This week, I have started what I hope will be a nine-month journey from where I am now to completing my first novel. I have had this book knocking around in my head for many a year now and it is high time I finish getting it down on paper.
Over the past few months, while I have been posting here about various aspects of novel writing and planning (check out the section on Turning Ideas Into Words for more on this), I have been steadily working away and revising certain aspects of my novel that weren’t working for me. What I have now is a much clearer view of where it is going, and that means I know (more or less) what I need to do to get to the end.
How things stand at the moment
I currently have around 73,000 words of my novel complete. For most people, that would be cause for celebration (and for me, it was, for a while anyway). Of those 73,000 words, I already know that about 13,000 of them need re-writing entirely to bring things in line with my new plan and direction for the book.
When I started out (more years ago that I’d like to admit), I had in mind that the whole thing would be done in around 100,000 words. At the time, that seemed like a massive ask and I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to sustain something that long.
Now, I point and laugh at that initial projection, as it will more likely be double that by the end (and I’m an Underwriter, remember).
When I came to this realisation a few weeks ago, it was accompanied by a sinking sense of dread (and much laughter from my best friend – thanks Sarah!). I thought about how long it had taken me to get to this point. And how much longer it would take me to write double that amount.
It didn’t take long for me to realise that changes needed to be made to my writing habits if I was going to get this done.
Lessons from NaNoWriMo
It occurred to me that I work best when I have a clear plan in place – whether that is a specific scene mapped out, or extra notes on what a particular character is up to (remember Jaecks). The same is true when it comes to the mechanical side of writing (as opposed to the creative side).
The truth is that the most productive time I have ever had when it comes to writing my novel was last year during NaNoWriMo. And that’s because NaNo gave me two very specific elements that helped me to thrive:
- A clear target
- A line of accountability
Target: During the month of November 2017, I completed the challenge of 50,000 words in thirty days (half of which contributed directly to my novel, the other half going towards a prequel project). The daily target of 1,667 words was a brilliant motivator for me. I found it tough for the first few days, but once I got into a routine, I found it became much easier to achieve.
Accountability: The fact that I had an online site to track my progress and thousands of writers worldwide embarking on the same challenge only added to my motivation. If you’re ever feeling downcast about your own writing, I highly recommend that you spend a little time on Twitter. It won’t take long for you to find like-minded people going through the exact same thing and offering encouragement.
This was never more true than during NaNoWriMo last November.
I’m sure you’ll be thinking by now that I’m gearing up for this year’s run in November.
The Downside to NaNoWriMo
Actually, I’m not. As wonderful as NaNoWriMo was last year, I don’t think it will work for me this year with what I want to do.
The reason for this essentially boils down to other commitments I have in my life. I work full time Monday to Friday, have a flat to maintain on my own; I am also involved in the music at my church each Sunday, have friends that I would like to see from time to time; and I have a blog to keep up with.
Last year, my 1,667 words per day were completed entirely in evenings and weekends around work; I came off the music rota for the whole of November to free up more time on Sundays; I didn’t post anything at all that month.
Basically I became a hermit from 1st to 30th November.
This was all fine for a short time, but given that I have roughly 150,000 words to complete, I don’t see myself being able to sustain that for three months.
At the end of the month, I was also exhausted. When 1st December rolled around, I got home from work that day (it was a Friday) and my brain went, “Oh, you’re not writing tonight? Great.” And I was fast asleep by 8:00pm!
Again, putting myself through three months of intensive writing while holding a full-time job and everything else just isn’t practical. I would like to hold on to at least a shred of sanity when this is all done.
So that’s where this challenge comes in.
As I mentioned, I have worked out that I have about 150,000 words to go to complete my novel. Realistically, I would like it to be done by June 2019. That means I need to be getting down about 600 words per day (which is nothing, right?)
Of course, with the commitments I have, there will be days that I will be able to write a lot more than 600 words, and others when I won’t be able to write any. So instead of setting a daily target, I have a weekly target of an accumulative 4,200 words.
This means that I should still have time to dedicate to this blog, together with everything else that goes on.
As for the accountability aspect, I have already asked my mum to check in with me regularly to ask how I’m getting on, and I am sure that my best friend will be doing the same as well. I will also be giving all of you updates on here as I go. Every few weeks or so, I will let you know how it’s going.
From my experience with NaNoWriMo, I know I will have good weeks and bad weeks, but as long as I don’t give up entirely, I’ll be doing myself and my novel justice.