challenge

Give yourself permission to fail

If there’s one lesson in writing that I had to learn the hard way, it’s this one. When looking for ways to motivate oneself to complete a writing project, it’s common to set goals or deadlines. Daily word count goals, for example, can be a healthy way to establish a writing routine and a reasonable deadline to finish your novel by a certain date can help you stay on track. The tricky part comes when your deadlines are not reasonable, your goals too lofty, or when you simply fall behind and suddenly your target seems out of reach.

An important thing to remember when setting goals or deadlines is that life happens. It’s a good idea to leave yourself some wiggle room in your deadlines for when life events get in the way, or for those days you just don’t feel like living up to expectations. You’re going to stumble occasionally, and you’ll be better off planning to accommodate when it happens.

The problem with goals and deadlines comes when you adhere to them too strictly,  or when you are disappointed with yourself for not meeting them. Using them as a means to lift yourself up, to feel challenged and motivated and to count the milestones you pass is great and will have a positive effect, but the opposite can just as easily be true if you feel stressed, ashamed, or guilty for not meeting the goals you set yourself.

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Back when I was working on my trilogy, Crimson Winter, I had written the first book in three months by having a goal of writing 5 pages a day, 5 days a week, totalling 100 pages a month. This continued into book two, which I wrote in a little over four months as it was a longer book. Between book two and three, I went through a rough time in my life and book three took me somewhere between six months and a year. It was by far the longest and most complex of the three, but I was determined to keep myself to my writing goals, which proved to be a detriment. The pace I had set for book one and two was quite grueling, but since I had successfully completed the first two books so easily, I found myself questioning why I couldn’t do it with the third and feeling inadequate for not living up to my own expectations. As a result, I was very hard on myself, which only made me feel worse, which in turn made writing even more difficult. It was a negative feedback loop.

It took a moment of realization at 3 in the morning when I was trying to write on a midnight shift at the crummy part-time job I had taken to pay the bills for me to come to the conclusion that I had become my own worst enemy. By setting lofty unreachable goals and on top of that punishing myself for not living up to those goals, I was being unreasonably harsh on myself. From that moment on, I started giving myself permission to fail. I gave myself some leeway, some ‘get out of jail free cards’ for those times when I just didn’t feel like writing and I tried to remember that I liked writing, that it is a passion first and foremost, and not just a job. And I’ve had a much healthier relationship with myself and my writing ever since.

Thanks for reading. And speaking of reasonable goals, the #85K Challenge starts in just 10 days. The challenge is to write 85,000 words in three months, which works out just under 1000 words a day. Last year, Murandy and I finished the challenge with two weeks to spare, but this year, we’re going to be taking it slower as Murandy is a new mom (see, life happens.) We started the book we’re working on last month, and have been writing approximately 4000 words once a week and we’re going to continue that pace into the challenge to see how far that gets us. We’ll keep you posted on our progress, but if you’re interested in joining the challenge you can find all the information you need here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/85K.90days/15134760_641119006068066_5321651935076382972_n

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Join us!

It was last year around this time that Murandy Damodred and I heard about the #85k challenge. The goal: write 85,000 from January 1st to March 31st. We didn’t decide to participate right away, but it just so happened that we were about ready to start writing Uncharted near the end of December, so we held off the few days and started the challenge with everyone else. We hit 85,000 words with two weeks to spare and spent the next month finishing off our novel. Now, a year later, we’re pleased to announce that Uncharted will be released in the spring of 2017!

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This year the challenge is happening again. Murandy and I will be participating (less intensely due to the birth of Murandy’s son) but we would like to invite any writers that read this blog to consider joining in. We found the challenge to be just difficult enough that you have to work for it, but not as overwhelming as other writing challenges, like Nanowrimo, for example. 85,000 breaks down to a little under 1000 words a day, which is completely reasonable, but requires dedication and consistency. Sign up here!

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In other news, we have a local launch party for Owen Swain’s adult colouring book #tourdesketch Windsor on December 15th at Sho Art Spirit and Performance, 628 Monmouth Rd, Windsor. It’s open house-style, so we encourage you to stop by and colour with us if you’re in the area between 1 and 9 pm. The official launch of the book is at 7pm and Owen Swain will be on hand throughout the day to sign copies. RSVP here.

Also, on December 10th, I will be at Bizarre Bazaar at Villains Beastro Pub from 8pm to 1am with the entire Mirror World collection available for sale. This is a unique venue to buy books and local crafts, so I encourage you to check it out if you happen to be within driving distance to downtown Windsor. RSVP here.

Bringing it back full circle, here’s the blurb about Uncharted by myself and Murandy Damodred:

There are no coincidences…

Fated to be a Priestess of Saegard, Meredith dreams of leading a normal life with a family and a home of her own, something she’ll never have if she swears her life to the Order.  A chance encounter with a stranger in the sacred Celestial Chamber sends her previously well-ordered life into a tailspin of adventure and mayhem as she is blamed for the theft of a legendary artifact. Now a fugitive, Meredith must join forces with Captain Reginald Lawrence, the son of the man who initially brought her to the Temple, and his enigmatic business partner,  the charming yet at times infuriating, Grey Rhodes, to find the Celestial Bowl and clear her name. From the cosmopolitan capital of Saegard to the coast of Ismera and back again, Meredith’s journey will reveal the true nature of her past, present, and ultimately, her future.

We hit our goal!

Now let’s pass it.

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#85K Challenge. 85,000 words in 90 Days.  On January 1st 2016 Murandy and I started writing our next novel,  #Uncharted. Using the challenge as motivation to write faster, better, and as often as possible we started strong with nearly half the challenge done at the end if the first month. The second month we kept a good pace, but coming up on the end of February I went in for surgery and spent the next few weeks recovering.

Whether it was the two weeks off course or the fact that we didn’t feel the pressure anymore after having gotten so far ahead of ourselves, we certainly slowed down in month three, though we kept up with writing a few thousand words every couple of days and still managed to complete the challenge with two weeks left until the deadline.

But we’re not satisfied with that anymore. Now that we’ve reached Chapter 30 of a possible 35, we want to finish the first draft as soon as we can manage it. Optimally by the end of March, the original last day of the challenge.

Think we can do it?