A blog that needs work

How to write in fifty-thousand words or more

I'll be honest. I'm not the best for keeping schedules. It's something that I am (constanly) working on. I have a tendency to find other things to do, a tendency I am sure many others share as well. This year, for what appears to be the fifth time, I attempted to take part in National Novel Writing Month more affectionately referred to as NaNoWriMo.

To give a quick summary, the goal of NaNoWriMo is to write fifty thousand words towards a novel in the month of November. You are welcome to plan out your novel ahead of time, think of characters, plot, etc. However, no writing is supposed to take place until the first of November.

"Anyone can write a novel," you think to yourself. "Sounds easy enough: fifty-thousand words, that's a little more than sixteen-hundred words a day for thirty days. Easy-peasy."

Sure, anyone can write a novel. I agree. All it takes is writing it.

Here's my previous track record:

Year Words Written Days Written Words per Day
2005 5405 13 415
2006 20502 24 854
2008 5767 6 961
2009* 24268 15 1617
2012 50136 30 1671

* I didn't do any tracking for this year

Notice the inconsistencies between years. Different years, I gave up at different times. In 2005, I gave it my first shot. The data above doesn't tell the full story; that year, I only wrote for two days. Two days early on in the month. It took until the thirteenth of the month before I gave up.

"So what? You could have done it!" Probably. I was just entering my second year in university, and by my notes, I had a lot of homework (and extra-curriculars) to attend to.

"Ok, well what about in 2006?" I got pretty far that time. What happened there? Again, more school work and extra-curriculars. Also, I apparently didn't know where the story was going. And in 2009, I would have been working at my first job post-graduation.

But this year, this year I managed to crack the fifty-thousand word barrier.

How? This year, I just sat down and wrote.

I wish that there were a more precise formula to it, but let me explain a bit (with a little help from the data above).

In those previous years, I would set aside maybe an hour a night to write. Some days, I wouldn't have enough time to write, or I would be tired from work, or I would play video games, or I would be out with friends, or I would have assignments, or ...

It doesn't matter what it was, but the problem was that I didn't make time for writing.

This year, I didn't even think I was going to bother. I didn't start writing until November 10th, at which point I was already fifteen thousand words behind. I barely had an idea, and only managed to get anything written because a pair of friends of mine were by for the weekend and egged me on. It likely also helped that we had small competitions to see who could write the most, but that's besides the point. The point is that after I had decided I was going to do NaNoWriMo, I decided that I had to make time for it.

And I did make time for it. Almost every day, no matter how busy I had been that day, I would sit down, and write something. Now, it probably helped that, as a result of that initial weekend, I learned that I can churn out between four-hundred and seven-hundred words in ten minutes. Regardless, I slowly managed to reach my goal ten minutes at a time. Some days I would write a lot, and other days, I wouldn't get much more than ten minutes in, but I made it a priority to write, even though I didn't schedule the time.

It's far too easy to get caught up doing other things; there are always other things to do.

If there are things that you want to do, like write a novel, or an application, or a game, or learn a language, or, frankly, anything that is important to you, it's just a matter of sitting down and doing it, one step at a time.

Can anyone write a novel? Yes. Will it be perfect? No. This year, despite reaching the requisite word count, I probably wrote the worst that I ever have written. There are tons of typos, I repeat myself a few times, the characters are inconsistent, the plot lacks depth at many points (as do the characters), the setting is underdeveloped... But none of that matters. Those are things that can be improved on later, through editing and rewriting. I could write a novel any other time of year, but there wouldn't be the same pressure, the same need to write.

I'd definitely recommend giving something like NaNoWriMo a shot if you've ever had literary leanings, although I have heard that there are similar projects for other purposes (e.g. National Game Design Month)

Nicholas Terwoord

A self-titled software developer, "code archaeologist" (whatever that means), and professional geek. Spends too much of his time coming up with new projects, and not enough time working on them. Likes video games, board games, anime, manga, and Pathfinder / Dungeons and Dragons (GOTO: Line #1 - Geek).