As you know, National Novel Writing Month (#nanowrimo) is a week away, and if you’re anything like me, you had plans of planning your book (#nanoprep) and somehow all of those beautiful plans got jumbled up in the hours and days and weeks, and now it’s time to strap yourself to your computer chair and to start writing. I for one plan to persevere. This week, I’m going to talk about my bottom-of-the-ninth plan for perseverance that you can adopt for yourself. I encourage you to join my Facebook group to share frustrations, to ask for ideas, to get motivation…whatever you need. I digress. Here’s the plan.
Step 1: Acknowledge the Obstacles Between You & Your Writing
First, you need to acknowledge the obstacles that stand between you and your writing. For me, like most writers, it’s the tyranny of time. Even though I work from home, there’s a lot of competition for my day’s activities.
- I have children, and I’m expecting one more (our last one). My girls are ages four and (almost) 21-months. They are the most beautiful, wonderful distracting time-sucks ever. I love them dearly, but my writing and professional life does not like them. Children this age need help with everything and as it turns out, it’s good if you spend a little time with them as well. This means that my work gets done first thing in the morning and early in the day and at night after they go to bed.
- Because I work from home, despite all evidence to the contrary, it’s somehow assumed that I am best-suited to handle the household tasks requisite for survival (grocery shopping), which, with children is an act of aggression. Don’t overthink it…just trust me.
- I have work with my editing clients that –above my writing interests—takes priority. Period.
- I have marketing activities that must be done for my businesses and for others.
- Despite already having an MA in creative writing, I am pursuing a second masters in publishing, which is great except, you know, time.
Throw in a little marketing training, time for reading (Audible is my wing-app), some teaching activities, and suddenly the week is about a week too short.
However, I also realize that life will not get any easier. There will not be any more time. If I want to work on my writing, I’m going to have to work harder, more efficiently, and more strategically in order to make the time necessary for NaNoWriMo.
Step 2: Make a Commitment for Writing Consistently
Given my schedule, I am designating 11:00 p.m. as my “start writing” time for the month of November. I plan to write until midnight or 1:00 a.m. –whatever I can tolerate. Because the typical length for a salable novel is 80,000 words, I will need to write an average of 3,200 words per writing session. I made this calculation by subtracting five days from November’s 30-day calendar because I know that I’ll probably not write Thanksgiving night, and I know we are planning a weekend trip to Atlanta that month. I will not write while I’m traveling.
Step 3: Acknowledge Internal Obstacles to Your Writing
If you read the previous plan and said, “There’s no way she’s going to do that,” you’re probably right. I don’t disagree, but I’m going to do it anyway because I also know that one can spend a lifetime talking about what they will do, and if they don’t just do it (NIKE!), it’s not going to happen. Ever.
My husband, who I love dearly, has been talking about starting a small business for months. Having already set up a couple of LLCs, I finally got his EIN for him, set up his LLC paperwork, drove him to the bank, got the bank checks for the city and state, and took him to the post office to mail them off. Congratulations, you’re a business owner. I’m not saying he wouldn’t have eventually done those things, but I also know that it’s easier to talk about ideas than to implement them. People do this because:
- Fear of failure is real. I get terrible anxiety when it comes to chartering new terrain. Intellectually, I realize the worst that could happen is that I could do something incorrectly; however, I hate making mistakes (which is probably why I love editing so much), so the idea of doing something and it being terrible or failing miserably gives me cold feet (frozen to the ground feet, TBH).
- They don’t actually want to do the thing. I had a really nice friend who did nothing but talk about his problems, but he never wanted to take action. He’s the reason I chose to not pursue clinical psychology ages ago when I was working on my BA. I realized that this guy never wanted to change. He just wanted to talk about his ideas, his relationships, what he was going to do, etc., but he didn’t really want those things because he was actually pretty content with life the way it was. Here’s the reality…if this is you, it’s okay to be happy just the way you are. You don’t need to pretend to want to level up in life all of the time.
- You have no idea what to do or the task seems overwhelming. This is similar to fear of failure, but it’s different. You avoid something because it seems too big to handle. This is my husband’s anxiety. By looking at the big picture for his business, he felt like, “Holy crap, I can’t do this,” and he shut down. He did the same thing with his student loans because he looked at his $40K-plus debt and chose to ignore it (I took over on that because my neuroses can’t stand to be late or penalized on financials.). If this is you, then break the big picture into smaller pieces and look at them part-by-part. Figure out what part you need to address first and move forward.
If fear of failure or feelings of being overwhelmed are hindering your writing process, it’s okay. Take it one day at a time. Sit down, open your word processor (MS Word in my case) or writing program (Scrivner’s a great one), and start with chapter one.
Step 4: Spend the Week Before Getting Notes Organized
Stephen King actually had some good advice in On Writing that I plan to apply here. His method is just to think of what happens or should happen next and to write that. I already have a notebook full of notes and character backgrounds. I don’t have the whole novel or every scene planned out, but it is what it is. I don’t have all of the background research done.
I know that my writing time during November isn’t for hopping on Google or writing character backstory. In fact, the Internet will be off limits during designated writing time. I highly recommend that, for you, too. I guess what I’m saying is that whatever isn’t plotted should be pantsed.
Step 5: Join a Support Group
While my husband would probably recommend I join a time management group, I’m actually starting a Facebook group, The Busy Writer Support Group (*name may change), for writers who are committed to writing. You don’t have to be doing NaNoWriMo to join. Here’s what the group is for:
- To ask questions about other writers’ processes and resources
- To get ideas. For example, in Liane Moriarty’s The Hypnotist’ s Love Story, the protagonist was a hypnotist. It was really cool to read about, but I speculate Moriarty spent a lot of time really researching that character. If your character has a weird job or you’re not sure how a character might react in a given situation, ask your peers for inspiration.
- To find new writing resources. I love sharing resources and tips that have helped me become a stronger writer and editor, and I feel sure other writers do, too.
- To get support and inspiration
- To ask wording, word choice, style, editing, etc. questions
The point of the group is to encourage fellow writers to achieve their goals. Let’s acknowledge our obstacles and tell them to shove off because even if you don’t finish your novel in a month, you’re a whole month ahead of where you were when you started, so let’s do it!
If you’re an author trying to jumpstart your writing, NaNoWriMo is a great time to do it. The reality is that the time is never going to be better than now. If writing is your dream, it’s time to take action. I’ve worked with several writers as an editor and a coach. If you want extra support, click this link to contact me, and let’s develop an actionable, quantifiable writing plan for you and your lifestyle.