How often have you said, “One day, I’d like to write a book?” Instead of one day, how about 30 days? The National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is almost upon us once again.
Every November from the 1st to the 30th, millions of writers, from all over the world participate in writing 50,000 words. For more details on this event, check out the official website by clicking here.
In this article, I want to help you manage your time in writing as much and as often during the entire month. I’ve previously participated in many NaNo challenges over the years; my first in 2005 and I’ve both won and lost.
But what I learned is how to deal with Real Life when it comes knocking on your door in various forms. Keep in mind these are not fool-proof but just some suggestions to help you reach your goal of 50K words by November 30th.
This can also work for any time of the year as it is standard guidance for all writers of any level. With that in mind, here’s my advice.
But I Don’t Have Time to Write
The main problem that a lot of people have told me, in regard to writing, is that they don’t have time to write. My response has always been the same; it’s not a matter of having the time but finding the time.
Even if you give yourself a two-hour window to write, you’ll find every excuse not to write during that time. Suddenly the laundry needs folding, the dishes need to be washed, the dog needs walking, and so on. By the time you’ve finished with all of that you have maybe fifteen minutes left to write and you spend that time staring at a blank screen. Then, the next day, you’ll complain, once again, that you don’t have time to write.
Here some ways to help you find the time to write:
Getting the family on board with the idea of your writing for an entire month is a task in itself alone. Most of the family won’t understand why you want to do this siting it as a waste of time. There is no clear way you can explain this to non-writers; at least I haven’t found one.
One suggestion would be to encourage members of your family to join you in the frenzy-filled madness of writing for thirty days straight. If they decline, the next step is to help them understand why you need to do this. Let them know how important this is to you and that you want them to respect your space and privacy.
Ask them for moral support, perhaps you can get them to read some of your manuscript and offer suggestions for where the story is headed. Perhaps they can help you name a character, create a fictitious town, or share a personal anecdote that can happen in your story. You can also have them give you a random fact or idea that you have to incorporate into your story
Above all, do not avoid your family altogether. Whether it just be you and your spouse or a household of children, make sure they remember what you look like. Purposefully set aside time to do something with the family; a dinner out, a movie, or a simple walk around the neighborhood. Getting away from the story will help you clear your mind and allow the ideas to keep flowing in your head.
Meetings and Appointments
We don’t always have control of our time when it comes to doctor visits; whether it’s a checkup or a weekly counselor’s session. However, you can try to schedule these appointments as close together as possible and get them out of the way ASAP.
When an appointment is coming up, make sure you write a little extra to pad your word count for that day. Not every appointment eats up a lot time but, if little Johnny is rushed to the hospital from the school with a broken arm, you may find that a few days of writing will disappear while you tend to this emergency.
Naturally, I’m not telling to ignore your family, or obligations, when it comes to these sudden changes, but stay ahead of your word count goal for any eventuality. And if you are a church-goer do not ignore your responsibilities for the purpose of writing. Your congregation might understand, though doubtful, but God will not.
Meals and “That” Holiday
If you are the cook in the household, you may find it difficult to do the evening meals for the family. Don’t just shove the yellow pages at your family and tell them to, “Figure it out for yourselves.” Pizza, on occasion, is nice but no one wants takeout every night of the week for an entire month!
One of the ideas that someone came up with was cooking several meals in advance and then freezing them so they can be thawed and reheated during the month. This is a great way to make sure your family not only gets enough to eat but is eating healthier than what they’d get through a drive-thru window.
Another idea is to get your spouse to do some of the cooking during this time and an even better idea would be to get the kids to help. Regardless of their age, they can help out Mom or Dad to get things ready for the evening meal. Plus, it’s a way to teach them how to cook without letting them know they are learning. Recipes are readily available all over the internet as are cooking videos that give you tips and hints on how to prepare certain dishes.
Of course the biggest event of November is that holiday called Thanksgiving. It falls on the fourth Thursday every year which is one of the few holidays that you can always keep up with.
One way to prepare for this is to have your story completely written before then. It’s not impossible but for some it may be more challenging; depending on how early or late that Thanksgiving falls. Some years it’s as early as the 22nd and others as late as the 28th. Either way, remind yourself it’s the fourth Thursday of the month.
If you’re hosting the big dinner at your house, prepare as much of the food in advance before the day arrives. There are some grocery stores that sell an entire turkey dinner with all of the trimmings so that all you’d have to do is heat everything up in the microwave or oven. Check your area and see if this option is available. There are also websites that give you a day-by-day preparation list for things to get ready leading up to the dinner.
Another idea is either have it earlier or postpone it until later depending on everyone’s availability that will be a part of your dinner. Nowhere is it written in stone that says you have to celebrate Thanksgiving on the actual day.
If you’ll be visiting someone else’s home for the meal, perhaps you can do some writing on the way over to the location. Whether you are travelling by car, train or airplane; you should be able to snag some extra words prior to the meal. Provided that your hosts understand your writing challenge, you might be able to get in some writing while waiting for the meal to be served.
Don’t ignore them especially if you only see them once or twice a year. If you’re spending the weekend there, there’s always time to get some writing in on Friday and Saturday after the meal.
Of course, by the time Thanksgiving arrives, your spouse might say, “You’re still writing?” or “At least take the day off from this”. In the long run you might just give yourself the entire day off. Pad your word count the day before and then resume on that Friday while everyone is out shopping. If you’re finished, help yourself to an extra piece of pie to celebrate.
Some Time-Saving Tips
As I stated at the beginning of this article; it’s not having the time, but finding the time to write. Here are some ideas to help you get some writing done:
- Rise 30 minutes earlier or go to bed 30 minutes later, and utilize that time to write. Even if you’re just putting ideas down on paper (or on the screen), write. It doesn’t have to make sense just write it.
- Pre-record all of your favorite shows and then watch them at the end of each week or after you’ve finished the entire project. With technology today, you don’t have to watch an episode the night it is broadcast.
- Reduce your e-mail viewing. Either utilize the vacation mode on your account or limit the number of times you read them. Twice a day should be the maximum if you usually do it more often.
- Limit your presence on Social Media. For some, this is like depriving a person of water or air. If you are a social butterfly, let your peeps know that you won’t be on as often but make sure you check in so they know you’re still alive.
- Write during your lunch hour at work. If you can’t take a laptop, using the ol’ pen and paper to scribble your story. You can get a good amount of words finished this way and it will count towards your final total.
Whatever you do, do not totally neglect your spouse or family during your writing session; be it a week or an entire month. Spend some time with them, eat meals with them, and celebrate each milestone that you cross. Remember my mantra: 5K, every 3 days; if you write 5000 words every three days that will get you to the goal of 50K of the NaNo challenge. Or whatever goal you set yourself for your story.
What about you? What are your secrets to dealing with everyday life and writing? Share any hints or tips of what worked and what didn’t. I’m looking forward to hearing your comments.