Right, so last week I announced that I was doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year as a way to help me finish my novel. I mean, technically I’m not “doing” NaNo because I’m not trying to get to 50K words in one month. My novel is already over 50K, and I’m just trying to finish it. I need to write something like 30K this month (give or take a few thousand words, depending on how the story shakes out), and even 30K in a month requires a degree of discipline and some shenanigans to get through. After all, I have a full-time job, am trying to get back into running regularly, have a regular D&D campaign, this blog, and other stuff. So, what am I doing to set myself up for success and actually finish this thing?
Well, I’m glad you asked! Here are four things I’ve done to help me finish my novel.
Clearly Defined, Measurable Goal with a Due Date
Now, you might be thinking, “Hold on. How can one of your methods for the thing you’re trying to accomplish… be the thing you’re trying to accomplish?” But what I’m talking about here isn’t the goal itself, but how I’m describing it.
Look, I could say “I want to finish my novel soon.” This is a goal, technically. But it’s not very well-defined. How will I know if I’ve finished the novel? I don’t have a specific trigger that says “alright, goal done.” Also, this statement doesn’t have any sort of time period. So, what’s my motivation for working on it every day?
I like to look back on the time I trained for and ran a half marathon. I picked a race, which had a specific day and said my goal was to finish the race without walking (measurable distance). I had a specific time period and a way to measure my goal (run a certain distance). I can develop writing goals along a similar pattern. If I say “I’m going to write 30K words by December 1,” then I have a very specific, measurable goal with a due date. And if I’m going to accomplish this task in that given period of time, I need to space the work out between now and that deadline (motivation to work on it every day). Thinking back on that half marathon again, in order to get to a place I was fit enough to run the race, I had to train and run a bit most days leading up to it. And I did it! So. having a good set up for your goal makes accomplishing it easier.
As mentioned, I work full-time, I try to run regularly for my mental health, and I have a full schedule of commitments. There is a very limited amount of free time in my day, and if I want to finish this book by the end of November I need to use that time effectively. So, I started a word count calendar. You’ll see these pop up around NaNoWriMo time every year. Basically, it’s a calendar with the number of words you need to write every day to accomplish the goal. And, for me, if I have that on a calendar, I can also visualize what else I’m going to do on those days and better work around those things. I might realize that I have a D&D session on one day during the week, and a gathering with friends another. I know that I need to plan ahead for those days, maybe pad my word count on other days or just plan to catch up on a Saturday when I know I’ll have more time. Figuring this stuff out before the problem arises helps me stay focused on writing while I’m writing and make the most of my time.
Look, I’m human like everyone else. Even though I love writing, sometimes I hate writing. Sometimes I don’t want to. I’d rather play video games or binge watch The Good Place or stare at my phone. So, I need a little extra motivation to get myself going. That’s where rewards come in. Every time I meet a daily word count, I reward myself with positive self-talk, a piece of chocolate, and maybe a beer (but not always because I don’t want the beer thing to become a habit). I also am trying to do a nice thing for myself at the end of every week to celebrate my successes. It’s been simple stuff, like watching a movie or something like that. Nothing too fancy. But it does help me stay motivated when I’m tired and writing doesn’t sound so great.
Having an Outline
Honestly, I don’t know how I wrote anything without an outline before. (Oh, right, I didn’t!). Having an outline at this point in this draft process is crucial for me. Whenever I sit at the computer, I more or less know what’s going to happen in that scene. I may tweak the tone or add other details, but for the most part I stick to the plan. And that’s been awesome. I highly recommend an outline for anyone who struggles with making progress on a novel.
So, there are a few things I’m doing to help me get through NaNo this year. Is anyone else doing NaNo? How’s it going for you? Let me know in the comments 🙂