I know many of you did NaNo and are probably exhausted! Since I wrote 75,000 words in the month of November, finishing my 2013 book the night before my deadline, I can honestly say I know how you feel.
Writing 50,000 words in a month isn’t that unusual for me, but I have to say, 75,000 while being a single mother to four kids PLUS a holiday was really, really tough. I figured this might be a good time for all of us to share what worked for us and what didn’t.
So here’s my list! Share yours in the comments!
Keeping a schedule – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I live and die by my schedule when I’m on deadline. This past month I wrote from 8am – 11am, again from 4pm-5pm, and again from 7pm-9pm, seven days a week. I tried not to answer the phone or be on the internet during these hours or do anything else that could distract me. Mac Freedom was my friend when I used it.
Take advantage of little bits of time – I usually need to be in the zone to write and won’t even bother trying to squeeze in words when I only have half an hour, but I just couldn’t afford to think that way this past month. I left my laptop in my office upstairs rather than bring it downstairs, and when I had even an unexpected 30 minute block of time, I forced myself to go up and write. These little bursts added exponentially to my overall word count.
Build in time for the necessities – My schedule allowed me to still do yoga (most days), have 45 minutes for lunch in which I read a book by myself, have an hour for tea with my daughters after school, make dinner and eat it with my kids, and still watch one episode of Doctor Who or something with them at the end of the night. This time was essential to my sanity and my need to feel like I was still being a good mother to my children.
Build in time for fun stuff – I knew I wouldn’t be able to do much writing on Thanksgiving, so I doubled up on my word count the day before and the day after. It was nice to feel like I could take that one day and not be too worried about losing momentum.
Taking care of myself – I mostly managed to do this (see my mention of sleep below!) and it made a huge difference. I made a point to take my vitamins every day, try to get in yoga and/or meditation, get enough sleep (after my initial fail), eat well, and keep stress at bay. I gave myself permission to let a lot of little things go and tried to be Zen. It all made me feel much more equipped to go hard on the writing.
Take advantage of every minute for other tasks – I wrote postcards to my readers while my tea boiled, paid bills while dinner cooked, plotted my next writing burst while I drove the kids around, and cleaned my bathroom when I was stuck on my manuscript (because it’s next to my office, I was still forced to stay in my work space). Other things had to be put off, but I managed to do a lot of little things that helped me feel at least a little bit in control of my life during this time.
Total Immersion – In some ways, I liked being forced to write this book in a big frenzied jag. Ironically, I think I did some of my best writing, and I attribute it to the total immersion forced by the deadline.
What didn’t work;
Access to the internet – Yes, I used Mac Freedom, but not nearly enough. The internet, as always, was my enemy. I wish I’d used MF more. I probably would have gotten more done in less time.
Blogging – Looking back, I would have been less stressed if I’d just been honest with you guys at the beginning of the month and said I wouldn’t be blogging or anything. The truth is, I hate to be out of touch for too long. But there were many night that I scrambled to come up with a blog post or poll or catch up on Twitter/Facebook. I should have spared myself the stress.
Waiting until the last minute to start – I should have started this project LONG before I did. In my defense, my editor and I hadn’t agreed on what it would be until mid-August. Then, I was expecting notes on another project, so I waited. It seemed silly to start a book and have to stop a week later to work on revisions for another one. I made this excuse to myself all through September, too, then finally got the notes in October. That meant I spent most of October working on those and didn’t really dig into the 2013 book until the first of November. From now on, I’m going to work five days a week on my normal schedule, no matter what, unless I’m on vacation. If I don’t have one project to work on, I’ll start another, even if it means stopping a few days later. Even a 10,000 word head start on my 2013 book would have helped when I got down to the wire.
Not getting enough sleep – Let me say first that I usually get 5-6 hours sleep a night. Then I try to take a short nap in the afternoon and that gets me through. At the beginning of the month, I experimented with staying up to write until 1am or 2am. I love to write at night and I do some of my best writing at night, but this schedule only allowed for about 4 hours of sleep and left me so wiped the next day that I LOST time in the end. I finally realized that getting enough sleep was vital. Once I figured this out, I stopped writing at 9pm every night, went to bed by 11pm, and was much more equipped to work hard the next day.
So these are my basic for surviving a super-stressful writing jag! What are yours?