Theoretically, I write for a living. Yet, somehow, much time gets filled with stuff that is not writing. Emails, phone calls, administration, logistics. Like little birds in the nest demanding worms, these things keep demanding attention (to say nothing of my actual offspring, and the attention required there).
If it’s sometimes challenging for me, as a writer, to find time for sustained writing, it’s no doubt more difficult for people with non-writing day jobs. And yet so many people have stories inside them that they’d like to tell. I find the idea of ushering others into a world created solely by your prose — by the arrangement of 26 letters, a few other characters and spaces — to be magical. Such creation is worth making time for.
I first learned about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) many years ago, and was immediately drawn to the concept. Participants commit to writing a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. If you write daily, that’s about 1667 words per day. If you skip weekends and Thanksgiving, you’ve got 21 days to work with, requiring 2381 words per day. It’s a high level of sustained output, though it’s not ridiculously high. Try counting the number of words you type in emails per day sometime and see what I mean.
For someone with the muscle memory of writing, 50,000 words could take about 60 hours. For someone without, it might take more, but there are 721 hours in November (30 x 24 + 1 for the daylight savings time change). At least theoretically, the time is there. Writing 50,000 words won’t take all one’s time. Indeed, if the average person watches about 85 hours of TV in the course of a month (using ATUS data; TV as a primary activity) this suggests a place to find the time right there.
(Or redeploying time spent on social media — which also adds up pretty fast. You can watch a video interview I did about finding time for NaNoWriMo here.)
A high sustained level of output is doable for one month. Then life can go back to normal, but you have a draft of your novel, which you can then make better. It is so much easier to turn something into something better than to turn nothing into something.
For me, the appeal of NaNoWriMo is giving me permission to put writing first for the month. I know I don’t really need permission — I work for myself! — but it’s helpful to know other people are hacking away at their stories too.
In any case, I’m aiming to finish a draft of the novel I’m working on now by the end of November. I’m bending the rules — I already started, and am 15,000 words in now — but so it goes. In my mind, I like the idea of November always being a novel writing month for me. I look forward to it. As the leaves change and the weather turns cold, I find myself in a fiction writing mood. I pour myself a big cup of coffee and write, write, write.
Will you be joining me this November? What kind of story will you be writing?
Fun fact: Juliet’s School of Possibilities, my time management novella, began its life as a NaNoWriMo novel. It will be published by Penguin Random House on March 12, 2019.