Saturday, November 27, 2021
I reached that milestone last Sunday, about 36 minutes into my 76-minute writing session (yeah, I kept track of the time and the exact word count). As of yesterday, I’m up to 61,667 words and I still have a bit to go. Not sure how much, but I’m going to keep going until I get to The End. I kept track of the total minutes written so far and they add up to 35.5 hours. It’s moments like this when I superimpose a month’s worth of writing in spurts of 60-75 minutes over a typical day job of 40 hours a week and start to wonder what it would really be like to have a day job in which I wrote fiction for 8 hours a day. I know that it would not be a one-to-one comparison, but I still think about it. Maybe one day.
So, how are you doing? Did you get to 50,000 words? Did those 50,000 words correspond to the end of your novel or do you still have to keep writing to get to The End? Did you fall short? Don’t worry. I’ve done all those things and more.
Depending on your answers, you should do two crucial things.
First, if you finished, CELEBRATE! You have just written a 50,000-word novel. Celebrate. Tell people about it. Post about it on Facebook. Tweet your accomplishments. Open a bottle of champagne. Seriously on that last part, do it. Ever since I completed book 2, I have sprung for a bottle of bubbly to celebrate. It is a monumental thing if you have written a novel, especially if it’s your first.
Second, if you did not finish, do not beat yourself up or chastise yourself. Do not do those things. They do you no good and, in all honesty, they hamper your next writing effort. Believe me. I know this one all too well. It wasn’t until January 2013 when I again looked at the past year of not writing and finally turned myself around. I didn’t chastise myself like I had on previous New Year’s Days. Instead, I analyzed what had kept me from writing. Once those things were identified, I was able to skirt around them, avoid them, and I became a much more productive writer.
Well, you’ve got to ask yourself a question. Did you participate in NaNoWriMo 2021 just to say you have written a novel, or did you do it because you want to keep writing stories? If it’s the former, good for you. Print it out, bind it if you want, display it proudly, and mark it off your bucket list. Mission Accomplished.
But if you found you enjoyed the process and kept doing it, you must keep writing. Seriously. Maybe NaNoWriMo 2021 took a lot out of you. That’s okay. Take a break for sure. Revel in your success. But make a plan--today--that you’ll start your next book on a certain day. My suggestion: New Year’s Day.
Now that you know you can write a novel, do it again. What better way to start a new year than with a new novel. I’ve done it the past few years. It’s a great way to get past the inevitable doldrums I often get in January. It’s like the hangover for all the holidays we celebrate the last 62 days of a year. Make a plan to start a book, and then write that next book. I’ll leave it up to you whether or not you decide to make January 2022 into a NaNoWriMo, but make a plan.
Ideally, you’ll finish your next book by 31 January 2022. Then, do it again. The best way to make it as a writer is to keep writing regularly. The ‘regularly’ is the key part. Writing is a muscle. It needs to be exercised to keep it in shape. And here’s the cool part: the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Even if you don’t do a true NaNoWriMo of 1,667 words a day, shoot for 1,000. That’s the goal of veteran writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch. In two months, you can have your next book written. Or a novella in 31 days.
Just keep writing. Make it a habit. If you do, you’ll discover the joy of writing, the ease of writing, and it’ll likely make you happy.
Right now, revel in your celebration: NaNoWriMo 2021 is almost over. Congratulations. Now, don’t wait another eleven months to write your next book
Saturday, November 20, 2021
The third full week of November also counts as the third full week of NaNoWriMo 2021. Still having fun yet? I know I am. I am well ahead of the daily pace of 1,667 words per day. As of yesterday, a daily 1,667 words gets you to 31,673. As of now, I’m only 3,100 words shy of 50,000, a threshold I should reach Saturday (if I have a good writing day) or Sunday for sure.
So I’m pretty jazzed about my progress, and I attribute it to a mantra I apply to NaNoWriMo and every other story I write: let the book breath and be what it wants.
What do I mean by that?
I’ve mentioned before that I set out to write a murder/mystery will elements of romance. Well, as it turns out, my 2021 NaNoWriMo book is more family drama than murder/mystery. Don’t worry. The murder is here, but I opted to write this story in which the corpse does not show up in chapter one. I wanted to set the stage first, to introduce the characters first, give the reader a sense of them all before something bad happens.
And I think I’ve accomplished that. I’m the first reader even though I’m the writer, and here’s a telling comment about my enthusiasm about this story: I haven’t read anything else all month. The story I want to read is the one I’m writing. Getting up at 5am on weekday to write is not a chore. I almost literally jump out of bed, go through a few calisthenics, fill a coffee cup, and start writing. I can’t wait to get back to the story.
I’m using Google Docs and it tends to wig out around the 10,000-word mark. As such, I create a new file every 10,000 words. I’ve let some folks read the first part and the response has been quite positive. It’s a good thing when you, the writer, enjoy a story you are writing. It’s great when someone else likes what you’ve actively working on.
