You are ready to go. You have always wanted to write a novel and can’t wait to get started. You will be producing at least eighty thousand carefully crafted words. It is an enormous challenge and we all have busy lives. That is why so many people start to write a novel but never finish.
Now for some very simple mathematics. Write down your goal and decide how many words you might be able to write each week. Make it realistic, remembering that your family and job may still take up much of your time. Don’t aim to go without sleep, sacrifice exercise or neglect your loved ones.
Work out how long it will you take to reach your goal. That is your finish line, but the race is long and slow and can be frustrating. How can you stay motivated for that length of time?
Think about an Olympic marathon. The athletes run for forty-two kilometres, which is an incredible achievement. All the competitors start enthusiastically, but it isn’t long before a few people drop out of the race. Then, as time goes on, the field spreads out and more athletes drop out, injured or exhausted. When the winner finally enters the arena, there is a huge cheer from the crowd. It is a wonderful moment when the victor reaches the finish line.
Your journey to write a novel is just like that. You are determined to reach the finish line and you know that your friends and family will be cheering you on right to the end. But how can you keep going every day?
Mini-goals help to maintain your motivation
The best way to motivate yourself is to have mini-goals. Divide your novel into milestones of about five thousand words each. Every time you reach a mini-goal, celebrate that achievement and remember that you are one step closer to the end.
When you have achieved your first mini-goal, you will be keen to reach your second one. In fact, each time you reach a mini-goal you will be more motivated to reach the next one.
Have you ever tried the sport of orienteering? Enthusiasts follow a set course in the countryside with various checkpoints, using a map and compass to help them. They know that eventually they will reach the finish line, but they always need to focus on finding each checkpoint. They never focus on the ultimate goal.
When you have mini-goals, then writing your novel will feel like an orienteering course instead of a marathon. You will follow your plan and mark-off each mini-goal as you come to it and give yourself a pat on the back. Then you can turn your thoughts to meeting the next checkpoint, and then the next one.
Your choice of mini-goals is entirely your decision. It doesn’t have to be five thousand words. You might choose smaller or larger increments. You might also use chapters.
How to celebrate your mini-goals
Achieving a mini-goal can give you so much pleasure that it can be enough of a celebration all by itself. It’s like winning an Olympic gold medal: nothing else is needed to give you a great sense of satisfaction. But you should also take the time to have a celebration, because you deserve it and it will help you live life to the full.
How can you celebrate? Once upon a time if I felt I deserved a reward my first thought would be something associated with food. But there are hundreds of other ways to celebrate. You could go for a walk in a beautiful park or have coffee at a great cafe. You could buy a book or magazine, see a movie, watch your favourite TV series, go to the beach, visit an art gallery, attend a concert or buy something for your house.
Try to keep your focus on the next mini-goal, and before you know it the end will be in sight.