Photo credit: Chesna at Pixabay
November is over, and I will soon resume my normal flash fiction posts, but first, one last post about National Novel Writing Month.
Yay NaNo! WOO HOO! We love you! Come back!
Ahem. Sorry for the outburst. Apparently I’m suffering from NaNo withdrawal.
I hope everyone out there who participated in NaNoWriMo this past month wrote more words than you did the month before, and are happy with your progress! I definitely wrote more words than usual: over 60,000, whereas I’ve been struggling most months this year to meet my goal of 10,000. So what I’ve learned – again, as I did with my first NaNo in 2015 – is that boy, I sure can write a lot of words if I try.
I ask myself the same questions I did last time – why can I write so much during NaNo but then fall flat the rest of the year? And how can I learn from that, and use what worked during NaNo to write more words in my non-NaNo months?
Note: from now on, years shall be divided into NaNo and non-NaNo months.
Part of my word count success was that I took several days of vacation off work. I literally gave myself more time. That helps! However, it isn’t something I’d be able to do most months.
Part of it was that I had a good outline, and was writing brand-new words for a brand-new story, which always feels easier and faster to me than revising. Unfortunately, I have a growing pile of works in progress that need revising, so I’ll need to deal with that too.
Part of it was that I was focused on and dedicated to a clear goal. That is definitely something I need to work on in non-NaNo months. I often feel torn in so many directions that it’s hard to make progress in any of them. So there’s a good strategy: force myself to make clearer and more concrete goals.
But a big part of it was having long periods of time where I allowed myself to blow off every other aspect of my life, when I had absolutely nothing else to do except write. That really frees up my mind to do what I do best: get into the zone and surge.
Let me back up a bit. For years now, I’ve been reading blog posts, books, and other advice from people who swear that Real Writers write every single day. If you’re really good, you’re able to take any spare ten minutes you happen to have and quickly write words that add up to a novel. These types challenge each other with sprints – on your mark, get set, go! Look how many words you can write when you have that clock ticking down!
This always bothered me, because, I’ll confess:
I SUCK AT SPRINTS.
Probably the best way to stop my creative mind and writing fingers from working is to point at me and command me to write, especially something extemporaneous. The idea of “improv” writing gives me the heebie-jeebies. Those workshops where they challenge you to write up a paragraph or scene based on a prompt they gave you five seconds ago? I totally freeze. I’m still thinking though the scenario, formulating it in my head, when everyone else has scribbled down wonderful prose and is reading it aloud.
I was starting to think I was a loser. Just… you know… bad at this whole writing thing.
But I hit the 50,000 mark in NaNo after only 12 days of writing. Hit 56,000 that day, actually. And they’re good words, too.
So I’m rethinking that loser idea.
Maybe I’m not a sprinter. Maybe I’m a marathoner.
I remind myself that not everyone can write all day long, especially not many days in a row. They get tired, get distracted, lose their momentum. But I can. In fact, it’s my favorite way to write. I may not have a great words-per-hour ratio, but I get more done in one seven-hour stretch than I would ever get done in seven one-hour stretches. It’s trying to squeeze writing into my calendar between the other tasks that kills my productivity and creative process.
Now, I think I should work on all of that – increase my words-per-hour ratio, increase my productivity at revising, get better at writing something if I only have an hour. And I will. But in the meantime, it makes sense to play to my strengths rather than my weaknesses.
So, how do I do that?
My idea is to make time for more marathon sessions, even during non-NaNo months. This means clearing up at least a few weekend days every month, so that I have NOTHING to do except write from morning until night. (Ah, that sounds like the best vacation ever). I’m looking for ways to fit my other tasks into the early morning and evening time slots during the week. Instead of waiting for laundry to pile up and doing six loads on a Saturday, I’ll do two loads on a weeknight. Same with catching up on emails and blogging, and with other housework like grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking – all things I can do in short bursts on weeknights or mornings instead of trying to do a long list on the weekend. (I’m already doing this most weeks; I bring a backpack on my morning exercise walk and stop by the grocery store along the way.) I won’t be able to clear out every weekend, but hopefully I can carve out enough big chunks of time so I can achieve my 10K goal every month. Maybe even double it!
Sounds like a plan. Can’t be worse than not having a plan, right?
Is that my muse I hear laughing in the background? Hm…
Thanks everyone for listening to me babble about my writing. Maybe it’s even been helpful to someone! I’d love to know how YOU feel about sprinting versus marathon sessions. What strategies work for you? And what did you learn from NaNoWriMo, this year or any other year?