These tips are useful for any writer, including those doing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Many people who are participating in NaNoWriMo, are college students, parents or work a full time job. Any of these things, and many more I didn’t mention, can be an inhibitor to the amount of time you might have to devote to your writing. Obviously, it goes without saying – that this is true about writing any time of year. Not just November.
So what do you do about it?
1. Make time to write. I know that this tip is probably the most commonly heard, but also the least effectively executed for some. Sometimes its darn near impossible to find time to write during our busy schedules. No matter what we have going on, it is important to set aside a little bit of writing time. Even if it is only in 15-30 minute increments. Get up 30 minutes early. Go to bed 30 minutes later. That can help, because 15 minutes of writing in one day, is more than NO writing in one day. Try to fit writing into your schedule, even if you have to take a notebook and paper with you and sit on a bus and write, or sit in a doctors office to write. There is a way to make time, you just have to be willing to make it a priority and find the time.
2. If you are a college student, you have studying, tests and exams and homework to contend with. A tip that I have heard (since I am not a college student), is that when you are bored with writing your novel, study. If you are bored of studying, write your novel. Go back and forth as often as you need to, to make sure you get time for both.
3. Trying keeping track of your time. For a couple of days, write down your schedule. Be honest and write every single thing you do down. Then, take a look at it and see what can be eliminated. For instance, did you really need to watch that show? Could you have used your DVR (if you have it) to record the show and watch it later when you have more time? What about sitting in that waiting room. Could you have taken a pen and paper (or a mini-laptop if you have it) to get some writing, note taking or brain storming done? You get the point… take a look at what you truly spend time on and see if there is a way to cut things out. Remember, it’s only for a month (if you are doing NaNoWriMo).
4. Write when others are asleep. If you have children, or a husband/wife that is not doing NaNo… sometimes the best time to write is when everyone else is asleep. When you put your child down for a nap, write. When your husband or wife goes to bed, write. Even if its in small increments, its still writing.
5. Try doing NaNo word counts backwards. In a typical month of November, your daily word count should average about 1667 words/day to end up with 50,000 at the end. What if you tried to reward yourself by only writing one word on the 30th of November? This year, on the boards – someone figured out a backwards method of doing NaNo that actually rewards your good writing days and requires you to write less each day. I absolutely love the method. I usually start out with a gusto and seem to fizzle somewhere in the middle of the month, so having to write less each day would make life so much easier. It also allows for a couple of days of no writing, because you are writing less. Doubling it up is not as difficult as trying to double up 1667 words x’s the number of days you missed writing!for more information or to see the mathematical break down of how the numbers were achieved. All I know, is that 1 word required on November 30th is absolutely a must for me. (plus with the holiday at the end of the month, it helps!)
6. Get your friends and family on your side. Hold yourself accountable to them, by sharing your word count with them. If you are comfortable telling them about your story, you could also share where you left off. Having supporters is one of the easiest ways to get to writing and get ‘er done (so to speak). If your family is not on board, try talking to them about how important this is to you, and how motivated you are to get through it. Let them know that you could really use their support. It really does help. With this motivator, you can find time to write, because the last thing you want is to be asked your word count goal, and have to admit you haven’t written since the last time they asked.
7. Prepare meals ahead of time. If you are responsible for feeding your family, make a meal plan up for a month (or however long you think you will need to get at least a rough draft accomplished). For NaNo, I spent two weekends in October preparing different casseroles for dinners in November and then freezing them. I am definitely blessed because my children are older and can help with dinner while I’m writing. They know how to prepare a salad, bread, veggies and whatever else we might want. They will be my biggest helpers. Preparing meals ahead of time, or at least having some kind of idea what you will be making will save loads of time which will give you extra time to write at your designated time.
8. Outline or take notes. Before you sit down to write your novel, spend some time outlining or taking notes on what you plan to write. It is especially helpful, to get your beginning, middle and end ideas down. You might also want to spend some time on character development. Get to know your characters really well, because this will make writing what they would say or do, flow much easier. Using index cards, post its or an whole sheet or several to outline will make the process go more smoothly.
9. Organize your stuff. Before you sit down to write, be sure that you have everything you need at your fingertips. Pens, pencils, fresh coffee, tea or water – snacks, paper, your notes, any books you use. Keep your writing area as neat as you can so you can find everything easily. Use a basket, box or something else to corral all your things together and keep them close at hand. The more organized you are, the less time you spend trying to find things. This of course, gives you more time for writing.
10. Remember to have fun. If at some point, writing stops being fun, you are not going to do it. You are going to find excuses to get out of it, excuses why you can’t find time to do it, etc. If this is the case, maybe now isn’t the time to get the story out just yet. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing. I love to write, and every moment I spend writing, I’m having fun – even when I am a little frustrated. I just try different things to keep me in the writing mood, which continues to be fun. Take frequent breaks if you need them, reward yourself for a word count goal or finishing a chapter. Get up and go do something else for awhile. While it seems like you are wasting time – you’re not. If you aren’t in the writing mode right then, nothing you write is going to be very brilliant, so you might as well take a break and come back later. Let inspiration take place away from the computer screen or the blank page of your notebook.
Watch for another post on ways to keep writing fun.
What do you do to balance your time for writing and real life.