Somehow I have managed to amass quite a strong lead in the first few days of NaNoWriMo, and I’ve realised I’ve been building some very positive habits that I hope to continue to keep me in front.
- PLAN – I know that some writers aren’t keen on this method, but I couldn’t have got to 10,000+ words without it. I have a two or three sentence synopsis for every chapter, and I refer to this each time I sit down to write. It keeps me on track and focused, but has enough leeway to allow my characters to take centre stage now and then.
- WRITE IN SHORT BURSTS – My writing sessions are never longer than an hour. I remember reading somewhere that our longest attention span limit is around 45 minutes, so I try and take a break if I notice I’ve been at it an hour already! Last year, I was writing in 15m spurts, and I found that incredibly easy and it got me my NaNo ‘win’.
- GET IN THE MINDSET – About half an hour before I write, I remind myself of what I’ve last written and what comes next in my narrative. Then I’ll go away and do some chore – usually walking the dog – and every so often I’ll let my mind drift to my story and start thinking about the next sentence I want to get down when I start to write again. Then, when I do sit down, I’m straight back into it because I’ve already built up that pesky first sentence in my head.
- DOZE/MEDITATE – I admit, this might not be for everyone, but it sure helps me get my story going. In a morning, before I get up, I bring my mind around to my story and let it settle. I do the same when I’m trying to get to sleep. Sometimes, I even have twenty minutes during the day where I will ‘nap’ on the sofa. But, what I’m really doing is playing over the last scene in my imagination, and seeing what comes next.
- DON’T RUSH IT – So you’re thinking about your story a lot, dozing, imagining, day-dreaming and you have the perfect sentence composed. All sentences seem ideal in the mind, but on paper they can lose their punch. So don’t rush it, if the sentence is that perfect it will re-emerge during the writing process. Let it float in your mind for a while, until your next writing session.
One of the other things I’ve noticed is that I don’t actually schedule my writing. I tend to just start when I feel ready, when the next scene is on my mind and I feel it’s ready to take shape on the page. Obviously, I do have to have some idea of when I’m available to write – so work around existing plans or commitments (like my job), but I’ve found myself writing more often when I don’t feel I have to sit down at a particular time to do it. I like the freedom of trusting myself to write before the day runs out.
So far I’m enjoying this year’s NaNoWriMo, more so than I think I did last year. Maybe it’s because I’m better practised at writing or because I have prepared more this time around. All I know is that I feel relaxed, calm and confident in that which I’m writing and my approach to writing it. I think this, most of all, is why I’ve managed to write my personal best of over 10,000 words in just four days.