Find Worthy Rewards for Meeting Manuscript Word-Count Goals

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I’d never used word-count goals in writing, until my current manuscript. To complete my story by my deadline, I need to write a certain number of words per week.

For the past month, what has helped me make my goal each week  is a reward. I heed two rules concerning rewards.

Reward Rules

1. I don’t get the reward if I don’t make the word count goal by the day I set. No errant thoughts like: “I can catch up next week, so I can have my reward.” Or, “I’m only a few hundred words short. I deserve my reward when I’m so close to my word count goal.”

2. Rewards have to be something I really enjoy.

My Reward

We recently bought a cabin on a lake an hour and a half away from our home. We are fixing up the cabin retreat and clearing the woods down to the lake to open a view of the lake. I have fun with my husband shopping, painting, putting up new fixtures, and clearing trees.

The cabin has already become a getaway from deadlines, marketing, and other platform work. I want nothing more at the end of a week than to go to the cabin. So, I’ve designated trips to the cabin to be my reward for meeting my word count.

Benefits

  • For a month, the progress on my book has pleased me. And I’ve enjoyed my two days with my husband working on our cabin. Someday, we’ll be able to offer retreats to family and groups of a dozen writers or friends.
  • I’ve noticed that I don’t allow frivolous tasks to waste my time as much as I used to.

Cautions

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    Sometimes, I view such things as doctor and hair appointments, service meetings, new marketing events, and unexpected work tasks as threats to spending Friday and Saturdays at the cabin. My desire for my reward must not usurp a healthy balance of activities during my week.
  • I must be careful not to sacrifice my aspiration for excellence because I want my reward.
  • My reward may not always be my husband’s choice. Maybe some weeks I need a second worthy reward. Perhaps taking a day off to do something he wants to do.

A worthy reward may be the best plan to meet weekly word counts and a book’s deadline. Click to tweet.

What reward would keep you on task to meet a book deadline?

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Suddenly unemployed, Allie Masterson returns home to Cary, North Carolina where she caddies for her father on the PGA Seniors Tour. There, she encounters a man who possesses an alluring gift of reading the contours of the green. Fascinated with his uncanny ability, Allie is excited to meet the Green Whisperer—until she discovers that the easygoing caddy is actually Shoo Leonard, the boy who teased her relentlessly when they were kids. Despite Allie’s reservations, when Shoo is faced with having to overcome a hand injury, she agrees to use her sport science degree to become his trainer…and then she falls for him.

 Shoo Leonard is grateful to Allie for her singular determination to get him ready for the PGA tour, but he isn’t ready for anything more. Still raw from a broken engagement and focused on his career, he’s content to be her fist-bumping buddy…but then he falls for her.

What seems like a happily-ever-after on the horizon takes a turn when Allie decides she’s become a distraction to Shoo’s career. Is it time for her to step away or can The Putting Green Whisperer find the right words to make her stay?

Use Places You’ve Lived to Enhance Your Story

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You don’t need to use the actual place, but you could use the memories:
• something you saw (good or bad)
• a specific feeling you had (exhilaration, fear, sadness)
• a general feeling you had (ominous, out of place, homey)
• a person you met (friend, enemy, boyfriend)
• a particular setting within the place (a cabin, school, ship)
• an event (reunion, festival, lost)

List the places then let memories from each location flow. Write them down. Does one fit your work in progress in some way? Would it add flavor to the plot or a character? Humor to your story?

I’ve lived in sixteen places. I’ll pick four as examples of what I’ve learned from them.

Significant Memories from Places I’ve Lived

 

Baltimore, MD – As a preteen, I saw from the family car a wailing, bloody-faced man running alongside a big car, his hands clutching the window rim. The car sped up and the old man fell to the pavement. I felt horror. I was also frustrated that I’d never know the story behind the event. Were the men inside stealing his car? Were they getting rid of him by abandoning him? This memory warned of the frustration readers experience when the author doesn’t tie up loose ends.

