Sunday, April 28, 2013

Stuff I've Learned: Bite-Size Goals

Someone once compared writing a novel to eating an elephant.  You do it bite by bite.  Wise words indeed, and the focus of this week's Stuff I've Learned post:

Set Bite-Size Goals

If I sit down and say, "Today I will make this book awesome," I'll freeze and get zero done.  But if I sit down and say, "In the next hour, I'll work on making the descriptions of the setting in scene two of chapter three more vivid," I can do that.

And if I do it again and again and again, eventually the book's done.

One of things that I've learned is to estimate how big a bite is for me.  I'm not always right.  It's not an exact science.  But I have a better idea of it now than I did when I started, and it's a huge help.

Your bite size is a personal thing.  Not everyone can accomplish the same amount in a day or a single writing session.  Some writers aim for 1,000 words a day.  I know a few (very few) who can achieve 10,000.  And I know plenty who celebrate after 100 (especially if they're the right one hundred).

It also depends on where you are in the novel.  First drafts take a different amount of time than second drafts.  Second drafts can be faster or slower than fifth.  End of the book can be faster than the middle.  First sentences can be incredibly slow.

For me, knowing my bite size clears a big psychological hurdle.  It means I can bypass the whole this-elephant-is-too-big drama at the start of writing sessions and dive into the actual work.

Disclaimer: No elephants were harmed in the writing of any of my books.

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At 10:30 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks so much, Sarah! This is probably the hardest advice to remember when writing, especially when you have a large chunk of free time and a blank mind.


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