Dawn Montgomery

Personal Writing Challenge


Updated January 1, 2016

Welcome to my Personal Writing Challenge of 2016. The past few years have been rough for one reason or another, and I’ve consistently fallen short on my goals. Several of those reasons are outside my control. There are a few, however, that I could have done something about.

I spent the first quarter of 2015 going over my goals from the previous challenges and compared them to my actual results. Ten years ago when I first started writing, my word count per hour was huge. Of course, it would take me 2-3 rounds of edits and several rewrites to fix the manuscript, but the speed was my goal. As an author, I grew, learning tricks of the trade in storytelling and grammar. So I needed less editing and almost no rewrites BUT my word count per hour was significantly smaller.

I was still basing my goals on that original word count from so long ago.

Of course it didn’t work, but you never want to believe that the way you do business ever changes. It takes me longer to write a story, but I spend less time frustrated and angry because of the rewrites. It’s a good compromise, honestly.

So, it was hard to dive back into writing after a real life forced hiatus (issues with my hands from overwork, health issues with my family, crazy home life, etc.). But I’m here, and I’m back.

I’m back, yes, but only after I made some changes. I couldn’t spend every day lamenting how low my word count was compared to a decade, five years, or two years ago. It’s unproductive, and I just don’t have time to mess with it.

I don’t track word count every day, anymore. I still update my spreadsheet with the current wordcount of the books I’m working on, but I don’t actually look at the word count totals until the end of the week/month. Even then, it’s just to see how long this book seems to take so I can roughly estimate how many more days I have until it’s finished.

In order for a goal to actually work, they have to be SMART goals (the first time I talked about it was back in 2009).

So what are SMART goals?






Measurable is my issue here. I needed a way to measure that wouldn’t remind me constantly of how much slower my progress is now. The answer came to me when I least expected it. My youngest son is autistic. We were going through a rough patch at the beginning of last year. He needs a schedule, and the original one we had wasn’t working out. So I came across the Pomodoro technique. The pomodoro technique is a time management tool that utilizes the maximum amount of time your brain can focus and then gives you a break in between. 25 minutes of work. 5 minute break/transition to new task.

We used it for his homework. For his chores. For his play time. I used it for going through my email. My housework. And then, finally, writing. And wow, what a difference!

I may not have time to write 1000 words, but I definitely have 25 minutes to just write. If I’m not looking at the total it’s supposed to be, I spend more time just focused on the story. We use an app called Kitchen Timer (here’s the developer’s website. It’s only available on Android and Kindle at the moment, but it works for our household. No affiliate link or anything. Promise.).

So there you have it. It takes me 8-80 pomodoros per short story, 80-160 per novella. 160-600 per novel. That includes planning and edits. I break those huge chunks down into manageable pieces, and I work for at least 8 pomodoros per day. I really celebrate when I double that in a day. 🙂 (Please note, that everything related to time and pomodoro will be in numeric form while everything else will be spelled out properly).

I take 5 minutes before my writing session to jot down some scene blocking. “Blocking” was a term I picked up in theater arts all those years ago. It’s where the director and actors plan out their characters’ moves, actions, and staging for dramatic effect.

I modified that concept a bit to include the five senses and a few character motivations. Here are the personal notes from the first scene of Wicked Carousel:

  • Set the scene with the sunset – sight, smell
  • Foreshadowing with the ghost and surrounding area – sound, smell
  • Erica doesn’t want to be there.
  • Describe fence – sight
  • Throw shovel and climb over – touch

Three to four notes, a simple road map, are all I need to get focused for that scene. Then I set the timer and start writing. An alarm goes off 25 minutes later. It’s now the 5 minute break. I take a look at my notes and line through what I’d managed to get to in that writing session.

  • Set the scene with the sunset – sight, smell
  • Foreshadowing with the ghost and surrounding area – sound, smell
  • Erica doesn’t want to be there.
  • Describe fence – sight
  • Throw shovel and climb over – touch

Since I have three more things left to this scene, I don’t need to write any more notes. During the rest of my 5 minutes, I get up, stretch, grab a drink refill, etc.

Then I write again. My day is now focused on those little notes. If I make it through all of them, I just take some extra time to figure out the next part of my road map.

