I am one of those insane, but lucky, people who is participating in National Novel Writing Month (also known as NaNoWriMo). My daughter, to whom I always look for direction as to what sorts of new things are happening, participated a couple of years ago and, with my newfound resugence in writing (I tried when I first graduated from college and for various reasons I stopped), I decided to give it a whack again.
I am also lucky enough to participate in a writing group that used to meet every week and gave me the impetus I needed to get back into writing with both feet.
So as a contribution to the writing community I have this to say (sadly, none of this is original): if you wake up in the morning wondering if you should worry about whether you should spend time writing I can tell you that the criteria to determine that is really quite simple (and this is assuming you want to write as a professional not as a hobbyist):
- Set a deadline. If the deadline is fast approaching then worry
- If you don’t have a deadline, then worry until you do
Why should you worry in either case? With a deadline you know what your time frame is. You know when you can slack off because you can see the days ticking off and what your goals for each day are (yeah, you may need to break your schedule down per day, but YMMV on that).
If you have a deadline, that means you have a schedule. If you have a schedule then you don’t have to worry when someone invites you out for a drink or you oversleep or, if you have a day job (I do!), when you can safely do your day job tasks and not freak out because you lost one or more days of your writing.
The one thing we cannot control are things that are out of our control (did I just hear a collective “duh!”?). No schedule survives contact with reality, but without a schedule, and by extension a deadline, reality wins. Sorry.
To show off:
- I spent 2 weeks before NaNoWriMo outlining the story. That includes characters, plot points, and basic structure. Oh, yeah, and research. That included weekends, but trust me, it was not a full time activity.
- On November 1 I started writing with the express goal of 2500 words per day. Yes, that works out to 20 days of writing to hit the 50k goal of NaNoWriMo. That gave me weekends and the Thanksgiving holiday off. Why did I need weekends off? Read on!
- During the weekends I got to update my outline and scene cards (every Act got a certain number of cards totaling 40 altogether). So far I have managed to freak myself out with the numbers of changes I am making, but they are all for the best. The cards are helping me to hit my 2500 words consistently (anxiously, but consistently). Another thing about weekends off: if I don’t get to write on any given night of the week I can always catch up on Saturday or Sunday. That has already happened to me twice and having the buffer has allowed me to minimize my anxiety.
I am on schedule to hit the 50K word target by November 30. As of this writing I have 8 writing days left. I took Thanksgiving into account when I made the schedule so I am not worried about losing Thursday and Friday of this week.
Will I make the November 30th deadline with at least 50k words? Probably.
If I don’t it will not be for lack of trying.
If I do, it will be because I prepared and laid out a doable schedule that worked for me.
What works for you?