But, here’s the deal. As the headline promised, I’ve been reminded of some helpful core truths about the writing practice as I’ve toiled away on my Nano novel this month. None of these are new, nor are they earth-shattering. What follows are just plain, practical tips for getting the freaking words on the page regularly. Here we go, in no particular order:
Set a word count goal. When it comes to Nanowrimo, if you’re going to win the damned thing, you need to attempt to write a certain amount of words every day. I choose a goal of 2,000 words, because that gives me some wiggle room for days when I don’t write. (Like this morning, for instance. For some reason Saturdays are not productive for me when it comes to writing.) And this is helpful even when it’s not November, because it gives you at least a vague idea of how you’re progressing.
Lower your expectations. Yeah, I know. This sounds contradictory to the above advice. And it is, sort of. What I mean here is this: if its 11 PM and you’ve not yet hit your word count, adjust accordingly. Maybe this is a day when you get 500 words in. That’s nothing to sniff at!
Know where you’re going. This is the single most helpful thing I can tell you. Even if you are a pantser and hate outlining, always have a sense of where you are going next. Make a few notes about the next scene before you end your writing session for the day. Keep an ongoing scene list. Have a pad of paper handy next to your computer to scribble reminder notes.
You can get unstuck. If you find yourself stuck, don’t despair. You can pull yourself out of it. Turn to your journal and do some free writing, either specifically about your WIP or to a random prompt. Or plow ahead in your project–I’m continually amazed at how often the unstuck-ness comes in the actual writing.
You can write more than you think possible. 2,000 words a day sounds like a lot to some people, but you could do it if you tried. The other day I wrote 6,000 words, participating in 10K for Writers day. It was exhausting, but exhilarating, too.
Momentum carries the month. There’s nothing more exciting than knowing you are making steady progress on a WIP. You wake up every day and chug along. The pages pile up. And life is good, because part of you is living in the lovely fictional world you’re creating every morning. Momentum carries you through when you miss a day. It leads you back to the page, reminding you that all is not lost, that you can pick up where you left off. This doesn’t happen when you write only occasionally.
Brain.fm is a revelation. This is a site that advertises itself as “music for the brain.” You can listen to tracks for relaxation, sleep, or focus. I plug my ear buds into the computer and choose which kind of focus music I want (chimes and bells, cinematic, rain, forest sounds, and thunder are just some of the options), and off I go. I swear it helps enormously. You can get 10 free sessions before you commit. I was so taken with it I bought a year’s subscription.
Find your best routine. It works best for me to get up early, take a quick look at email to see what’s going on, and then get to it. If I can (if I have no morning appointments), I write until I reach my word count. This way I feel good all day, knowing I’ve accomplished my most important thing. But I could spout off about writing first thing until I’m blue in the face and if this routine doesn’t work for you (if, say, you are a night owl), then you’re just going to ignore me. With good reason. Because you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to get up at the crack of dawn when you’ve been up late the night before. Moral of the story: find what works for you. And then do it.
Thanks for reading. What tips do you have for maintaining a writing practice over the long haul?
PS. You can find my books on my Amazon author page here.