My writing week will be 40 hours on average. The rest of my time will be home, family, reading play time, facebook time, and content development for several sites my husband and I own (like JDR Creatives and Uncle Jerry’s Kitchen).

Any more than a 40-hour work week will put my back and hands out of commission. I’m already pushing it, as is, by putting off surgery until it becomes absolutely necessary. Almost everything not related to writing can be done away from electronics or with a tablet so I can rest my back (sitting or standing for long periods of time stress it. This means I constantly move from sitting to standing throughout the day.  I have a modified standing desk that helps a lot).

ROW80LogocopyI’ll do each challenge by quarter so the easiest way to keep track is to become a part of A Round of Words in 80 Days (#ROW80). The writing challenge that knows you have a life. You set up your own quarterly goals and keep track without any issues. They have a wonderful motivating team of writers who encourage one another throughout the quarter.

I’ve been a sponsor three times, now, I believe. It’s a fantastic event and I encourage you to participate.

I always participate in National Novel Writing Month and its other events: CampNaNoWriMo in April and July. NaNoWriMo holds a special place in my heart and I really enjoy their open encouragement.

They’ve also managed to get my children motivated to write their own stories through the Young Writer’s Program and that, alone, would be enough. Trust me!

New to 2016 is the thirty day personal challenge. I started doing it thanks to a planner I fell in love with (though, honestly, only the thirty day personal challenge page really worked for me. The layout and thin pages for the rest of the planner really agitated me).

I try to do a daily free-writing warm-up session, either by hand, or by voice recognition. My son and I use story dice (you can buy story cube sets for around $9 and$22 for all three sets or buy the Kindle story dice app for $1.99. Here is Android and iTunes. We use the app so I can screen shot the image and post it in my writing group a few times a week).

My goals are as follows:

The stuff in blue is required by either contract or deadline. The rest is wishful thinking IF I get finished with the first part of the list.

In alphabetical order:

Ongoing Series

The Fallen

  •  Winter Guardian expansion and print
  •  Dark Rider (working title) releases May 1st in a (title TBD) boxed set.

Holly Savage

  • A Wish Before Dying

Silver Tongued Devils

  • Devil’s Due (Preorders go up mid-January)
  • The Devil’s Own
  • The Devil Wars a Crown
  • Silver Tongued Devils in Print
  • Devil’s Due in Print

Voodoo Carnival

  • Boxed Set release of the entire serial
  • Print release of the entire serial

WTF Dragon Series

  • Dragons Never Lie
  • Dragon Arse
  • A Tail of Two Dragons
  • WTF Dragons Collection in Print

New Series

Nightmare Gale

  • Enraptured
  • Entranced
  • Entwined

Sky City (multiauthor)

  • Title TBD

Spaceport: New Tortuga (Spinoff from Silver Tongued Devils)

  • Rogue Bounty (revise, expand, edit, and publish an old title)
  • SNT 2 (Title TBD)

Wolfen Underground (MMA shifters)

  • Savage 
  • Renegade
  • WU 3 (Title TBD)


Standalone Titles

These  will be added as they pop up since most of them are based on rights reversion from publishers.

Last Rites: revision, edit, and publish

Angel’s Masquerade: revision and resubmit requested. Finish it and turn it in.

Carter’s Legacy: Revision and submit to an agent

So, if you’re following along, or ended up here via a search engine, here are the tags I will be using this year.

Click Here– for the thirty day challenges post (this one will be included in that tag as it’s my first mention of it)

Click Here– for all posts related to the year-long writing challenge I participate in called A Round of Words in 80 Days.

  • First Quarter 2016
  • Second Quarter 2016 (tag will be updated when it’s created)
  • Third Quarter 2016 (tag will be updated when it’s created)
  • Fourth Quarter 2016 (tag will be updated when it’s created)

Click Here– for all posts related to YouTube and my crafting channel

Click Here– for all posts related to Health

Click Here– for all posts related to my degree and education

What are you planning for 2016?

  1. I joined ROW80 after I quit smoking to rebuild myself as a writer. It is a great motivator and awesome support system. I’m amazed at your goals and I hope all goes well with them.

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