For many writers in the world, today starts a month-long pilgrimage. Through daily diligence, and a healthy dose of anxiety-induced-pressure, writers will attempt to write 1,667 words a day throughout the month of November. These efforts total to a mind-blowing 50,000 words, or the basic length of a novel. This pleasure fest has been dubbed: National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short.
I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo twice. Neither time was I successful in reaching the holy grail of 50,000 words, but I did do a lot of writing, on a solitary project. The daily social media posts, community of writers, and word count goal were great motivators for me to get a project closer to done. But this year, it just isn’t going to happen for me.
That doesn’t mean I won’t be writing, however. Back in the beginning of October I decided to track the amount of time I spent honing my writing craft. I kept track of my hours on this document, and I’ll be sharing my overall thoughts of the process in a Funds For Writers Newsletter in January. (Stay tuned!)
Part of my focused attempt was to just get words on the page. Sure, it would be great if they were words for my YA Fantasy novel, now in its sixth draft. But sometimes, that is heady work… more work than my working-1.5-jobs, raising-two-kids brain can handle at 8pm, or in the span of a lunch hour. Instead of stressing about the lack of speedy progress on a single project, I committed to writing (and reading) whenever I could, for as long as I could. Sometimes that meant getting creative... like tonight, for example, when I partially formatted this blog post while I watched my son at swimming lessons.
But you know what? I got a lot of writing done. In the month of October, I wrote 8 journal writes… on daily thoughts, life and musings. I drafted 2 future blog posts. I wrote 10 one-page flash fiction stories (rough drafts only, of course). Keeping track of my hours kept me accountable. It can be a bit of a memory game (How long did I read last night before bed?), and a bit tedious… but overall, I’m happy with the results.
To prove this system’s worth, I’m going to share with you a quick little story I wrote with my students (while they were journaling on the same prompt). Nothing long or fancy, but it made me think from an interesting perspective… and it got words on the page. (**Side note, I tried to stay in first person, present tense... which is something I struggle with. I feel like I should get bonus points for attempting to improve a weakness!**)
The note is written on the counter in jelly and punctuated with an assortment of utensils. Strike is spelled out in big letters at the top. Apparently, my long hours at work are taking a toll on my kitchen as well as my cat.
Last night Mr. Whiskers had refused to cuddle with me on the couch when I finally got home just after eleven. So instead I sat alone, shoveling thirty-second, microwave nachos into my mouth. That plate lay soaking in the sink – the once crustified, overheated cheese now soggily floating just above the surface of the plastic plate. Maybe the cat and kitchen are in cahoots – teaming up to demand some attention.
And I had better give it to them, or else. That part is clearly spelled out as well. Underlined in butter knives is the phrase: will quit at midnight if not cleaned properly. Properly had two knives beneath it.
I look around the kitchen. The counter next to the refrigerator is covered with mail and stacked to a precarious height. The stove top is splattered with spills and grease. An unidentifiable smell sneaks out of the garbage disposal and even the window blinds hang in a wonky, tilted position. My cheeks color with embarrassment, even though Mr. Whiskers and I are the only ones to witness this hazmat zone of disorder and decay.
“Okay!” I holler out, holding my hands out in front of me, ready to block any assaults headed my way. “You’re right. This is gross.” My foot crunches on a stray Cheerio as I move forward, farther into the kitchen. I wince. “I’ll clean this… tonight! When I get home from work.”
The toaster starts to hum, building up energy, buzzing louder and louder, despite the fact that it isn’t even plugged in. Sparks begin to shoot out of the four metal slots, setting the collection of crumbs in the bottom tray on fire.
I rush forward with a towel and swat at the flames until they are extinguished.
“Okay,” I say panting. “I hear you. Loud and clear. I’ll clean… right now.”
The toaster let out a final hiss, emitting a single tendril of smoke. The grey line hangs in the air for a moment before twisting and turning on itself.
“Strike over,” it spells.
I shudder and immediately decide it will be good to clean and be able to protect myself at the same time. I race to the closet for the broom and get to work before the toaster and Mr. Whiskers can gather anymore recruits.
I’d love to hear from you. What tips or tricks work for you when you are trying to get words written? Maybe if we share enough ideas, we can help talk those NaNoWriMo-ers off the ledge and towards their desks!
Best of luck to you all, and happy writing!