Monday, October 09, 2017

NaNoWriMonday: Less than 10%

National Novel Writing Month gets plenty of online attention and participation. We writers talk about it a lot before, during and after November. Since it began NaNoWriMo has evolved into a writing community of its own. Just take a look at the stats from last year: 384,126 participants jumped in and gave it their best shot. Of these (according to their 2017 press release) over 34,000 crossed the finish line with a 50K book that they wrote in 30 days.

A lot of writers join in, but less than ten percent finish (and I'm not on my high horse here; I failed to win one year because one of my pets died and I was horribly depressed.) While it's fun to talk about writing a novel in a month, and even to start one when November 1st rolls around, it's a lot harder to actually produce fifty thousand words in thirty days.

I think there are three big obstacles that almost everyone has to deal with during NaNoWriMo:

No time -- you have only 30 days to do it. No extensions. No time off. No sick days.
Holidays -- In the U.S., Thanksgiving. And if you're a shopper, Black Friday.
Work-- Some writers insist on working at a day job so they can pay their bills. Disclaimer: I'm one of them.

Then there are the more nebulous reasons, such as when the idea fizzles out, or the self-doubt kicks in, or you find yourself wanting to kill off all the characters in the story. Basically the writing stops being fun and becomes work. You find yourself slogging through the pages, and making up excuses not to work on it, and suddenly it's November 29th and you have 40K left to write in order to win. One month goes very fast.

I can't guarantee you'll cross the finish line in November; no one can. But here are some tips that may help you be part of the less than ten percent who probably will:

1. Advance Chapter: Test out your story idea by writing a chapter now, or sometime before NaNoWriMo begins. You don't have to count it as part of your 50K, and it will give you a preview of how the writing will go.

2. Brain Work It: Imagine your story from start to finish in an abbreviated form, like a movie trailer playing it your head, until you can clearly envision the major or dramatic highlights (and this won't work for organic/pantser writers).

3. Make a Mix: This isn't something I can do anymore (hearing loss sucks), but plenty of writers make up soundtracks for their work that they listen to before or during their work sessions. Having the soundtrack seems to help some writers better envision the story.

4. Whiteboard it: Outline your story on a whiteboard. Killzoneblog.com has a neat article on this here with example boards from J.K. Rowling and Norman Mailer.

Look around you and see what changes you can make with your writing time and space. In order to produce 1,667 words per day, you'll probably need to write for at least a couple of hours. I recommend splitting the writing into two sessions. It may also help to work when things are calm and quiet, like early in the morning before everyone gets up, and/or later at night when they're all in bed. Or leave the house and go somewhere quiet, like the library.

For those of you who prefer noise, take a laptop to Starbucks or a mall food court or a busy park. You also don't have to write every day, but if you're planning to take time off during NaNoWriMo, write a little extra on the days you do work to compensate.

Another big time sink that can kill your writing: television/movie watching. Stop it completely for the month of November, and devote that time instead to your novel.

Also, don't try to go it alone. Ask your friends and family to help you during NaNoWriMo however they can to free you up for writing.

Does anyone have any tricks they use to be more productive with their writing time? Let us know in comments.

1 comment:

  1. One thing I want to mention, I actually do see a movie playing in my head when I'm writing. It's a first run thing which is a big reason I can't plot things out either. I have no real idea where things are going except for the big points. And I can't listen to music, but I have three or four DVD movies that play quietly in the background when I'm writing, almost like a white noise. I've seen them so many times, I don't need to focus on them. If I played music, I'd be singing along in my head and that's not good ;)

    I do already have my first chapter written. I'm going back through it again, mulling it over to see where the story wants to go so we'll see. I'm excited this year to do this. More so than the last few times I tried because this time, I won't be alone :)

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