|Image Courtesy: National Novel Writing Month
You will never see me running a marathon. Because, twenty-six miles. I mean, really? How about three? That’s extreme enough for me and I know I’ll be able to do it again two days later. For that matter, I'd be happier to do a yoga class or go on a jolly good walk. I may have a bum hip, but marathoning doesn’t appeal to my personality either. I like to savor things. I like to enjoy the task at hand and be ready for the next round. I like a challenge, but not killing myself in the process. In other words, I'll push myself, but my end-game is sustainability.
So National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is just around the corner and it's always struck me as a marathon-like task--an extreme feat of authorial athletics. I have utilized many strategies to get my bum in the chair to write over the years, but having a 50,000 word novel drafted in thirty days as my carrot incentive just seems a little over-the-top to me.
But this year I have to admit, I’m intrigued. All the women in my critique group have decided to do it. I'm sitting at the beginning of two big ideas. And I'm craving more self-discipline and the sacred space of those early mornings at the page.
Ok, but word counts? I discovered earlier this year that they just don't work for me at the drafting stage. I need to respect the work I'm doing in terms of quality in order to trust it to lead me forward and that just takes longer for me. It's a first draft, so I'm not going to nit-pick, but I need to feel I'm doing my best given what I know. I find my daily word count interesting, but it can't be my target because I need to find the path, and sometimes it's really hard to see. I could just take off through the underbrush in what I think is the right direction, but I don't want to find myself at the bottom of a ravine with no way out. No. There's a road under the ivy and I need to find my way along it, step by step.
So I want to do NaNoWriMo, but the word count thing is a hang-up for me. The rules might be too rigid, as Chuck Wendig suggests in his frank and hilarious post 25 Things You Should Know About NaNoWriMo, (warning: coarse language and vulgarity, if that's not your thing). Wendig argues that you are the only one this really matters to, so make it your own. Hang the rules.
I was chatting about it with a writer friend for whom word count goals also don't work. Except for him they don't work at all, ever, where for me, I thrive (and I mean THRIVE) on them in the re-write stage. And together we came to this conclusion: time goals. A general benchmark seems to be two-three hours for the requisite 1666 words per day in the NaNoWriMo model. And I decided that's going to be MY version of NaNoWriMo. Time with the work. At least two hours a day.
|Image courtesy: The Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo
One of my favorite timed writing approaches is the Pomodoro Technique. It's deucedly simple: set a timer, work for twenty-five minutes, take a five minute break, repeat. Often the first set is painful to get through, but by the second or third, I want to skip my breaks because I'm on a roll. It works!
So I guess I'm doing my own version of NaNoWriMo. JoNoWriMo, I'll call it. I hope my liberality with the rules doesn't offend the hardcore Wrimoes, but we all have to find our own stride in this writing life and it should be celebrated in whatever form it takes, right? If I end up in December with 50K+ words, great. If not (and I suspect I won't), I think I'll still have won, virtual trophy or no.
Question for you: Is anyone else planning to do NaNoWriMo this year? Any advice from former Wrimoes?
And I’d also love to hear more from you about the word count/ timed writing debate. What works best for you and why?
Whatever your November brings, may we all work well and grow in our craft. Cheers to that!