Find what works for you and do that.

This is the obligatory after-NaNoWriMo blog post. Sort of. NaNoWriMo ended on December 1, and here I am 28 days later. (But no zombies!)

I did end November with 50,000 words of a first-draft novel written. About half of what I think the final word count will be. So, I “won” Nano, but of course I have a long way to go before I have an actual novel I can shop around.

2013-Winner-Facebook-Profile

For me the biggest win was learning what works for me. To crank out 50,000 words in thirty days means that on average I needed to write 1667 words per day. For authors who write for a living, that’s no big deal. But for me that was a huge stretch, and I learned some valuable lessons.

A standard piece of writing advice is, “Find what works for you and do that.” And just like a lot of advice in general, and writing advice in particular, it’s so simple, and at the same time completely and frustratingly vague.

So here goes, what I learned from NaNoWriMo about what works for me. Your results will vary.

Setting a daily and weekly goal.
I set a goal for the week, taking into account upcoming events and responsibilities. Then I figure out my average daily word count needed to reach that goal. Each week I post my new goal and my success (or lack thereof) for the previous week in a facebook group.

Music.
Until recently, I preferred complete quiet for writing. But around my house, quiet is hard to come by. Also, music with words is extremely distracting to me. So, I bought music from video games – Dragon Age and Halo. I listen when I sit down to write my novel, and when I hear it my brain focuses on the story, and I’m able to ignore background noise wherever I am.

Make the most of non-writing time.
Blocks of uninterrupted time make writing way more productive and satisfying for me. During November there were times when I wanted and needed to write in order to keep up with that crazy 1667 words-per-day goal. But as we all know, there are always unavoidable Things That Must Be Done. I made an effort to take care of business in advance to cut down on interruptions. So for example, I prepared my monthly Slighe nan Gaidheal treasurer report before it was due. While I helped the kids with their homework, I caught up on laundry and other mindless chores. I consciously thought about making the most of my non-writing time to preempt distractions when I did get to sit down and write.

A deer visits my neighbor's yard.

A deer visits my neighbor’s yard.

Also, I learned that worrying-about-not-writing does not help with writing-when-you-finally-can. When I am present in the moment – whether it’s my kids’ birthday party or Thanksgiving dinner or walking with a friend – when I do sit down to write I feel refreshed.

Airplane Mode.
There is some software I’ve heard about called “Freedom” that blocks your computer from accessing the massive distraction that is The Internet. Me, I use Airplane mode on my laptop. I turn on Airplane mode, and bam! No facebook or email or other distractions.

Daydreaming is essential.
I already did a lot of daydreaming. For me it’s sort of like filling the imagination well. But at one point in November I reached the bottom of the well, a point where the story was in a place I hadn’t imagined ahead to. I didn’t know what to write. I had to take a day off from writing just to daydream about the story. So now when I set my writing goals for the week I take daydreaming time into account.

Snow Day! No school.

Snow Day! No school.

So, I “won” NaNoWriMo this year. But more importantly I developed some improved habits and tools.
What writing habits work for you?

Happy Writing.

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2 responses to “Find what works for you and do that.

  1. joyfulpond@aol.com

    Wow, Miriah, that’s really neat! Hooray for what you have accomplished and for what you are going to accomplish.

    Love you

    Mom

    Sent from Windows Mail

  2. Yay! I’m looking forward to critting this book when you finish it. Hopefully sooner rather than later. *nudgenudge*

    I’ve found music to be pretty critical. Like you said, hearing that music you’ve designated as writing music just puts you in the right headspace, almost immediately. My first NaNo, I had a whole ritual. A specific Pandora station, fuzzy socks, and a particular shirt. With all three in place I was ready to go. I’ve learned to live without the socks and shirt, but the music is a must. (My go-to is the LotR soudtrack.)

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