I’ve recently participated, and completed, the NaNoWriMo that you all have probably seen pop up around this time of year. It stands for “National Novel Write Month” and what is is really boils down to is just trying to write 50,000 words of a new project during the month of November.
I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not a real writer, but here are some things that helped me get through it, and some things that I learned on the way.
Until this past month, I really always just wondered what it would be like to be a writer. It has sort of a romantic feeling to it. To be creating these awesome things that I love to enjoy myself. I have bought and read many books on writing. I’ve watched tons and tons of interviews, classes, speeches, and workshops. If you know me, you already know I’m going to bring up how I’ve seen every interview of Brandon Sanderson (This guy always with the Brando Sando – wtf?!), and watched all his youtube class videos. I’ve done all this, but I’ve never actually put it to use. It’s like preparing for a marathon that I never intended to run.
I went to cons, I’ve talked to authors, I’ve talked to other bloggers and writers to get advice, and the advice was always “You just have to sit down and do it.” I never really followed that advice though. I don’t know why, but it’s true. It never happens until you make it happen.
What Has Helped Me
Seriously, I would not have even come close to hitting the word count everyday if I didn’t do the NaNoPrep material. Once I decided that I was going to try to do it this year, I jumped into the prep material. It really helped organize some of my thoughts and plans before I even started to write. If I didn’t do this, I would have no clue what the hell I was doing. I feel that way still, but that’s because I learned that I am a hardcore outliner. I need to know what I am going to write, how it’s going to fit together, and have some research done before I can even start writing a scene.
If you have looked into writing, you’ve probably heard about the snowflake method. It’s sometime that I kept in the back of my head, but I didn’t really utilize it. Not until I realized that I was doing it without thinking about it. Each scene I started to write ended up as one sentence, one idea. Sometimes it would stay one sentence for weeks, but most of the time, I would just go back into each scene and build it out a bit more. Most of my time was spent just going back between scenes and building, building more, building even more, and then connecting them. The outlining really helped me get the initial scene ideas, and the snowflake method really helped me flesh them out.
Not against anyone else, but against myself. It was a goal. I need to make sure that I do this, or I am a failure. That might sound a bit harsh, but this is how I usually think about things. Of course it has probably led to god knows how many mental health issues, but I’ve always believed a job is not worth doing unless you plan to try your best. You have a daily goal, and it needs to be hit. Somedays you might not make it, and that’s ok, but you better be damn sure you slap yourself the next day and make up for it.
This is not an advertisement or anything like that, but for someone as anal as me, it has helped a lot in trying to stay organized. I write all over the place. Nothing is in order. Scenes are at random times and random places. It’s just a big mess everywhere. It’s really nice to have a program that you can organize things into little files though. I’ve been using the Levianthan Worldbuilding template, and it has really helped a lot. It also really helps that for job, I organize sort of similarry with outlook. All of my emails have a special folder depending on what it is, status, etc. In outlook you can flag, color code, and do all of these other things. That’s how I project manage most of my day-to-day aspects of my job, so taking that and moving it into scrivener has worked really well for me. Try it out if that sounds like you.
Time was always my biggest constraint when it came to writing. My day is always packed full of the normal life things. My job requires a ton of my time, and pretty much for me to be always thinking about it. Most of this year I worked 6 days a week and long days. The days start when I wake up, and end when I go to sleep with my job. That’s the beauty of working in a digital world now. The email I answer at 10pm is one less than I have to do at 9am the next. The strategy I come up with at 7am saves time than trying to come up with it at 9am when the next strategy already needs to be solved.
It’s not easy trying to hit 50k, although it was completely my choice, it felt like a part time job… and that’s because it was. I’m an idiot, it takes me a long time to figure out what to write. I spent on average 3 hours a day trying to get the words down and keep the outline going enough to cover the next day. With the job I described, the writing added another 21 hours of work per week. Couple that with all of the chores, exercise, life events, trying to keep up on social media, keep relationships healthy, and hell even this blog. It burns you out quick. At the height of it all, I was telling people I only got a few minutes to myself everyday. I was and I wasn’t. We choose what to do with our time, but I have a weird way of making sure mine is somewhat productive. (Even when it’s not!)
You Just Need To Try
You never know if you will be able to do something until you try.
For me, this novel might never be finished. It might always be a huge clusterfuck mess that will never be put in the correct order. Even if it does, it might never go past that. It was still fun to do! Plus: I will be 100% better prepared for the next project!
If you’ve ever thought about you really just have to start. I waited years to start. Please don’t make the same mistakes as me.