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