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#NaNoWriMo Prep: Set Your Word Count Goal and Writing Schedule | #amwriting #NaNo2018

Thursday, October 25, 2018

NaNoWe are one week away from the start of National Novel Writing Month.

Do you feel ready to start?

Because writing a first draft in thirty days is not a normal level of writing that any of us do on a regular basis, it’s important to start thinking now about how you’re going to schedule time to write every day.

Setting Word-Count Goals
From the NaNoWriMo website:

Why 50,000 words? And how do you define “novel”?

Our experiences since 1999 show that 50,000 words is a challenging but achievable goal, even for people with full-time jobs and children. This is about the length of The Great Gatsby. We don’t use the word “novella” because it doesn’t seem to impress people the way “novel” does.

We define a novel as “a lengthy work of fiction.” Beyond that, we let you decide whether what you’re writing falls under the heading of “novel.” In short: If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel, too.

The thing about this being a voluntary contest is that you don’t have to commit to 50,000 words if you don’t want to. In order to figure out how long your manuscript needs to be, you need to know what type of manuscript you’re writing:

Novella: 20,000 to 25,000 words

Novelette/Category Romance: 40,000 to 65,000 words

Single Title/Mass Market/Trade Fiction: 75,000–120,000 words

Epic: 125,000+ words

Obviously, depending on what you’re writing, you may or may not be able to write the entire thing in 30 days. Or you might be able to write two novellas or multiple short stories. It really is up to you.

Because I’m trying to relearn the joy of storytelling and writing books, I’m challenging myself but not in a way that should prove to be too stressful.

My goal is to write an average of at least 500 words per day on my story, for a total of 15,000 words for the month. It doesn’t seem like a whole lot—especially given that I’ve just said above that even a novella (novellette) should be at least 20k words. But as someone who’s been creatively stifled and experiences anxiety whenever I think about sitting down to write, I feel like 500 words per day (2 to 3 pages—or less than half the length of one of my average blog posts) is more than enough to be going on with.

To write 50k in 30 days, you need to average 1,667 words per day. Which sounds like a whole lot . . . unless you look at it more like getting in a full day’s worth of calories. In addition to breaking down your full word-count to a daily average, you can break down the words needed per day into smaller chunks to be done at designated times per day. For example, waking up a little early to write 500 words before the day starts. Trying to get in 800 to 1,000 words at lunch, and then finishing up the rest of it in an hour or so in the evening.

Assignment 1: Determine the word-count you’d like to reach at the end of this challenge. Then calculate what you’ll need to average daily to reach your goals.

Set Your Writing Schedule for the Entire Month of November

Don’t take this lightly. If you’re really serious about this, you need to sit down with your calendar (and if you’re scheduling around a spouse/partner and/or kids, then you need to grab every calendar in the house) and really look at what you have coming up November 1–30.

Look at the word-count goals that you set (overall and daily average). Think about how long it takes you to write 1,000 words. Have you ever timed yourself? If you never have and you don’t know how productive you can be in a certain amount of time, then you need to allow more time than you think you’ll need. Don’t short-change yourself.

To paraphrase Master Yoda: Guess not. Know, or know not. There is no guess.

And if you’re working around the schedules of other people in your household, now is a great time to start talking to them about this challenge and about how, in November, you’re going to need their understanding and support as you pour most of your focus and energy into your story. Get them on board. Start planning schedules of who’s responsible for meals and other things you usually take care of now, rather than waiting until November 1 and then announcing that things must change.

For those in the United States, something to keep in mind is that you may struggle the week of November 18–24 to get your writing time scheduled, between cleaning and cooking, Thanksgiving festivities, football games (or Black Friday shopping), travel, etc. So be sure to build in some extra time in the other three weeks of the month to get ahead/catch up with what you may not have time for that week.

Assignment 2: In order to reach your word-count goal for the challenge, set “writing time” appointments for yourself one each day of the month that you know you’ll need to write. If you know—or even just suspect—you’re not going to have time to write on certain days, build in contingency writing-time appointments on other days so you can get your word-count in when you have the time.

If you need more advice, hints, or tips on how to manage your time for a month-long writing marathon, check out this video from NaNoWriMo:

  1. Sherrinda permalink
    Friday, October 26, 2018 8:33 am

    Such great advice here! I’m doing NANOWRIMO this year. I have yet to actually complete one, but I really need to finish my book and need the accountability. I’m impressed by your goal. I love that you know your limitations and are realistic in setting your goals. With my track record, I’m afraid I won’t make it, but I’m trying to psych myself out about it all. I’m not working full time, so I’m hoping I can persevere and make it happen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Friday, October 26, 2018 2:24 pm

      Irony–you need the accountability to finish your book. I need the accountability to start and stick with mine!

      I know we can both do it!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Sherrinda permalink
        Friday, October 26, 2018 3:50 pm

        YES, we can!!!! I added you as a buddy in NANOWRIMO. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. taylorsl83 permalink
    Friday, October 26, 2018 3:12 pm

    I also need accountability to both start and finish mine but heavy on the finishing side! I’m in Canada but I may be making a short 2-day trip (providing my vehicle is highway worthy by then) to visit a friend and Sundays in general aren’t looking good for writing (Saturdays, plus two no-school days will be difficult enough as my kindergartner is being very clingy when home lately).
    So, if I can only write 24 days of the month (2 day trip + no Sundays) I need to manage 2,083 words/daily on my writing days and only writing on my guaranteed writing days would mean only 20 days of writing (but I have 4-6 hours at minimum to write each of those 20 days) which would mean 2,500 words/daily…that’s a lot for someone really out of any writing habit.
    The most days I’ll be able to write is 26-28 days (either just no Sunday writing or just the 2-day trip no writing respectively ) which means 1,923-1,785 words/daily…which still feels like a lot but I’m going to aim for 28 days of writing and hopefully get more in during my 20 guaranteed writing time days so that my iffy writing days where I may not get as much done (though my min goal for those days is 500 words/daily) won’t be as critical/stressful.
    However, as much as I’d like to win at NaNo for the first time ever, even if I only write 1,500 words/daily on my 20 guaranteed writing days that will put me at 30,000 words and it’ll be more than I’ve ever managed on a single manuscript so will definitely still feel like a win!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Friday, October 26, 2018 4:54 pm

      When I went through and did my daily schedule for the month last night, I tried to be very honest with myself about the days on which I know I’m not going to try to force myself away from family time (Wednesday-Thursday-Friday of Thanksgiving week) in order to write. So I built in extra time and higher word-count goals on the days in the month where I know I’ll have more time—such as the seven or so hours (one-way) that I’ll be in the car driving to and from my parents’ home for the holiday. I haven’t done it in seven or eight years, but I once used to be quite proficient—and prolific—writing while driving*.

      [*From a blog post I wrote about “Stealing Writing Time”:
      Back when I was a full-time writer/editor and was traveling quite a lot (I logged an average of 7,500 miles each of those four years for writing events/workshops, book signings, and conferences), I “stole” the travel time by writing in the car. Yes, when I was driving—by using the voice recognition software built into Windows to dictate my story into text. (Revisions afterward were quite interesting, especially when I got to parts where the computer hadn’t understood what I was saying and, even reading it aloud and trying to figure out what the words the computer wrote down sounded like, I couldn’t remember what I’d been saying.)]



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