I apologize for my lack of presence the last month. November saw a lot for me, including my cousin’s wedding, my birthday, my mom’s birthday, my grandmother recovery from surgery, Thanksgiving, retaking the biology MTEL and on top of it all, I participated in NaNoWriMo. It’s a lot, I know. Every day felt like Monday.
Thus my social media silence. I did guest blog over at Writers’ Rumpus early into the month, actually the same day I took my exam!
Here’s what I learned during the month of November:
BLOCK OUT ALL DISTRACTIONS!
I’m easily distracted….hello twitter….
That makes writing an even longer process. There were days I took 3+ hours to write 2000 words. It wasn’t just twitter that kept me from the computer. Here are just some of the more notable distractions from the past month:
-Boyfriend’s brother running down stairs in flannel and work boots claiming he wants to do “redneck shut.”
-Taking an important teaching exam. (I failed, again.) This time I will be taking a class instead of reteaching myself High School Biology.
-Setting up shop at the cafe where you work part time. Especially in a small town where you know most of the regulars and are forced into small talk, or are jumped by your friends.
-Painting your living room and then deciding it looks so good that you have to do your kitchen as well.
-Football. 1 word, that’s all I need. When your team is undefeated until one overtime game at the very end of November.
-Listening to Disney soundtracks while you work because it just makes you want to watch the movies.
-Spending your birthday in a car with your parents and cousin for eight hours. I also didn’t have a voice due to the wedding the night before.
-Thanksgiving-after-dinner-shenanigans (bonfire, fireball shots…)
-Letting your Bearded Dragon out of his cage. He’s running away from me at this moment and I don’t want him to jump off the table.
-Alcohol. When I wrote at night, I never had wine or beer with dinner. Coffee and tea were my go-to drinks. When I was finished on November 30th, I popped open a bottle and turned on the Hallmark Channel. No lie.
And so, so many more.
To get rid of these distractions, I turned to doing sprints. I would put my timer on for half and hour and just write. More on that later.
GIVE YOURSELF A GOAL
50,000 words feels like a lot, because it is a lot. Don’t focus on that number. When you sit down at your computer, know how much you’re going to write for the day. I usually gave myself a chapter a writing session. This really helped me because I’m writing 1st person dual POV. The chapters flip between characters, so each day was a different character.
If you miss a day, due to some event or wanting to sleep, you do need to catch up on your work. I used to write a chapter and a half for two days which would usually get me back on track. Sometimes it was more than that.
There are so many ways that you can stay motivated. I’m a competitive person, so going onto the NaNo site and looking at the graph kept me going. I hated when I fell below it. Really, I don’t like to fail and the days when I was behind felt like failing to me.
Also, in this category, is join a group. If you meet other writers who are going through NaNoWriMo with you, then you can support each other. I was part of a group from YA RWA. Each day we would post our word count and every now and then someone would ask if anyone wanted to do a sprint.
20 mins, 30 mins. Whatever amount of time you want. Set your timer, put in headphones and don’t stop typing until it goes off. My longest sprint went for 900+ words, my shortest 600+. I blame the football game for that sprint. I didn’t know it wouldn’t be over by the time we started our sprint.
DON’T GO BACK
No matter how bad you think a chapter is, or how you’ve thought up a new subplot, don’t go back. You can always add in more during your first round of edits, or delete it. That’s what edits are for. NaNoWriMo isn’t going to land you with the perfect novel. But, words on paper are word on paper. Take them, use them. December is a time to slave over every word.
ONE PROJECT AT A TIME
You can get really overwhelmed.
I did not follow this rule. My idea for this project came while I was editing another work. I started querying that piece just prior to NaNoWriMo. I stick with the rule, only query one project at a time, but I had one last query out for an older project of mine. Near the beginning of November, I received an R&R from an agent. I was ecstatic, but with NaNo, I didn’t have time to really look at it. Then, a friend of mine tore apart the opening for my other project. So, I started editing that as well. I didn’t add the word count of my edits into NaNo, but I would have passed 50,000 words much earlier on if I had.
If you did NaNo this year, even if you didn’t make 50,000 words, congrats. It’s a big step. No matter your word count, no matter the genre, you made progress. Don’t get discouraged, keep going. I didn’t finish my project until a week later, but I ended at 80,000 words. And again, it’s not ready to submit. I’m only on my first round of edits right now.
Writing a novel is hard, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But if you have a story to tell, tell it. The world wants to hear it. Just remember, it’s going to take some time.