Petionville, Haiti – At ages seven to ten, I lived on a mountainside overlooking Port-au-Prince in a gray stucco house with a red metal roof.

image by Efraimstochter

The tropical island was wonderful – fiery orange flamboyant trees, warm temperatures, big lizards, our parrots and donkey, aqua water, hibiscus flowers, international school, the merengue dance.

Haiti was mysterious – paths through the forests to nearby villages; frenzied Mardi Gras celebrators dressed in costumes dancing in our yard; a dead chicken hanging from a tree in the middle of the woods near an extinguished fire; our cook screaming because a Voodoo doll was pinned to her outside door; rats bumping and banging inside our metal roof during a deluge.

Haiti was dangerous – revolution, corrupt election, rise of Papa Doc, Papa Doc’s violent Tonton Macoute thugs. A Haitian looking for the Spanish embassy drove up our road and stopped at our house. Blood covered the seat of his pants. People were dead and wounded in the back of the police van he’d hijacked during an attack on his family.

I’m drawn to tell a fictional story about a little girl who saves an Arab boy whose Father’s jewelry business comes under a Tonton Macoute raid. The time hasn’t been right yet.

image by Sharonang

Norfolk, VA – During a rare snow, my father built me an igloo. After I’d hounded him, I was afraid to go inside when frostbite threatened my fingers and toes. I will never forget the pain from my thawing appendages. I used this experience in Gift of the Magpie.

That same winter, my sister, two friends, and I fell through the ice on a lake. Our wet heavy coats worked against treading water. When we tried to get out, the ice caved. I was so exhausted, I decided to give up and drifted under. I learned about the will to live.

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Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – As a high school teen, I lived on the five-mile-square Naval base. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, my mother, brother, and I were evacuated on the USS Upshur with little in our suitcase. We returned three months later. My three days aboard ship with friends trying to avoid a sergeant and cleaning toilets was an adventure.

The next year, after threats from Castro, the base admiral sealed the pipes from which we received water. We went three days without water until a water tanker arrived. I learned to appreciate water.

Use the events and feelings in places you’ve lived to enrich your stories. Click to tweet.

What place taught you something that you could use in a story?

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Suddenly unemployed, Allie Masterson returns home to Cary, North Carolina where she caddies for her father on the PGA Seniors Tour. There, she encounters a man who possesses an alluring gift of reading the contours of the green. Fascinated with his uncanny ability, Allie is excited to meet the Green Whisperer—until she discovers that the easygoing caddy is actually Shoo Leonard, the boy who teased her relentlessly when they were kids. Despite Allie’s reservations, when Shoo is faced with having to overcome a hand injury, she agrees to use her sport science degree to become his trainer…and then she falls for him.

 Shoo Leonard is grateful to Allie for her singular determination to get him ready for the PGA tour, but he isn’t ready for anything more. Still raw from a broken engagement and focused on his career, he’s content to be her fist-bumping buddy…but then he falls for her.

What seems like a happily-ever-after on the horizon takes a turn when Allie decides she’s become a distraction to Shoo’s career. Is it time for her to step away or can The Putting Green Whisperer find the right words to make her stay?

Choosing Your Story Characters’ Names – a Help and a Website.

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A mix of older and newer names will make your story feel authentic to readers. You can give characters names popular to the year or decade they were born in. Most likely characters will have popular names from prior decades too. Boys often carry on family names.

Below are the top twelve U.S. names for each decade, starting with the 1930s. You can use them for your characters who are grandmas, parents, children, teens, and newborns, depending on the age of your character.

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I used a Social Security report, Popular Baby Names by Decade, for the top twelve names below. The report lists the 200 most popular names in each decade, ranked from highest frequency used to lowest.

The Social Security website has several reports that can help you choose a character’s name.

Change in Popularity. It shows names’ increase or drop in frequency from 2016 to 2017. More important, you can enter a name to see the name’s ranking from 2000 to 2017.

Top Five Names. It gives the top five names used by year from 1918.

Popular Names by Birth Year. You can select the year and how many names you want the site to return from 20 to 1,000. The names will be ranked by frequency of use. You can also enter a name to list its popularity over the years.

