Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Staying Focused with Rochelle Melander

Stay Focused and Finish Strong
By Rochelle Melander

We are more than halfway through National Novel Writing Month. Hopefully, we have hit the 25,000-word mark. At this point, one question looms large for all of us: can we finish? Here are five ways to stay focused on your writing goal and finish strong:

1.         Envision success. Most Olympic athletes have been taught to mentally rehearse their success. They do not go into a race cold. They have visioned their successful participation and win multiple times before the race. Writers can do the same thing. Every night before you go to bed, imagine yourself in your writing space, successfully writing your 1667 daily words. Feel how easily the words flow. Envision yourself reaching your word count faster than you thought possible. Yes, I know it sounds crazy—but it works.

2.         Bribe yourself. If it’s getting harder and harder to discipline yourself to sit in that chair, it might be time to bribe yourself. Take one thing you love to eat or drink every single day and pair it with your writing. Make it a rule: you can only have your cup of coffee, piece of dark chocolate, or other favorite treat while you are writing or after you have put in the words. That should get you moving!

3.         Better it. You’re getting tired of writing. Your butt hurts, your house is a mess, and no one seems to care that you are doing this amazing thing. Okay—it’s time to make it more fun. How? Find yourself a new and phenomenal place to write. Use one of those online bargain hotel sites to get yourself a night in a fantastic hotel for a cheap rate—and write there. Or, take yourself to a funky, wonderful restaurant or coffee shop in your town and write. Imagine where the famous authors go to write, and head there to put in today’s word count.

4.         Get curious. It happens to the best writers—we get stuck. We have no idea what our characters might do next or how they get to the end of the story let alone how we can use up another 25,000 words getting them there. It’s time to put on our curiosity hats. Start asking questions of each of the main characters and write down their answers. What do you want to do next? What makes you angry? What energizes you? If you could go anywhere with this story, where would you take it? By the end of this probing, you should have several possible directions to take the story.

5.         Make it work. At least once in every Project Runway episode, Tim Gunn tells the participants to make it work. At this point, we need to do the same. Whether we have lost focus or our characters have become lost in a crazy old plot, we need to make it work. Ask yourself, “What can I do to make this work?” Quickly write down the first five things that come to mind.

There you have it: five ways to get focused and finish strong. Now it’s your turn: what will you do to stay focused for the rest of NaNoWriMo?

Author Bio
Rochelle Melander is a certified professional coach and the author of 10 books, including a new book to help fiction and nonfiction writers write fast: Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It) (October 2011). Melander teaches professionals how to get published, establish credibility, and navigate the new world of social media. In 2006, Rochelle founded Dream Keepers Writing Group, a program that teaches writing to at-risk tweens and teens. Visit her online at She will be blogging about NaNoWriMo all month at

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