not to “the end.” Still the need didn’t go away. It stayed and stayed and stayed.
One day, talking to my best friend—off hand, no big deal—I mentioned the itch. I think she saw the stars in my eyes, and knew—before I did—that I was meant to do this. Being the amazing friend that she is, she bought me a book she thought might inspire me. The book was On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. I read it, devoured it, really, and from then on everything changed. The reason: the book contained the most valuable piece of advice I’ve ever received as a writer. It was nothing magical, nothing earth shattering, just a simple morsel of common sense advice:
Set a goal.
That was it. Set a goal: a number of words to write every day—no matter what.
But hell, you might say, who wants to set goals? Goals suck!
I’ve heard a lot aspiring authors say, “But I can’t be creative on a schedule. I have to wait for my muse to strike.” But I tell you, this isn’t true. I tell you, you can whip your muse into shape, you can train her to be ready when you are. Because honestly, who’s the boss? You? Or her?
Of course, training takes time. Michael Jordan wasn’t born shooting hoops and nailing every single one, was he? Just like no one was born penning novels in their crib. You start with baby steps, until you learn to run and one day maybe fly. I started with a daily goal of 300 words a day. It doesn’t sounds like much, but I’ll be honest: it was very HARD to do it every day. But I did, and after one hundred days I had 30,000 words. Half a novel! Way more than those lonely chapters I used to write.
From there, I increased my goal little by little. I went to 500, then 700. Now I write 1000 words every day, and I don’t bat an eye. It is actually a manageable goal, even considering my busy life with a full-time job and growing family. 1000 words don’t intimidate me. They used to, but not anymore. My record is actually over 8000 words in an 8-hour stint.
I don’t say this to brag. If, a few years back someone had told me that I’d be able to do this, I would have laughed and told them: NO WAY! No, I say this to illustrate the fact that goal setting works and it can help turn that elusive muse into your own personal b*tch—not the other way around.
Post by me, Ingrid Seymour :)
Author of Young Adult and New Adult fiction
One commenter will receive a free ebook copy of THE GUYS ARE PROPS CLUB a fun and sexy new adult novel about two girls bent on breaking guys' hearts to avenge their previous heartache.
I'll pick a winner on Thursday morning. ALSO, all commenters are eligible for the September drawing for a KINDLE FIRE HD! So comment away.
*********For the month of September, Southern Magic celebrates their Readers Luncheon being held November 1 in Birmingham, AL. NYT bestselling author Sylvia Day is the keynote speaker. Come back and visit every day. Each post will be giving away a book or gift card! At the end of the blogfest, a grand prize winner of a Kindle Fire HD will be picked from everyone who comment during the month and be announced September 30.
To register for the luncheon, go to http://southernmagic.org/luncheon.html. Each attendee will receive a bag of books and author swag, sit at a table with one or two published authors, and opportunities to win baskets full of goodies.
[Image attribution: Photo by Celestine Chua, used under CC/No changes]