Friday, February 22, 2013

Formula for Finishing

I'm about midway through the editing phase of my novel, which means that I'm very close to actually finishing it. This is a sort of personal victory, since I have a well-established habit of starting projects and then abandoning them after a week or two. This time, however, I had a little trick to keep me going.

I had read on one of my message boards about a few people who had taken a "five hundred words a day" pledge to keep them writing. When I started this novel, I decided to try a form of that pledge: I would commit to writing five hundred words a day, four days a week. This produced a 50,000 word first draft in six months. Now that I'm in the editing phase, where I'm correcting work rather than producing new text, I've altered my goal to one hour of editing per day, four days a week.

I think there are a couple of reasons why this has worked so well for me. First, setting a daily word count goal lets you declare each day's work as an accomplishment. Without a daily goal, each day's work is a seemingly insignificant step taken toward a large manuscript. With a daily goal, each day's work is its own accomplishment. Instead of saying "I'm one percent closer to finishing the first draft", I can say "I'm one hundred percent done with today's writing."

Also, limiting the amount of time I devote to the novel each week leaves plenty of time to indulge in other spur-of-the-moment projects. I can pursue whatever fancy has seized my interest this week without abandoning progress on the novel. This way, I don't feel like I'm imprisoned inside the novel for the duration.

I've been wondering whether a similar strategy might help me to finish other projects as well. Possibly I might actually finish writing a computer game if I set a goal of four hours a week of development time. This little habit might lead me to much greater personal productivity.