Popular Names by State. This sort gives you the option of receiving the top 100 names for each State by year or receiving all states and the top 5 names for each.

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Nine Decades of the Twelve Most Popular Names

A few names remain in the top twelve over several decades. For example, David has remained in the top twelve boys’ names since the 1930s. For girls’ names, turnover is greater than it is for boys’ names. 

1930 – 1939:

Boys: Robert, James, John, William, Richard, Charles, Donald, George, Thomas, Joseph, David, Edward

Girls: Mary, Betty, Barbara, Shirley, Patricia, Dorothy, Joan, Margaret, Nancy, Helen, Carol, Joyce

1940 – 1949:

Boys: James, Robert, John, William, Richard, David, Charles, Thomas, Michael, Ronald, Larry, Donald

Girls: Mary, Linda, Barbara, Patricia, Carol, Sandra, Nancy, Sharon, Judith, Susan, Betty, Carolyn

1950 – 1959:

Boys: James, Michael, Robert, John, David, William, Richard, Thomas, Mark, Charles, Steven, Gary

Girls: Mary, Linda, Patricia, Susan, Deborah, Barbara, Debra, and Karen, Nancy, Donna, Cynthia, Sandra

1960 – 1969:

Boys: Michael, David, John, James, Robert, Mark, William, Richard, Thomas, Jeffrey, Steven, Joseph

Girls: Lisa, Mary, Susan, Karen, Kimberly, Patricia, Linda, Donna, Michelle, Cynthia, Sandra, Deborah

1970 – 1979:

Boys: Michael, Christopher, Jason, David, James, John, Robert, Brian, William, Matthew, Joseph, Daniel

Girls: Jennifer, Amy, Melissa, Michelle, Kimberly, Lisa, Angela, Heather, Stephanie, Nicole, Jessica, Elizabeth

1980 – 1989:

Boys: Michael, Christopher, Matthew, Joshua, David, James, Daniel, Robert, John, Joseph, Jason, Justin

Girls: Jessica, Jennifer, Amanda, Ashley, Sarah, Stephanie, Melissa, Nicole, Elizabeth, Heather, Tiffany, Michele

1990 – 1999:

Boys: Michael, Christopher, Matthew, Joshua, Jacob, Nicholas, Andrew, Daniel, Tyler, Joseph, Brandon, David

Girls: Jessica, Ashley, Emily, Sarah, Samantha, Amanda, Brittany, Elizabeth, Taylor, Megan, Hannah, Kayla

2000-2009:

Boys: Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Matthew, Daniel, Christopher, Andrew, Ethan, Joseph, William, Anthony, David

Girls: Emily, Madison, Emma, Olivia, Hannah, Abigail, Isabella, Samantha, Elizabeth, Ashley, Alexis, Sarah

2010-2019:

Boys: Noah, Jacob, Mason, Liam, William, Ethan, Michael, Alexander, James, Daniel, Elijah, Aiden

Girls: Emma, Sophia, Olivia, Isabella, Ava, Mia, Emily, Abigail, Madison, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Chloe

A help to make your characters’ names more authentic. Click to tweet.

How old is your hero and heroine in your current story and what have you named them?

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Suddenly unemployed, Allie Masterson returns home to Cary, North Carolina where she caddies for her father on the PGA Seniors Tour. There, she encounters a man who possesses an alluring gift of reading the contours of the green. Fascinated with his uncanny ability, Allie is excited to meet the Green Whisperer—until she discovers that the easygoing caddy is actually Shoo Leonard, the boy who teased her relentlessly when they were kids. Despite Allie’s reservations, when Shoo is faced with having to overcome a hand injury, she agrees to use her sport science degree to become his trainer…and then she falls for him.

 Shoo Leonard is grateful to Allie for her singular determination to get him ready for the PGA tour, but he isn’t ready for anything more. Still raw from a broken engagement and focused on his career, he’s content to be her fist-bumping buddy…but then he falls for her.

What seems like a happily-ever-after on the horizon takes a turn when Allie decides she’s become a distraction to Shoo’s career. Is it time for her to step away or can The Putting Green Whisperer find the right words to make her stay?