Monday, October 17, 2011

Why You Won't Write A Novel In 30 Days

Want to enter NaNoWriMo? That's the month-long challenge that takes place every November with one goal for entrants: write a 50,000-word novel draft.

If you have never tried, I have one key to success. It is the most essential strategy for success (in my opinion). Do this, and you can succeed. Convince yourself that you are a special case and don't need to follow this strategy, and more than likely you will not finish your novel draft. No success.

So, what's the key? What is this strategy? It is simply this: Write every day.

That's it. So simple, yet... I hear the scoffing already. I write when the muse strikes. Or, I'm too busy so I write only on the weekends. I hear you. I feel you. But I no longer agree with you. Here's why. 

If you want to write 50,000 words in 30 days, it will require that you write every day. This can’t be emphasized enough. Sure, you can procrastinate and catch up on the weekends, etc. But, you are putting pressure on yourself to do a week’s writing in just two days. And inevitably, other things will come up on those weekends to make it even more challenging to write your words for the week.

I tried this strategy of just using weekends the first time I entered NaNoWriMo. After the second week of trying, I abandoned all hope. It just didn’t work. Let me setup a scenario to illustrate:

After an exhausting five days at the office, that first Saturday comes. All I want to do is relax. So, I tell myself. I will sleep in a little bit. Then, after lunch, I will start writing those words.

Lunchtime comes and my wife has different ideas. She really wants to buy new curtains, etc. for the living room.

“Can we please go to the store? You know you don’t have time to do it on weekdays?” she says.

So, we spend the afternoon at several stores looking at every possible curtain design known to man. By the time we return home, I am beat. I tell myself I’ll rest for an hour, then I’ll start those words. An hour goes by. Time to prep for dinner. We don’t have everything we need, so my wife sends me to the grocery store for last-minute ingredients. No problem. 'While she finishes up dinner, I’ll steal away some time to write,' I say to myself.

Nope. Silly rabbit. Trix are for kids!

In the middle of dinner, my wife’s mother calls with important news. I take over the last steps for dinner while my wife takes the call. Then….dinner. Afterward, it slips my mind that tonight’s the big football game. I just can’t miss it. National-televised game. Highly-ranked teams. I must watch it. I make a deal with myself. I will watch it and write at the same time. Afterall, football is filled with time-outs, commercials, etc. Plenty of time to do some quick writing.

Four hours later, I’m mad because my team lost in the last minute of the game. I have written nothing because it was such a close game up to the final minute that I didn’t have time to write a word. Now, it’s about 11 p.m. I’m feeling guilty because I didn’t write anything. I’m angry because my team lost. I’ll just go to bed. Can’t write in this state of mind anyway.

And then comes Sunday with a whole set of its own situations preventing me from writing. When I’m back at the office Monday morning, I am really feeling pathetic because I didn’t get any writing done.

End of scenario. End of any thoughts of finishing my 50,000-word novel.

Solution: Write every day. Ideally, if you write 1,667 words a day for 30 days, you'll get to your goal. I know from experience that sometimes you won't get to 1,667. You must (if you're like me) write something every day. 1,000 one day. 2,000 another. Whatever. But write every day.

What do you think of writing every day?

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