24 October 2012

NaNoWriMo prep: your writing schedule

NaNoWriMo begins in about a week, and it’s time to start thinking about exactly how you will make time to write these 50,000 words that need to be written.

The month is about proving to yourself that you can write a novel. And that’s wonderful! The coffee house book idea began as a poorly developed and badly written NaNo novel. But with all the time spent gearing up, planning, organizing, and outlining in October, we may forget that, come November 1st, you have to actually sit down and write the thing! For many of you—particularly if you have adventures outside of your home known as a “traditional job”—creating a writing schedule can help keep things organized and make sure you have enough time to write your novel while not being at risk for getting fired or having small ones rise up in protest due to lack of sustenance.

This is the first year since 2007 that I’m participating in NaNo and have a traditional job. So this year is going to be a bit of an adjustment for me. That’s why I’m making a schedule. Not only do I have the responsibilities of taking care of Puck and Tink and helping my sister host Thanksgiving dinner, but I have to do it while the hours of 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. are blocked off.

This year I’m faced with the challenge of making time to write 1,667+ words every day in the month of November without having the flexibility to write for NaNo first and write for work afterward.

Remember that life comes first. Always. It’s important for writers to set aside time to write. It’s important for the family and friends of writers to understand that writing time is needed. But it’s more important for you to be a present and important part of your family. Don’t neglect your life to write this story. If something comes up, it comes up. Address it, then get back to writing when you can. Life happens. And without it, we wouldn’t have anything to draw from for our stories. So if life needs to get in the way during NaNoWriMo, so be it. The story will be there when you get back.

Think about when you’re most productive. Since you’re likely going to have to sacrifice sleep, decide where you want that sacrifice to occur. Are you the type that gets up before everyone else in your house to have a quiet cup of coffee? Get up an hour earlier (even a half-hour would be great) and use that time to write. Conversely, if you’re the type that stays up long past everyone else, write once the family has gone to bed. Or both! Find a time of the day that works for you and stick with it. You know your writing style best.

Think about how long it will take you to write 50,000 words. How fast do you write? How well does your story lend itself to quick writing? If you’re able to churn out 1,000 words in half an hour, you’ll only need about an hour and a half a day of writing time to hit the goal. But if you’re a slower writer, you’ll need to set aside more time each day. Don’t short-change yourself out of writing time in your schedule.

 Be flexible. Remember: this is meant to be fun, and to figure out what works best for you. It’s great to set aside two hours in the morning to write every day, but if you’re finding that you struggle to get going, consider trying to write at a different time of day to get your NaNo novel done. Don’t lock yourself into anything. (No one will know, anyway!)

There’s no need to write out a formal writing schedule (unless you feel the need, I suppose), but know when you’re going to write. And when you decide be sure to tell your family. If they know you have specific times set aside to write (and to not write), they’ll know to leave you alone during those times. (Having a silly “writing hat” works well to let little ones know you’re busy!)

The time to write exists. You just have to carve it out within your schedule and just get yourself in the chair to write when it’s time.

Happy scribbling!


  1. Thanks for the tips! And I'm impressed with anyone who participates in NanoWriMo; writing that many words every day is definitely an impressive feat!
    I agree with you in particular about finding the right "writing time". I used to try writing at night, but by then I was usually tired; I'd tell myself I'd go to bed and then just wake up early to write. But when I woke up in the morning, everything else I had to do took precedence instead. So now I set aside time in the morning to write, because that's when I work best.

  2. I'm glad you've found a time of day that works for you!


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