As we turn the corner to the last full week of November (the month ends on a Tuesday) and some of us have days off where we can possibly spend more time writing, keep this thought in mind: it’s more important for you to finish the book than reach 50,000 in November.
Here’s why. By now, you will likely have already established a pattern, a routine for writing. Whatever it is, keep doing it until the book is finished.
If you can conceivably complete the book by the end of November, do it. But, if you don’t think you can make that deadline...but do think you can complete the book a few days after 30 November, then make the adjustment. Because, when you get right down to it, the reason you started NaNoWriMo in the first place was to complete a book. The 50,000-word mark was only a trick, a hack, to get many writers started. Your book may only be 45,000. If so, then congrats! You’ve written a book. Your book may actually not be done until you get to 95,000 or more. Your book is your book. Do your adjustments as you see fit.
But this last full week of NaNoWriMo 2021 is the final major push. I’ve done it before. I’m doing it now. Millions of others have done it.
And you can, too.
Saturday, November 13, 2021
As of yesterday, all the writers doing NaNoWriMo 2021 should have reached the 20,000-word mark. This threshold is based on a daily word count of 1,667 words per day. I’m happy to say that I now sit at 31,777 words.
There are two things at play with that number. One, I’m having a blast writing this novel, a traditional murder/mystery, a genre new to me. The words almost always fly from my brain, through the fingers, and onto the screen with joyous abandon.
Additionally, this is more of a character-driven story than I’ve ever written before. For my thrillers or westerns, there’s almost always a bad guy with a gun shooting at my heroes and they have to react. Not so with this book. It’s contemporary, with people talking about real issues and soon to be solving a crime. It’s odd for me, but I’m sincerely digging it. My initial readers are as well. My wife—a very harsh critic, who reads way more books than I do, and typically does not to read some of my more over-the-top stories—surprised me with her verdict on Part I of the story. It buoyed my day yesterday, especially since I’m going down a new path.
Every day until Wednesday, 9 November, I wrote more than 2,000 words in a day. But Wednesday morning, the words didn’t come in a gusher like the other ones have done. I ended up with only 1,880 words that day, above the baseline of a typical NaNoWriMo day, but less than my personal average. I thought about circling back sometime later in the day to bang out and additional 200 words, but opted not to. I wanted to remind myself, when I look at my spreadsheet with the daily tally, that some days will see fewer words than other days. It’s okay and it’s natural. The same thing happened yesterday, when I reached only 1,900 words.
The exception was Thursday. It was Veteran’s Day and I had the day off. What I ended up doing was working on the book all morning. I kept my typical day-job schedule of getting up from my chair every hour and exercising. Basically, I treated the fiction-writing job as the actual day job. It is what I’d love to do. I closed the laptop at noon to go shopping with the wife having booked 5,268 words.
Lessons for the week
It’s okay not to reach a pace you set for yourself. It’s even okay not to reach the 1,667-word mark everyday as long as you have the end goal in mind.
If you have some extra time this month—like I did on Thursday—take advantage of the bonus time and keep writing and add to the book’s total. Not only will you advance your novel, but you’ll be able to reach a point when you can take off a day from writing, like Thanksgiving. Time management is crucial to finishing a book, and be mindful of all the time you have available to write.
Saturday, November 6, 2021
How’s the book coming along?
Today is Day 6 of NaNoWriMo (although for me, it’s still Day 5). If you’ve kept up the daily 1,667 words pace, Day 5 will have you at 8,335 words total.
I’m happy to report that, as of Day 5, I have reached 11,220 words. That's pretty remarkable considering I'm writing in a combined genre brand new to me. I’m actually 2,885 words ahead of schedule, which is fine by me. Remember we have a holiday here in the US on the last Thursday the month. Ideally, I want to be able not to write, although I probably will squeeze in some minutes and words.
The week went pretty well for me this week, writing-wise. I woke at 5am each workday. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I work from home, so I had a nice 85-minute session each of those days.
Tuesday and Thursday was a different story. I go into the office and arrive at 7am. To do that, I have to stop writing at 5:55am. It’s a shorter session, but I bring my Chromebook and finish out the day during my lunch hour.
But I immediately noticed something on Tuesday: I cannot stay up late on Monday. I did, quite by accident, and I really felt it on Tuesday. Wednesday night was different as I went to bed early and made up the sleep time. By now, Friday afternoon, I can feel the lack of sleep. So looking forward to the end of daylight savings time this week. The extra hour of sleep arrives at the perfect time.
So I have two pieces of encouragement for you writers who are on this NaNoWriMo journey
Don’t get too bogged down in the daily weeds. Maintain the overall goal: 50,000. Some days, you’ll blow past the 1,667 mark. Others you may fall short. You can make it up. Don’t lose sight of the end goal: a completed story. In the end, it won’t matter if you didn’t reach your daily goal for a third of the days and exceeded it on the rest. All that matters is a 50,000-word completed novel.
And keep yourself healthy and maintain your sleep schedule. You can’t write if you’re sick or tired.
Until next week, keep writing!