A wise man once said, “Friends will pick your noveling month to have relationship meltdowns. Your three favorite bands will come to town on the one night you’d set aside to finally get caught up on your word count. And your computer, which has worked flawlessly for the past five years, will explode in an apocalyptic series of error screens and electronic moans.” And Chris Baty doesn’t even have a 6-month-old child. Inevitably, unexpected challenges will pop up when you should be getting your main character from having a blow out with her mom to falling in love with the guy that works at the coffee shop but even your everyday schedule can pose a problem when you suddenly have to find a few hours each day to focus on murder weapons and fairy dust (wouldn’t want to accidentally mix those two up).
To accomplish any grand scheme, you must attack it with a plan. Or in my case, a new plan. But, you say, you’ve already won NaNoWriMo twice–your current plan must be working, no? Well, I’ll tell you why I need a new plan and the reason is lying next to me with a small puddle of drool forming at the corner of its mouth. No, the one next to my husband.
20 Minute Word Sprints
This is a great one for all parents out there or anyone with a busy schedule. The previous two years I simply said, “Okay, Hubby, I’m starting my writing time” and I’d sit on the bed next to him and write until I was finished. Feasibly, with my typing skills, I should be able to accomplish this in a couple of hours. But I didn’t. Because Castle would be on in the background and I’d get distracted and then my stomach would growl and I’d have to go to the kitchen to find something to eat and even though there was a perfectly easy carton of yogurt right there on the shelf I would decide I wanted spaghetti and that would take an hour to make. I’d finish my snack and then I would need coffee but I don’t have a simple coffee pot, I have one of those fancy espresso machines with the milk steamer and it would take me 10 minutes just to make a cup. Then the husband would want to go to Walmart and I’d peruse the movie section for an hour and by the time we got home it was midnight and I needed to brush my teeth and go to sleep.
I don’t have that luxury anymore.
The baby doesn’t care what I want to eat and when or if I’ve had coffee at all today (although she really should). She requires much more time and attention than even the neediest novel therefore, I don’t have time to dawdle. What I do have is 20 minutes. Even I can distract the baby for 20 minutes in her jumper or when she’s down for a nap and even I can focus on my novel for 20 minutes without getting distracted by Castle…depending on which episode it is. Okay, maybe I’ll wait until Castle is over. My point is, 20 minutes is an easy-to-accomplish amount of time for noveling and letting the baby repeatedly kick me in the side. I can write 400-600 words in that amount of time so if I set aside three or four 20 minute sessions each day, I’m golden.
These are times of day that best work for me:
- When I first wake up
- At Power Writing Hour
- After dinner
- Before bed
Figure out which times of day you can hide away for 20 minutes at a time and even if you don’t have a baby, this tip will help you sail right through to the finish line.
No matter how much time you make, you won’t do much good with it unless you stay motivated to reach your end goal. And trust me, if you’re not motivated, you won’t make much time. That’s where your friends come in because they’re rooting for you. And you wouldn’t want to disappoint them.
Write with a Friend Day
My girlfriend and I dubbed ours LoNoBloWriDay. Try to guess what that stands for. I dare you. Personally, I don’t have any friends near me that participate in National Novel Writing Month, which is sort of a bummer. Half the fun of NaNo is sharing it with others. If, like me, you don’t have any friends or strangers nearby that you can ask or blackmail to write with you, it’s time to get creative. My best friend isn’t a novelist but she does love to blog so I bribed her with ridiculously unhealthy snacks and a trip to the coffee shop in hopes that she would join me for a day of noveling on my end and blogging on hers. It worked. Because she’s rooting for me. Or because she knows I’ll regrettably part with a bag or two of my favorite Peruvian cookies.
If you do have friends nearby that participate in National Novel Writing Month, join them for a write-in! Your friendly local Municipal Liaison should already be setting them up. You can find the meeting places and times in the Home Region section of the NaNoWriMo forums. Me, I finagled my husband into driving 3 hours twice next month so I could attend some write-ins. There’s nothing like word wars, caffeine and a contact noveling high to boost your word count.
No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty.
Chris Baty is totally my friend. He tweeted @me once. Don’t lie, you’re jealous. Where we most often meet (okay, only) is the guide to National Novel Writing Month he wrote a few years ago. I finally got my hands on a copy and have delved into his world of plot bunnies and guilt monkeys. No one knows better how to accomplish a month-long novel writing project and still emerge with some semblance of sanity than the man who created it. He has tips on how to make time, how to create the utter terror it takes to finish and what to expect each week of the journey, all with a peppering of Baty Humor. I heart this book.
I hope I don’t have to tell you by now that TV, Internet, your boss and sugar cravings are all distractions from your writing. You see them coming. You know how to handle them. No, this is the gadget portion of the blog because, after perusing the NaNo forums, I came across a new program I am so in love with, I have to share.
Have you ever wished you could set the scene of your novel across your screen so you didn’t feel so much like you were on your computer? I have a million times. I’ve tried formatting a Word document with different fonts and colors and using different themes in my email application but still there were too many buttons and options and flashy things trying to get my attention. FocusWriter gets rid of all of that. It’s a program that takes over your entire screen–bars, menus, everything. The best part: you can choose your own background, your own text background color, your own text color, choose from fonts. It’s completely customizable. I created a background for myself that mimics the setting of my novel as well as picked out celebrities to “play” my characters and plastered their faces on it. It’s like putting my brain on the computer screen and literally typing the words on it. In the next upgrade I’ll be able to download my story directly from my mind into the computer. I hope.
So this is my plan for tackling NaNoWriMo this year. I hope what you take from this isn’t my plan (although, if it helps, feel free to steal any part of it). I hope what you take is that you should have a plan to make the time and keep yourself motivated…one that works for you. Because unexpected things will pop up and everyday responsibilities will always be gobbling up your writing time but NaNoWriMo can be done. Thousands of people do it every year and you can too. Sit down and make your plan now because as another wise man once said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
P.S. It’s Local Novel & Blog Writing Day.