Friday, June 17, 2011

Day 17 - Guest Post by Leah Ashton

Leah Ashton won Mills & Boon's 'New Voices' competition in 2010 and her book 'Secrets & Speed Dating' debuts in October 2011. During 50/30 she'll be busy writing the second book in her contract.

The Procrastinator’s Guide to 50ks in 30 Days

I am a terrible procrastinator. The worst, quite possibly. But I have written a 50K book in 30 days – and that book will be my debut novel for Harlequin Mills & Boon in September. And if I – a writer who will find absolutely anything to do, other than actually write – can do that, than other procrastinators can too. I promise!

I’ve attempted 50k30days before, and failed dismally. It even took me four years to finish my first manuscript! So what changed this time? How was I magically cured of this dreadful procrastination curse?

Well, sadly – I’m still a procrastinator. Procrastination, I’m pretty sure, is here to stay. But now I have tools to deal with it. I cannot promise that what worked for me will work for you, and I can promise that nothing I’m about to say is particularly ground breaking. But it worked for me, so well that the word count I’m capable of achieving when I follow these steps still shocks me.

So here it its…

Leah Ashton’s Anti-Procrastination Toolkit

1. Erase the guilt
So you’re a procrastinator. Everyone around you is more productive and diligent than you (or so it seems!). Cue hours of self-flagellation. Or – acknowledge that you are what you are, and find techniques that allow
you to up your word count regardless. Feeling guilty won’t put words onto paper – so what’s the point?

2. Give yourself a real deadline
I would love to be one of those people who can’t bear a day without writing, but…well… I’m not. So, I need a deadline to get my butt in the seat. And it needs to be a real one, not just “I will write 10K by the end of
the month”, it needs to be a deadline with consequences if I fail. Prior to publication, my deadlines were planned around writing competitions. So if I didn’t hit my deadline, I couldn’t enter.
So, give yourself a deadline, with a real consequence. Find a writing competition with an entry date in early July. Sign up for a pitch at the conference. Anything – but make sure there is a consequence other than, “oh well.”

3. Have a plan (or even a plot)
I used to think I was a seat-of-my-pantser, resulting in the euphoric dashing off of an effortless chapter one, and chapter two and… then……nothing. I know this will be controversial with confirmed pantsers, but I strongly recommend at least a sketch of your plot. Just a vague plan of where you’re going and the main turning points along the journey. Why?
Well, nothing triggers a serious procrastination session for me than a blank page and absolutely no idea where I’m going. Reduce the risk of finding yourself with terrifying nothingness ahead of you and plan. Your plan is your safety net – and besides, you can always ignore it!

4. Remove yourself from temptation
What do you do when you procrastinate? Do you read? Watch TV? Surf the Internet? Whatever it is, get yourself away from it. Be dramatic if you have to – go write at a cafĂ©, have someone physically remove your TV from your house, give your modem to your husband and tell him he is not under any circumstances to give it back. You get the idea?
Obviously this is for confirmed procrastinators like me – if will power is enough for you, then that is awesome, but if not, do whatever you have to do. The Internet is my vice, and I’ve been known to lock my Internet dongle in my car, or alternatively I use a really nifty program called Freedom ( - available for Mac and PC), which cost $10 and will block the Internet for up to 8 hours – and the only way to get it back is to re-boot your computer. If it’s just some sites that suck the time out of your day, look into browser add-ons like Google Chrome’s StayFocusd or Firefox’s LeechBlock. Both will either block a site totally, or give you a maximum time limit per day.

5. Write with your friends
The discovery of sprints (where you write for 30 minutes or an hour with a friend, and then report back with your word count) was a breakthrough for me. I am a slow writer, so I never had super impressive word counts, but knowing I had to report in with my word count was super motivating.
Make sure you check into the Sprint Sessions in the RWA Chatroom throughout 50Ks in 30 Days, or follow along on Twitter. And if you can’t write with your friends? Well…

6. Sit down, and start typing
It’s hardly surprising, but the reality is if you sit down every day, without any distractions, and simply write a word, followed by another word, and then another – your word count will go up. Sometimes the idea of writing X number of words can be so overwhelming that starting seems impossible. But when you do start, and regardless if the words flow or are squeezed out painfully – as long as you’ll keep writing, you’ll hit your
word count. And once you start doing it day after day – well, before you know it – you would have written a book. Or 50Ks in 30 days!

There you have it – my procrastinator’s guide to 50Ks in 30 days. Please let me know if you reach into my toolkit – I’d love to know if it helps you, too. And as I’m also looking for new weapons to slay the procrastination beast – what tips have I missed that help you?


Nikki Logan said...

I can personally attest to Leah being the Queen, Empress and High Ruler of Procrastinaria. But I can also attest to her anti-procrastinatory toolkit being pretty effective. There should be something in there for everyone!

And since you're writing while on your Honeymoon (status, enroute between Vietnam and Japan) you are clearly making up for past digressions.

Great blog, Leah. Hope everyone finds it useful.

Neely said...

How about the procrastination you have when you aren't having procrastination?
My favourite is reading craft books and articles.
And meanwhile....not writing.
But I feel perfectly fine about not writing. Not guilty. Not a bit. Because that's good, isnt it? You have to read craft books. Everyone agrees.Lots of them. And when you've read enough you'll just sit down and ...sort of...get published.Hmmmm.Maybe I should rethink this.One day.

Rachael Johns said...

Fab post! And I think this challenge is really good for showing just how much you can achieve WHEN you put procrastination aside. I'm big for thinking I'm just too tired and putting off the writing until tomorrow. I'm not doing that this month and I'm clocking up lots of words because of it. Whether they are any good remains to be seen but I can edit, right?

Leah Ashton said...

Ha, thanks for verifying my procrastination qualifications, Nikki! I'm a bit disappointed I haven't written more while away, but on the plus side, I'm having a lovely honeymoon :)

Neely - a favourite procrastination tool of mine is buying craft books online, I adore book depository! And I also love love love writing-related blogs. Hence needing to block the Internet... nearly all my web procrastination is writing related procrastination... but it's still not writing. So I can relate :) Maybe you need to lock your craft books in your car? Or send them on holiday without you?

Rach - I am in AWE of your word count, it's amazing what you're achieving! Keep it up, you're an inspiration. And you are so write, it shocked me how much even me - Captain Slow - can write if I actually sit down and keep writing every day :)

Kez said...

I don't think you can call yourself a procrastinator anymore - you're writing on your honeymoon for crying out loud :)

Great post - and yes, very helpful for me!

Enid Wilson said...

The nightly sprinting, = your point 5 and 6, is helping me tremendously to achieve my word count. Thanks to whoever think of this clever idea.

Chemical Fusion

Sarah Brabazon said...

I also applaud your dedication at writing on your honeymoon. I think you're going to have to hang up your procrastination queen crown.

My favourite at the moment is critiqueing - because that is such a virtuous method of procrastination that nobody could think the worse of me, could they?

Sarah Brabazon

Annie Seaton - Author said...

Thanks for the tips. Totally agree... sprint room is awesome

louise said...

I think I am the winner of the crown, today I finally sat down and created my hero's backstory. I only had an hour before I had to dash to school and amazed myself when I emerged 1158 words later. I kept putting everything else before this challenge and realized it was my lack of confidence holding me back. I was lost in my zone and had to drag myself back to reality . i realize there is no way to write my 50k in this thirty day challenge. But I will start my challenge from today. thanks so much for all the hints on this blog.