How to Make Time to Write (When You Don’t Have Time to Spare)

crest-bda7b7a6e1b57bb9fb8ce9772b8faafbLiterary insanity is upon us. National Novel Writing Month is less than a week away. Just a little over three days, in fact. While it would be a dream come true to sit at our desks for 30 days straight and do nothing other than develop our characters and twist our plots into maniacal knots, life isn’t that leisurely (especially when you have classes/internships/work to balance alongside it).

Never fear. You don’t have to start November off wondering how to make 24 hours last longer (sans Daylight Savings).

Remember our NaNo Preparation Plan? If you’ve been following that, it’s that time of October where planning out next month’s daily happenings (yes, daily) is essential to your NaNoWriMo success. Like anything else in life, if you want to win, you have to plan ahead. Sure, you could totally wing it and maybe still pull it off. But why make it harder than it really needs to be?

Okay. so sometimes we need that kind of challenge. It’s a major reason behind procrastination (no, I don’t have research-based evidence to back that up). But do yourself a favor this year: make it fun. YES, writing a novel CAN be fun! The key to having a blast this month is breaking November down into 30 bite-size pieces. How do you do that? In three steps.

1. Understand the general daily time commitment. 

Fact: On average, every participant only has to write 1,667 words per day to reach 50,000 words by November 30. No, I did not come up with that number myself, but I did check it. I do know how to press buttons on a calculator. English major stereotypes. Sheesh.

When you think about writing a novel in 30 days, you’re not always as likely to consider how little time you actually have to spend writing every day in November to reach 50.000 words by the 11:59 p.m. on the 30th. I just took a typing test online (so I can take two minutes out of my day for that and am too lazy to look up a procrastination statistic? Moving on). On average, I type about 80 WPM. Say I typed 1,667 words without stopping, maybe a few micro breaks to think or retype a sentence I don’t like. Divide the daily total by how many words per minute you type, and your result is how many minutes you have to spend actually writing words.

Add in time for warming up coffee, retyping horrible dialogue, cracking your knuckles and eating your favorite noveling snacks (*makes mental note to self for future post about brain food*) and, even if you type slower than me, you might spend 30 to 45 minutes in front of, thinking about, revising your book before you hit your daily goal. Round that off to an hour to allow for extra writing time, your laptop freezing, the NaNo site temporarily crashing – just to be safe. 60 minutes. JUST 60 MINUTES. One hour out of every 24. 30 hours out of your entire month.

That’s a lot easier to swallow than 50,000 words in 30 days, isn’t it?

Keep in mind this, while very nice and neat, is not usually how it plays out. You won’t always get 1,667 words in every day. See #3.

2. Realize what you do (and don’t) have to give up.

You’re writing 50,000 words in 30 days. (Have I said that enough times in this post yet?) You HAVE to give up SOMETHING. I won’t lie, I spend at least an hour per day (though not all at once) on Facebook, cyber-stalking friends (we all do it), checking the news, and okay, there’s some work for my internship(s) that goes into that too. But I know next month I have to spend less time scrolling aimlessly through my news feed and more time at least with my novel open, shouting ideas at me. (It’s either that or get up an hour earlier, and since graduation, I just haven’t been as much of an early bird as I used to be).

But you don’t HAVE to give up sleep, or study time, or even time with friends. If you want to spend more than an hour every day writing, then go for it – and yes, we joke about becoming addicted to coffee and turning into zombies because we’re using all our free time to write. And that’s fun to do (proud zombies unite!). Definitely DON’T stop doing your homework, though. Unfortunately, “I’m writing a novel” doesn’t impress professors like it impressed your teachers in high school. Sooo.

3. Adjust your word goals for days you just “can’t.”

This DOES happen. We are ALL busy. When planning like this, even if you don’t have extra commitments to mark off ahead of time, pick a few days out of the month to denote as “Zero word days.” If you know you have a test on the 13th or you’ll be traveling all day the day before Thanksgiving (and shopping all day after), adjust your average daily word count now so that if you don’t end up writing those days, you won’t fall behind.

There will also be days you don’t write very much. I’ve had years where I’ll write a ridiculous amount of words every day for a week, then have a day where I can barely crank out 200 (less than a page). This does not mean you are a bad writer. It means your ideas need time to settle and reorganize themselves before your brain can make sense of them again. If you expect this to happen, and it doesn’t – KUDOS. And if it does, you’ve prepared for the worst, and you’ll spend a lot less time freaking out about falling behind.

What I like to tell the literary universe is this: there is always time to write. You have to find time in your own schedule, when you’re thinking the clearest and have a good chunk of time to get words in, to make it happen. You can even average it out so you write less every day during the week and more on weekends. Whatever works for you. Whatever you have to do to hit 50,000.

So get to it – pull up that calendar and start plotting out your journey to NaNo victory. And never forget – I’m right here with you. It’s going to be a good month.

Have more questions about how to survive National Novel Writing Month? Ask your question in a comment – I’ll either answer it directly or write a new post about it!

Love&hugs, Meg<3

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