Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A repeat

I wrote this several years ago, but with the holidays coming and more and more people getting involved in NaNo I think this is even more relevant today. I learned a lot. Maybe this will help you too.

November is National Writing Month but with the month almost over, are you finishing a book? Did you stop trying to keep up? Or did you do little more than a day or two?

For some the exercise means they have discovered the secret of completing a novel in record time. So - what have you learned?

The answer is simple. If you stuck with it, you learned to set goals. With  NaNo the goals are so high, some will give up because they can't keep up. But if they look at why this exercise works so well for so many, they'll see that setting goals helps 'get the job done'.

Dedicating this month to writing is great, but to make is a real success you have to apply what you did this month to your everyday writing discipline for the rest of the year, and yes it is a discipline.

I would never have been able to keep up, so I fall into that group that would stop trying. Why? Because the goals are too high for me. I learned long ago that each individual must be very honest with what will work for them. I learned the hard way that setting your goals too high means you never succeed. When I lowered expectations I discovered my achievable goal. For me, five pages each day, five days a week gives me a 80,000 word completed novel in four months. I can live with that. If I decide to write more, or also on Saturday and Sunday, I reach my goal sooner, but I don't have to. I can take the day off and start fresh on Monday. For me this works. And I can write two novels in a year.

Since I'm a plotter, it makes sense for me to plan at least five pages. I have my outline, my research notes, my character interviews, so I often find I will write more than five pages, but the important thing for me is, I've met my goal for the day, there's no guilt, no let down feeling and I know in four months I'll have a finished novel, ready for revisions.

I'm told pantsters do better with a timer. Yep, one of those kitchen timers you can buy for a dollar or two at a big box store. Ten, or fifteen minutes of writing time will net about the same number of pages as my five. Try it. Set the time and start to write. Most of us can find ten or fifteen minutes to bang away at a typewriter or computer.

But, don't let my goals determine yours. If you can only do three pages or seven minutes, it might take a little longer, but you'll get there, and that the whole idea of NaNo, as I understand it. Setting too big a goal will defeat you faster than anything. And the old slogan of 'practice makes perfect' applies here as well. If you start with three pages or seven minutes, and keep at it, you'll soon find you can do more time or more pages.

But beware. There are traps lurking that must be avoided.  Three that come to mind are allowing interruption, (the kids can watch television for ten minutes, or you can sacrifice  ten minutes of your lunch hour), finding something else you just have to do, (like sharpening pencils, feeding the cat, looking through the cookbook for a new recipe for dinner tonight), or the big one, editing what you wrote before. That last one will eat up more time than you think and no, you really aren't writing. You are editing.

When you return to your work, limit yourself. Read only the last paragraph you wrote. When you finish the novel you can always go back and cut or trim as you need. And here's a trick I learned a long time ago. If I can't think of the exact word I want I'll substitute several symbols for the word, like the dollar sign or the star. When I've finished writing for the day (I have my five pages or more) I go back, look for my symbols with the find tab and if the word comes to me, I'll add it. If not, I'll wait until I've finished the novel and by then chances are I'll have another word, or a whole different way to express the thought.

If you are participating in NaNoWrMo this year, you are learning to set goals. You are learning discipline and that's what it takes to write a book. Even if you don't finish your book, set realistic goals for yourself and go for it. You'll make it. Remember the fable of the turtle and the hare. The turtle won because he kept at it. You will too, if you do as he did and keep going. So good luck and keep that finish line in your sights. You will  complete your novel.

Happy writing!

Allison Knight


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Well described reasons I don't do the "speed dance." I'm guilty of letting the internal editor slow me down, but it doesn't stop me.

Dean Koontz is one who doesn't move from page one to the next until he's happy with page one. You can't argue with his success.

Big Mike said...

Time is no longer my friend. I find each novel takes longer to complete cause the little boy inside keeps saying, "I want o play" while my muse screams "get your butt back here and write."

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Rita Bay said...

Hey Allison, I've done NaNo every year since 2009. I "won" (their term) that year and started a novel that I completed in December the other years. I'll finish this year, probably on Nov 25. I think the price is really high, not sure if it's too high.
Rita Bay