Notes on NaNoWriMo and pacing

photo-423I’m having fun with my NaNoWriMo novel. I started a fresh file and am writing from the beginning. While the characters are the same as the novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo last year, I feel like this year I have a better sense of what should happen, and I know who the characters are. So it’s coming together better than it did in the prior version. I’m sure there will be pulling teeth moments on it, but I’m also enjoying using a different set of writing muscles. This is the speculative, skill-building part of my Perfect 40.

I’m also enjoying getting into the rhythm of it. It’s good practice for any long term project. Big goals can be broken down into doable steps. 50,000 words in a month is 1700 or so a day (a wee bit less, but I like round numbers).

So to complete NaNoWriMo one needs to carve out the time each day to write 1700 words, day after day, for 30 days. That includes weekends. Of course, the system doesn’t have to include weekends — writing on the 20 or so workdays in November requires writing 2500 a day, but remember, that includes Thanksgiving and the day after. Anyone aiming to take those off (or election day, which seems to be a holiday in our school system) will need to adjust appropriately.

Writing 1700 words a day for the first few days is not hard. It’s around week two when the #NaNoWriMo magic wears off. That’s when you need blocked in time. Or public accountability. Which is partly why I’m posting this.

Then there’s this little bit of pacing advice: It’s nice, mentally, and practically, to be ahead of the game. This NaNoWriMo infographic reveals that 32 percent of repeat writers aimed to get a bit ahead of their word counts. That allowed them to bank words for less productive days. Life inevitably happens. But most emergencies that would interfere with writing (kid sick days, work travel, etc.) are what Donald Rumsfeld might call “known unknowns.” You can plan for them. If you’re ahead, you won’t fall behind.

It’s like if you want to run a half-marathon in 2:11 (10 minute miles). You can’t actually run at 10:00/mile, because then any water stop will put you over. And you need water. So you have to run it a few seconds under to actually hit the pace.

You have to write a few words over 1700/day to hit the 50,000 properly. But do it, day after day, and soon November will be over, and the draft will be there.

In other news: It looks like I’ll be speaking at SXSW in March! If you’ve participated in the conference before, I’d love to hear any tips for getting the most out of it.

4 thoughts on “Notes on NaNoWriMo and pacing

  1. Hello Laura, can you please publish a list of upcoming talks you will be giving? I could not find your speaking schedule on the website. I cannot travel to a different city, but if you happen to be around Chicago, of course I like to know in advance and listen to you. I usually find out from your blog but of course it is too late.

    1. @Mina- sorry about that! I am working on my speaking section of the website. I don’t have a lot of public talks upcoming currently. I am speaking at a Farm Journal women in agriculture conference in Chicago in December, but that’s not something that would be of interest to anyone not, you know, running a farm 🙂

  2. It’s funny how one day I can write 1500 words and feel unenthusiastic about it, and then the next day, write only 500 words, but feel great about it – all because of the content. But word count does matter and pacing myself has been SUCH a tremendous part of being on schedule with turning in my manuscript next week. I am only 500 away from my goal, and starting the editing phrase while I work on that last little bit! I am planning to participate in NaNoWriMo next year and already have my subject in mind. Have never written much fiction before and am excited about it!

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