Back in the depths of time, 2001, imagine me, a young mother with three children under six, wondering if I could write a novel. Did I really have 50,000 words in me? And if I did, could I get them all out in November? I’d heard stories of people taking 10 years to write their novel – ten long, painful, soul-stripping years. Who was I to think I could write a novel in thirty measly days?
Given my circumstances, I was a little frazzled and full of self-doubt but I didn’t want to give up this idea that made me wake up early with character sketches and kept me up late at night, thinking about plots. So I did a test. One night, after the kids were (finally!) all asleep, I sat down and wrote 1667 words. It wasn’t fiction; it was stream of consciousness about how I didn’t know if I could write. Yes, I was writing about how I thought I couldn’t write. The irony got me right there and I’ve been writing since.
In an hour and a half, I had written my daily quota. I was shocked.
I thought writing so much would drain my brain in a way that I wouldn’t be able to keep going for an entire month. I was so pleased that I was wrong, I told my husband, “I’m going to write a novel in November.”
And he just looked at me. I don’t know exactly what he was thinking – probably wondering exactly when I had gone off the deep end. To his credit, he’s always been supportive, if a bit leery of the impact on our family.
So, if you have a full-time job, I know you can do it. If you have small children, I know you can do it. If you’re a student, I know you can do it.
Don’t believe me? Take a day, write 1667 words. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can do it – the key is to just keep writing, don’t doubt your staggering genius and don’t stop until you’re done for the day (unless the house is on fire or someone is bleeding).
NaNoWriMo is one of the best things in the world. It’s free, it keeps your brain strong and it’s one of the most fun things you can do at your computer with your clothes on.
Here are a few tips I’ve found helpful:
1) Delegate chores to others, or get tasks done before November 1st
2) Cook in bulk and freeze meals. Eating fast food just because it is fast is no way to feed your brain and your muse may get really mad at you.
3) Exercise at least a couple days a week
We’re all busy, and we all think there’s no more time in our lives for anything else. Now is the time to look at your schedule and find where you can carve out the time to write. You may have to postpone something or give something up. Remember, at the end of November, you’ll be able to say “I wrote a book.” That’s worth a lot!
Can you wake up earlier? I work from 4 to 9 am, before anyone else is awake, I work after 9 as well (it’s 2:30 pm right now) but I know I can count on those 5 quiet hours. Can you give up or postpone some TV watching? DVR, Hulu and Netflix are a TV-loving writer’s best friends. You can watch TV when you’re too tired to write, you can use it as a reward for making your daily quota, or you can watch TV while you’re exercising. Our treadmill is in the living room, where I can watch TV and get my mileage in. It’s awesome to no longer be held hostage to my TV’s schedule and I can watch an entire season at a time, which is my favorite way to watch a series.
You may have to get strict with yourself. Friday nights out with the guys at work? Make it a reward – hit your daily quotas and you can go. Don’t make your quotas? Maybe next week. Sunday afternoon with the in-laws? Oh, so sorry! My muse is calling.
Plan on an average of two hours a day to write your novel. Some days you’ll finish early, some days (I hate to tell you) it will be like pulling teeth to get your quota written. That’s okay, it’s all part of the creative process.
I’ve talked a lot about your quota. 1667 words a day, 10,000 words every 6 days. However you want to schedule yourself, stick to it. Learn to love your quota, it will keep you on track and you won’t wind up having to write 25,000 words in three days. I’ll never let that happen again – it was ugly and I didn’t write for 3 months after that. The cost was way too high.
Posts coming up in the next few days:
To Plot or Not
How to Write a Novel by the Seat of Your Pants
Plotting Techniques: The Snowflake Method.
And this post – 874 words, more than half a day’s work.
Photo by: Marc Falardeau