Hello, my pretties, and welcome back to NaNoWriMo: Preptober planning! If you missed an earlier post, have no fear! Here are some helpful links:
And now, for Week 4! We’re in the home stretch, so this post will focus on the practicality of writing, creating a habit that will get you in the chair every day for thirty days.
Because remember: butt + chair = productivity.
1. Break it Down
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: 50,000 words in thirty days is a huge task. The best way to tackle it is to break it down into smaller, manageable chunks.
Breaking out (and dusting off) my handy calculator, I note that this translates to 1666.66 words/day. I recommend rounding that up to 1700 words/day or about 5.5 pages. This gives you a 1000 word cushion because, yes, my pretties, you will have some days when you write 2500+ words like a freaking goddess and other days where you’re struggling to get 10 words on the screen/page.
And you know what? That’s perfectly normal. I’ve written 7 novels and 1 novella now, and that’s been my daily experience. Having daily goals helps me let go of my disappointment if I don’t hit goal every day. With some days better and some days worse, it’ll all come out in the wash.
But yes, it does mean writing every single day, which is good, because even more important than getting your 50K novel written, NaNo is best for creating a habit of writing.
So lock in those daily goals and track them somewhere you can see your progress at a glance. I use this Writing & Revision Tracker by Jamie Raintree. It’s worth the cheap price, and it will tally your productivity through the whole year. I love it.
If you’re not into high tech, a simple notebook or Bullet Journal will do.
2. Butt in Chair
Carving out writing time can be a serious challenge because a lot of us are super busy. The best way to do this is to look closely at your daily schedule and make a change.
Do you linger in bed for a half hour, looking at your phone? Do you spend hours on FaceBook? Are you level gajillion in your fave RPG? Are you binge-watching Netflix?
Use that time to write instead.
Get up early. Stay up late. Miss your favorite TV show. Get off FaceBook. Do you want people to remember that you Liked their page 10,000 times or that you wrote that awesome book they loved?
3. Turn off the Inner Editor
Okay, so you have your daily goals and your butt is in the chair. You’re staring at that blank page, and it is intimidating you the way Darth Vader intimidates Death Star employees. Your inner editor is telling you how much you suck, that your writing’s no good.
Relax. Turn on some music that inspires you. Light a scented candle. Take a few deep breaths. Go over your outline.
Most importantly, let go of the idea of writing perfectly. Give yourself permission to suck. Give yourself permission to write crap.
No writer, not even the most famous, most talented writer gets it right on the first try. You may have heard that “perfect is the enemy of good.” That’s more true than I can say.
More importantly, you can’t edit a blank page. And NaNo isn’t about creating a perfect bestselling novel right out of the gate. It’s about gathering your materials, getting the bones of your story down, shoveling sand into the sandbox so you can build sandcastles later.
So shovel away, my pretties. Silence the inner editor and let the words flow. Even when they suck.
4. Shut Out Those Distractions
You’ve probably also heard that writing is 10% getting words on a page and 90% staying off the Internet. This is also true. We have a million distractions at our fingertips every day. Cell phones, Internet access, TV, family, work…
First, I use noise-canceling headphones to cocoon myself in music. Not only does this close out unwanted sounds, it also signals to others in my vicinity that I don’t want to be engaged. Even if you don’t actually listen to music, have the headphones in, especially if you write at the local Starbucks.
The rest is about looking shrewdly at your habits and changing them.
- Do you check your phone incessantly? Leave it on your nightstand.
- Do you check the Internet all the time? Use Write or Die or another program that shuts you out of your fave sites.
- Do you have trouble focusing? Break up your writing sessions into sprints. I use the Pomodoro technique, which breaks up your sessions into 25 minutes of work with a 5 minute break. This allows you to stretch, freshen up your coffee (tea for me!), hit the bathroom, check to make sure the kids aren’t playing Hunger Games… You know, normal stuff.
Getting rid of those distractions is key to productivity, and who knows? Less time on the Internet might just be a good thing, too.
5. Keeping motivation high
You might find that the first few days you’re really excited, and it’s easy to get motivated, but then, as the month plods onward, you realize what a lot of writers already know:
Writing is super isolating! There’s no one to pat you on the back, no one to loom over you and make sure you’re hitting your goals. It’s just you, baby. And that can be hard.
That’s where NaNo really excels. NaNoWriMo has an entire community you can engage with. From pep talks by famous authors like Neil Gaiman and Charlaine Harris to forums to special events, there’s enough here for introverts and extroverts, plotters and pantsers alike.
One of my personal tricks when motivation is low is to watch short scenes that inspire me. Those climactic battles, tear-jerker endings, heartfelt admissions. I find that reminding myself of the story moments I love helps motivate me to go write my own.
You can also try things like: taking a walk, working out, taking a shower, drawing, coloring–any endeavor where your body can move and your subconscious can be free to just…drift.
All right, my pretties! That’s all for now. I hope these posts have helped make your Preptober the best one yet!
If there’s a topic you’d like me to cover in NaNo November, drop me a line here, and I’ll do my level best.
Slán go fóill!