Sometimes I like to write blog posts about how to do things that I myself am not necessarily very good at. Today is one of those days.
It’s November, and every November (or hopefully every October if I’m a little more prepared) I ask myself the question: Will I do NaNoWriMo this year?
If you’re not familiar with NaNoWriMo, I’ll start by saying that it’s something I should be doing right now rather than writing this blog post. It is National Novel Writing Month, in which a person challenges themselves to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. There is a whole website for this where you can log your word count, look at some pretty cool stats related to your word count, connect with writer friends and see their word counts, chat in the forums, and indulge in other wonderful forms of procrastination.
The thing about NaNo is that it forces you to write every day. If you don’t already force yourself to write something every day come hell or high water, 50,000 words in a month works out to be quite a few in a day – 1,667 words in fact. I’m finding myself ahead of this by quite a way so far because I’m sort of cheating and using NaNo as motivation to finish the first draft of my novel. So I started at a little under 23,000 words, and my daily word count has been a little sporadic so far, depending on the other things I’m doing each day. I know that if I don’t build up momentum again really soon, time is going to catch up to me and I’ll have to go hard on my word count in order to keep up.
If I don’t complete NaNo, it isn’t the end of the world. But this is an opportunity for me to make a big dent in my novel, and it would be brilliant to be able to finish the entire first draft by the end of the month. Considering it’s likely to be more than 50,000 words, I need to get a move on. But some days I just don’t feel like writing, or I don’t have much time, or I just know that I’m not going to meet the 1,667 word target for that day. However, I can’t not write. I need to give myself a fighting chance at this. So today, when after working all day, meeting my parents for lunch and spending time with friends in the evening, I go home at about 8:45pm, I didn’t feel like writing at all. And it wasn’t likely that I was going to meet my word count for the day. But I had an idea of a conversation I wanted my characters to have next, so I thought I’ll just quickly write that up, and that will be my contribution for the day. So that’s what I did. I wrote 88 words. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t very much at all. But it’s something, and it’s better to write 88 words than to write nothing at all.
So, when I sat down at my laptop tonight I told myself that I would just write that conversation. No pressure. And on days when you’re not really feeling it, you can do the same. If you only write a sentence, you’ve still written something. And if you only intend to write a sentence, you may find yourself writing more. Bonus!
Another trick is to stop writing even though you know what you’re going to write next. This can be more helpful than writing everything you’ve thought about and leaving yourself with no inspiration when you come back to your work the next day.
Even if you have no inspiration at all, just write anything. Even if it’s nonsense. Even if it’s something completely different to what you’re meant to be working on. Even if it’s “I don’t know what to write today”. Even if it’s free-writing. Pick up a pen or open a word document and just say one thing. Maybe that will lead to another thing, and maybe that will lead to a better thing, and maybe then you’ll start getting into the flow.
I’m not saying be complacent. I’m not saying only write when you’re inspired, or don’t worry about whether you hit your targets. But it can help to ease the pressure you’re putting on yourself. Every day doesn’t have to be a day when you work your butt off. You’re allowed to have off-days. Inspiration can come after writing sometimes, rather than before. When inspiration does hit and you’re fired up and ready to go, take advantage of it. And bad writing is better than no writing because it can always be edited. Writing every day – even if it’s a sentence, even if it’s scrawled on a napkin, even if it’s rubbish – is better than doing nothing.
I’m not going to hit my target if I only write 88 words every day. But I will have a little more time tomorrow, and more time at the weekend, so I can catch up. And hopefully if I don’t, I’ll be able to keep up with my daily writing practise from NaNo and finish by the end of the year.
Do you write every day, are you doing NaNo, or do you set yourself other targets? How is it going? Let me know in the comments!