March was supposed to be the month where I buckled down and got to work on my second novel. Now it’s ten days into March and I still have a blank corkboard in Scrivener.
I keep asking myself why. I seem to be doing everything right. I’ve utilised tools to help me save time managing my social media accounts so that isn’t eating into my writing time. I’m reading almost every day for inspiration. I have a great idea for the plot of this next book and some idea of how I want that plot to play out. I have a phenomenal professional writing program tailored to fiction writers which I’m very familiar with. I’ve written several novels using this program before. I already have a published book, so I’m not new to the process of writing and publishing a book, either.
So why do I have nothing to show for it this time around?
It hit me suddenly last week that while I have written novels before, they were all NaNoWriMo novels. I’ve never written a novel outside of NaNoWriMo. My first drafts were all written during the month of November when I had the pressure on me to pump out 50,000 words in 30 days. I have always worked better under excruciating pressure and boy, does NaNoWriMo ever pack on the pressure! I live for the frantic keyboard smashing and sleepless nights, word warring with my fellow Wrimos in a feverish panic in order to bust out that last crucial 500 words of the night to stay on track. It’s what motivates me and drives both me and my novel forward. NaNoWriMo has been my crutch thus far, but clearly, I can’t make a career out of writing only one month out of the year. The question then becomes “How does a Wrimo thrive outside of her natural habitat, the month of November?”
Here are some ideas I’ve come up with and I plan to put them to the test this weekend.
Pretend it’s NaNoWriMo
If I work better under the intense pressure of NaNoWriMo, it stands to reason that simply pretending it’s NaNoWriMo would make me more productive, right? Whether it’s November or March, I could just tell myself that I must write a minimum of 1,667 words a day if I want a first draft by the end of the month. If this method works, I’ll be typing away like mad in no time. The potential downside is that I know it’s not November and that NaNoWriMo isn’t going on right now. No matter how I try to act like it is, that won’t make the NaNoWriMo website or my NaNoWriMo support groups any less of a ghost town. It just won’t feel the same and therefore, I won’t be able to trick my brain into initiating “WriMode.”
Set a Smaller Daily Word Goal
Assuming method one doesn’t work out and I just can’t make myself believe it’s NaNoWriMo in the middle of March, perhaps setting a smaller word goal each day will do the trick. I know it’s not NaNoWriMo. Okay. You got me, but we still need to write a book, brain. How about we write 1,000 words a day? Or even 500? It will be a nice break from NaNoWriMo, but we are still writing consistently and that’s the important part, isn’t it? It may not be an epic race of thousands of writers all clacking away on their keyboards, but that doesn’t mean we have to twiddle our thumbs until the next big race this coming November.
Go to the Dark Side… Become a Planner
I admit it. I’m a pantser. I start with a general idea of the characters and plot, of course, but there’s no storyboarding or careful planning of each individual chapter when I start writing a new book. I just hammer away at the keyboard until I hit my first big obstacle. By then, I’ve gotten comfortable with my characters and they’ve shown me the direction in which to take the rest of the novel. I also have my first big roadblock to remove. That’s when I plan. That’s when I take a time out and make use of those cue cards on Scrivener’s corkboard to plan out the rest of the book before I write it, but it’s not until I’ve written that first big chunk that I’m able to do that. Maybe. Just maybe trying to piece together the book’s outline first might help? In my case, probably not, but it’s a thought.
Write with Wild Abandon! Embrace the Pantser Within!
There’s no reason why I can’t just stick with what’s always worked for me in the past. It doesn’t have to be November for me to just start tap-tapping away with no plan in mind. Planning, organising and rewriting will inevitably come when my initial burst of productivity wears off but I’ll have something concrete to bounce off of. I can use my messy beginnings as a springboard to leap into something better. It’s what I’ve always done and it’s always what’s led me to a finished novel in the end. Is it really wise to abandon something that’s always worked for me? The old saying goes “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” so maybe nothing really needs fixing at all here. Maybe I just need to latch onto what I’ve always done best and stop worrying about things so much.
Maybe some of these will pay off. Maybe they won’t and I’ll still be staring at a blank Scrivener project at the end of March but it helps to have something in writing to refer back to when I’m stuck. NaNoWriMo is great for getting otherwise reluctant writers to write a book, but when you’ve used it as your crutch, learning to write without it can be an unexpected challenge.
Are you a Wrimo who’s gone through this personal crisis before? How did you learn to stop using NaNoWriMo as your crutch and write consistently throughout the year?
Copyright © 2017 A.A. Frias