If you plan to write a 50,000-word novel this coming November, you will need to develop some time management skills.
Writing is easier once it becomes a daily behavioral habit. However, making the best use of your limited writing time requires a little planning, self-discipline, and encouragement from your family.
Once you tell them that you have a goal of writing 1,667 words a day, they might be your biggest supporters. My family certainly has been.
My children are grown now, but most new writers have jobs and a family. When you have school-age children, time for personal projects can be limited. You are constantly going somewhere to some athletic or school function.
But I did it, and you can too. By writing in short bursts whenever you have the opportunity, you might get your first draft finished and get that certificate that says you completed 50,000 words in 30 days.
First, you must give yourself permission to write. For much of my working life, I was a single parent, sometimes with three part-time jobs. My main job was as a bookkeeper or working in data entry for corporate America. Throughout the 1990s, I worked weekends and holidays as a hotel maid. I’m retired now, but although I’d never heard of NaNoWriMo, I was a secret novelist, and I couldn’t stop thinking about what I was writing.
We have this perception that taking time for creativity is selfish, and that will be your biggest hurdle. Trust me, it is not asking too much of your family for you to have some time every day that is sacred and dedicated to writing.
I wrote in the evenings while my children did their homework, which sometimes meant a lot of stopping and starting, but I did get some writing done. Some words are better than none! You can also set aside a block of time on the weekend to make up some words, although that can be difficult. Setting aside time on a weekend can become a hardship, especially if you have a young family.
Having me there, typing away next to the gerbil cage seemed to keep them on track with their homework, and I did get a page or two written every night.
What I churned out was pretty awful, but although I didn’t know it at the time, I was developing discipline and a work ethic in myself as well as in my children.
Having an artistic life means you allow yourself time to create something meaningful to you.
The following is a list of ideas to help you carve the time to write and still be a full participant in your family’s life.
- You must decide what is more important, your dream of writing or watching a television show that is someone else’s dream. Do you want to create, or do you want to be entertained?
Personally, I would say that if you didn’t like how Game of Thrones turned out, too bad. Write it the way you think it should have been done. Writing fan-fiction is a time-honored way to start your writing career.
- You have the right to take an hour in the morning and the evening to use for your own creative outlet. Wake up an hour early and write until the time you would generally get up. That will be the quietest time you will have all day. Give up that 9:00 p.m. TV show and write for one more hour. There are your 2 precious hours.
Use those two separate hours for your stream-of-consciousness writing. You could easily get your 1,667 words written every day, possibly more. I am a slow keyboard jockey, and I can do about 1,100 wonky, misspelled words an hour during NaNoWriMo.
ALL words you write count toward the goal, misspelled or not.
Write for five minutes here and ten minutes there all day long if that is all you can do. Every word counts toward your finished manuscript. I took my lunch to work and wrote during my lunch half-hour whenever possible. I also wrote on the bus when I didn’t own a car.
You don’t have to announce to your co-workers or family that you are writing a book if you don’t wish to. I certainly didn’t feel comfortable saying anything about my secret life.
- If you want to spend your lunchtime writing, politely let people know you’re handling personal business and won’t have time to chat.
Writing in the stream-of-consciousness style is an excellent way to cultivate your emotional and poetic mind. It will improve your writing skills in general.
During NaNoWriMo, you engage in unedited writing. Nothing is deleted and every word counts. Even with an outline, sections of your narrative will often be unstructured because it reflects your (or your character’s) observations at the moment you were thinking them.
Writing in this fashion mirrors the way internal thoughts in the human mind work. You are quickly processing thoughts and perhaps switching from one topic to another with abandon. Just go for it.
Remember, what you are writing is a rough draft, so your story arc will be bumpy and uneven. It doesn’t have to be perfect, so don’t worry about making it so. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to get that first draft written in thirty days. So, every time you have fifteen minutes to spare, sit down and write as much as you can in that short length of time. Spew your story as fast as you can in those moments before you are pulled away. With six or seven short bursts of writing, you can really rack up the word count.
In January or March, or whenever you go to revise your first draft, you might be amazed to find that much of what you originally wrote has life and passion.
The point is to keep on writing even when you have fallen behind. Use whatever motivational tricks you need to encourage yourself, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Far more important than simply getting word count, the goal is to finish your novel.
Writers and other artists do have to make some sacrifices for their craft. It’s just how things are. But you don’t have to sacrifice family for it. Sacrifice one hour of sleeping in and give up something ephemeral and unimportant like one hour of TV.
You can achieve your goal of 50,000 words in 30 days if you give yourself permission to create and make the time to do so.
#NANOPREP SERIES TO DATE:
#NaNoPrep: part 1: What’s the Story? (the storyboard)