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The 21 Days of NaNoWriMo

October 26, 2009

From SodaHead

Yesterday Paul talked about NaNoWriMo as a goal. Today I’d like to discuss today NaNo as a means, rather than an end.

They say it takes 21 days to establish a new habit, or break an old one. It is also a well known maxim writers should write every day. Good thing there are 30 days in November, because there is nothing like an extra nine days up your sleeve when you’re turning over a new leaf.

Julia Cameron, of The Artists’ Way fame suggests writing three pages, but there as many different daily word/editing targets as there are writers. All year I have been trying to develop the habit of writing every day – building up from one page to the magical three pages and to date, surprise surprise, I have failed dismally. While I have undoubtedly written more this year than every other, it tends to be in short spurts – like now for example (Monday evening around dinner preparation time, GMT 10+, running late to file this column!)

To cross the line in November you need 1667 (which is around about three pages) and you need to write every day at that “speed”. It’s not a sprint but an endurance event and as such there is much to learn  and the time to incorporate the knowledge along the way.

While I’m looking forward to being a winning WriMo for the third year and I’m also keeping me eye on the goal of those 50,000+ words bringing me to the end of the novel Blue Melissae, I’m really focused on using NaNo to establish a healthy, sustainable every day writing habit.

For the past two years I have tried to do this and got no where. 2007 I collapsed over the line after my partner was taken to hospital with a suspected heart attack three days before the end and a mere 4000 away from my goal. It was sheer determination to get me to the end … but that was it. I spent most of December and into January recovering. 2008 was a much better year, devoid the TV styled theatrics and with an amazing writing run which brought in 15,000 words in three days when my internet got knocked out by a storm. I reached 54,000 words with four days to spare and was able to leave the state to enjoy my niece’s 18th birthday on the 27th feeling good – but in doing so I got out of the habit of writing really quickly.

Third time lucky?

This year – well I’m working out when I can write best – on any given day and making it fit as part of my life. I’m working towards 21 days of establishing a writing time/habit with the intention of taking it into December and beyond into January. If I can keep it going through these two months I think anything is possible. It is a big ask for me given December and January are the summer holiday period and all too soon kindy will be over, my son will be home for seven weeks straight and there will probably be vacations away from home.

If I want to be serious about my writing in the long term, then I need to be serious about when and how I write. Stephen King says he divides his day between writing in the morning and reading in the afternoon. I follow author Lilith Saintcrow on Facebook and twitter, marvelling at her trials and tribulations in making her word count every day. To be honest – I’m just a little envious of Lilith – and it’s not just what she cooks up in her kitchen. But rather than sit back and be mired by envy, I want to develop my own version of Lilith Saintcrow’s work ethic!

My idea for November has been simple – get up early, walk, write morning pages and hit the keyboard. The habit was meant to begin early in October, but it hasn’t quite worked that way. Strangely – life go in the way. And that’s the brilliant thing about NaNo – for one month a year writing gets in the way of life.

Because of pressure cooker styled November I will haul my butt out of bed at 4am, into my running shoes and out the door. And there’s nothing like the need to maintain creative head space to commit to scribbling morning pages. And – well there has to be more … who would not not want to be seduced by the smell of success, not just in November but into the future. That is enough to compel me to put my fingers on the keyboard long before anyone else in my house is up … to race to make the word count before I hear “Good morning Mummy.”

And then there’s delusion. On the 1st December I’ll let you  know one way or the other?

What is your underlying motivation for NaNoWriMo?

Jodi Cleghorn is crazy. On top of NaNo there is a Fourth Fiction Novella to complete, the 365 Day photography challenge and an anthology to publish. If you are 09 WriMo you can buddy Jodi here, otherwise there will undoubtedly be entertaining Tweets and updates on her blog Writing in Black and White.
  1. October 26, 2009 12:54 pm

    Here is my blog post about MY PLAN for NaNoWriMo and the next four months of my life!

  2. October 27, 2009 12:18 pm

    Try this One-Minute Writer with a daily prompt and countdown clock. Baby steps!

  3. October 29, 2009 12:45 am

    My plan for NaNoWriMo is to win, or to at least beat my personal best, 30,000 words.

    I really agree with the habit thing and think that they key to my NaNo and not missing a day that will kill momentum.

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