Coach.me – Writing 20,000 Words In 30 Days

Just over a month ago, I decided that if I didn’t make some sort of regular commitment to writing, I was never, EVER going to see any of the stories in my head make it down onto paper. Although I completed a novel last year, just before I gave birth to my daughter, since then I have hardly written a thing. I’ve thought a lot about writing, but it just hasn’t happened.

I tend to think that if I don’t have a block of several quiet hours to myself, or a day where I know I’m going to be undisturbed, then I really can’t sit down and write anything of any quality. The trouble is, how often does anyone get a day where they know they can sit and write and not be disturbed? And even when that day comes… do you ever just sit down and write??

I knew I needed a different approach. I wanted to make writing more of a ‘normal’ part of my day. After all, success is a daily habit, right?

A long time ago I had a play with an app called Lift, which encourages you to check in each day when you do something you want to do, e.g. drink 5 glasses of water. Since then it has evolved into something called Coach.me, and not only does it record all your daily check-ins for thousands of goals (or any other goal you care to think up), but it also has real, actual, human coaches that you can sign up with to make sure you’re doing your bit.

It costs $14.99 a week to hire a coach, and given our dreadful exchange rate at the moment, that is a fair amount of money each month if you’re not earning. But here’s the thing: a real life coach would cost you much more than that. And even a real life coach might get a little fed up if you wanted to talk to them EVERY SINGLE DAY.

So I thought, what the hell, accountability is the ONE thing that makes a huge difference for people who are trying to achieve goals, I’ll give it a go.

I signed up with a coach called Jen Anderson. There were several writing coaches, but I really liked the writing on her blog – she doesn’t subscribe to the pervasive style of brimming-with-regret fiction that I see so much of these days, and can’t bear to read. Hurrah!

We got going by setting a goal, and thinking about what I wanted to achieve. I already had a project in mind, which I’d made a very brief start on, so we settled on 15 minutes of writing a day, and off we went.

Now. I wasn’t sure how useful 15 minutes of writing would actually be, but I knew that it would do one thing – it would help build a habit. Regardless of how long I wrote for, it was the actual need to sit down and do it that I wanted to generate. Like brushing your teeth, or eating breakfast.

Well, to get straight to the point, I’m now 39 days in and it has gone brilliantly. Not only have I written every day except the four days I had a horrendous stomach bug (the perils of having school-age children), but I also managed 20,000 words in the first 30 days.

Let me just say that again: 20,000 words in 30 days.

And not once did I take a day out to just sit and write, or spend an afternoon cleverly crafting plot lines, or even ignore my family for three solid hours while I beavered away on the computer  hidden in an upstairs room.

Instead I snatched 15 minutes when I could, usually when my daughter napped, but during school holidays it tends to be the first 15 minutes after they are all in bed.

As anyone who has ever finished a book of any length can tell you, getting that first draft down and complete is the hardest part. Editing is positively sublime in comparison. I’m estimating the project I’m working on at the moment will be about 70,000 words, so if I carry on at the same sort of rate, my first draft will be finished by about the end of January and then the fun can really begin!

August Writing Summary

I’ve never been good at regular writing. I tend to write in sporadic bursts and then have long gaps between them. However, I’ve read so much about the importance of regular writing, and I have to admit that it’s key to finally getting a novel finished, so I’ve been making an effort to write more frequently (rather than doing thousands of words over a few days and then nothing for months).

I’ve already mentioned a website I’m using called 750words.com, which has been great for my motivation. I’ve written at least 750 words, every day, for 15 days in a row. So, I thought I’d post a monthly writing summary of my word count and how the month went. Here’s August:

Word counts:
18.08.15     2530
19.08.15     1185
20.08.15     1016
21.08.15     2089
22.08.15     1085
23.08.15     1068
24.08.15     1257
25.08.15     1143
26.08.15     768
27.08.15     758
28.08.15     806
29.08.15    977
30.08.15     763
31.08.15     854

You can see that my count has come down after the first flush of enthusiasm. I’ve also had less time over the last week to write, which makes a difference. However, what has been eye-opening is that on the days when I have had no inclination at all to write anything, days when I would normally have avoided writing because I didn’t think I had the right ‘spark’ necessary for generating decent work, I’ve still managed to reach the minimum word count.

And I’m really pleased with that – it means that my novel has steadily grown and the story has gradually unfolded, even if on some of those days it’s really been just a case of chucking anything down to make sure I’ve met my goal. When I return for editing it will be interesting to see if there is a marked difference in quality between days.

Overall, my progress now stands at 18,311 words, which I’m really pleased with, as I’m (ambitiously!) aiming to enter the first 5,000 words in the Mslexia Women’s Novel Competition, which closes on 21st September.

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