It’s 11/20/15, and I’m a little over 45,000 words into NaNoWriMo. I’m feeling pretty good, but it hasn’t always been easy. These past couple days, things have gotten in the way of my writing — making the last 10,000 words harder than the first 35,000.
I don’t think I’m alone in life getting in the way, but one thing I’ve learned I need to do that perhaps some others haven’t: defend my writing time.
A lot of us look at writing as a fun hobby, and there’s nothing wrong with that — but even if writing is just a fun hobby, writers still need to write.
When people look at you funny for writing, or interrupt you, or wonder why you’re even doing it… tell them they can have their football game, a poker night or The Walking Dead, but you’re going to have your writing time.
If you’re in a real time crunch or find your commitment lagging, block off your writing time, schedule it in your calendar — and make sure everyone knows it. Make sure you know it, and don’t let things get in the way.
Of course, emergencies happen and you may not always succeed in blocking distractions, but if you’re never finding time to write, it’s on you to change that.
So, when it’s your time to write — even if all you can do is block off 30 minutes 4-5 days a week — don’t pick up the phone on the first call. Don’t write in the room people are going to talk to you in. In fact, get the heck out of dodge, if that’s what it takes, and go write at a local cafe or library.
If you have kids, particularly young ones, write for a half hour after they’re in bed, or have your spouse step it up if you have one.
Let people see the fruits of your labor when it’s ready. Maybe they’ll love what you wrote. Maybe it won’t be their cup of tea, but at least they’ll see your commitment — and respect it, and perhaps try to help you find more time to write.
I know finding time can be difficult, but you can do it, even if it’s just a little.
Carve that time out. Schedule it. Create goals. Start a project or two. Plan things out. Make sure others respect that time. Make sure you respect that time — and write.
I feel really good about my NaNo book so far — I’m at 21,223 words! Woot!
I even made a mock cover, since NaNo’s site suggested it, for kicks and giggles. I’m certainly not a graphic artist, just computer-literate enough to play around with PicMonkey, but I thought it was fun and serves as a nice little piece of inspiration for me to keep going.
It’s a first draft, so I know it’s rough, but I’m very happy with where the story’s going, and where I am today.
One thing that makes it easier to know how I’m doing is the fact that NaNo graphs our Word Counts. Here’s mine:
Aside from Day 1, where I wrote a gazillion words out of excitement, I’ve been very consistent, if I do say so myself.
While NaNo’s 50,000 words in 30 days is a somewhat arbitrary number, I don’t think it’s arbitrary to suggest writers need to keep a consistent pace on a first draft.
Graphs like this should be especially valuable for people new to writing fiction, or who have never completed a first draft before.
If you’re working on a first draft, you should absolutely keep track of your daily word count. That way, you can learn what patterns you can reasonably sustain, and catch if you’re slowing down as soon as possible — so you can ask yourself why.
It may be a signal that you need to kick it up a notch, so you don’t risk fizzling out.
As I said in Post #22, fizzling out on your writing kills books. It’s very hard to finish a full draft if you put it down for weeks or months.
Trust me on that — I speak from experience.
So, even if new things are going on in your life, keeping yourself busy — don’t stop writing, just find a new pace instead. Even 30 minutes a day can easily get you 300 words, which adds up to a 100,000 word epic first draft in less than a year.
Someone in my NaNo region asked if they should really avoid making edits during their first draft, even if the writing isn’t any good.
I thought I gave him a good answer, so here’s what I wrote:
Locking the door on your inner editor on your first draft is really hard to do, but for me at least, it makes a huge difference.
Editing takes up a lot of time — more than writing, IMO, since it involves so much more reading, investigating, critical thinking and trial and error. Plus, for most of us, it’s not like we can edit a passage once and get it to the point we like — it takes many, many edits to get something to the point where we’re happy with it.
I think that can be dispiriting to do before you’re done with a complete draft. When you have a full story, you have that full story to spur you on. If you don’t have that full story, you can read over the same passages over and over again — that may need a lot of fixing to get good — and wonder if it’s even worth doing. If you have your full story done, and like it, then you know the answer is a resounding yes.
The only thing I’ll go back and change or edit on the first draft is if it’s related to the story — like if I realize I forgot to include a plot point earlier that’s important to my plot later. I make those edits because there’s a real chance that I could forget to do it in future drafts (or worse, think I did when I didn’t) and end up creating a plot hole.
But fixing grammar, typos, making language prettier and all that jazz can be done at any time — so I do it when my story’s done.
I forgot to mention two other reasons why it’s not worth making serious edits in a first draft.
You’ll end up having to edit the same areas over and over again in the beginning, when fewer edits could have produced the same results. It’s wasting extra time.
You may end up spending considerably time making edits to a part of a story you realize you’ll have to cut or drastically change, once you’re done with the first draft.
Like it or not, no one can really assess what’s worth spending time editing on when writing a book until there’s a finished draft, and trying to do so before then will not only waste time but could become a depressing vortex of doom you’re spiraling down in that leads to you fizzling out on the entire book.
While there are certainly some who can edit while they go along with the first draft of their book and get it all done in a good amount of time, there’s no real reason to do it. This is one of those things where the vast majority of people are better off trying to get a full story on paper before they do any reassessing.
It’s 2:30am on November 1st as I write this, with NaNoWriMo officially kicked-off.
I need to write 50,000 words this month to win — and I’m already at 3,700 words (and I like what I’ve done so far!).
That’s 2 1/2 hours in and I’m 7.4% there — woot woot!
It scares me a little that my first 3700 words make up exactly 1 page in my 22 page outline. That projects out to 81,500 words in a genre (upper middle grade fantasy) that peaks at about 55k words.
The beginning of my outline should take up a bit more words because I have to do a lot of world building and character building, and some pages of my outline won’t be much longer than whatever I write for them in the book, but I’ll need to tighten this up.
Still, though, it’s a first draft, so I can do no wrong — and while I originally thought I had to finish the entire book in November to “win” NaNo, all I actually have to do is write 50,000 words, finished or not.