It’s National Novel Writing Month and, unfortunately, that means nothing to a majority of the world. During November your favorite TV shows will still come on, celebrities will continue to make fools of themselves and beckon your attention, and your friends will still post on your facebook wall (my apologies, I’m young as shit, so these might not relate that much to some of you…feel free to replace with your own relevant distractions). The point is, writing a novel in a month can be hard. If this your first shot at it you may be wrapping this month up with some frustration. While I can’t help you squeeze in 60k more words in 3 days, I can help you learn from this month.
Relatively, writing can be a hard task to stay focused on. It has no concrete ending, so it can be hard to visualize what you’re actually working towards. For example, I’m editing my novel right now and I know how far I am through the book, but who knows how many more rounds of editing there will be. It’s also done on a computer (for a lot of us), and computers are made for multi-tasking. For example, take an activity like working out. If you can muster up the will power to make it to the gym, you’re set. You’re dumbbells aren’t going to transform in to handheld video game devices and the treadmill won’t try to instant message you. And let’s not forget being tired from a long day at work. Sure, you might not be able to put in 100% in the weight-room, but when’s the last time you fell asleep at the pull-up bar? If I could cure falling asleep at my computer, I’d have ten novels under my belt by now…
Having little time isn’t always the worst. Time can slip away at an amazing pace, especially when you have an abundance of it. I’ve found myself the least productive (and not just in writing) when I have a lot of time. I get complacent with the clock and focus on the comfort of how much time I have left instead of how much I’ve actually gotten done. Sooner or later the day will have turned to night and all I would have to show for it is new memories of YouTube clips and a whole lot of knowledge about current events that I could have gone on living without. Working on a deadline has always proved to be the most productive for me. When doing the 3-Day Novel contest, I wrote for three days without Internet, without television, without everything, basically, except food and divine inspiration. Once, I was trying to get my manuscript ready to send to an editor friend of mine in two weeks. It ended up taking a month, but not because of focus: I had underestimated the amount of work the story needed. That said, it was a very productive four weeks since I felt I was racing against the clock.
I also find that I am least productive while editing. I find the writing of new material exciting and adventurous and editing…not so much. And if you put two and two together (look back at my post from the beginning of this month), you can imagine how November had been going from me. I’ve learned a lot about myself and distractions. From that, I have devised a few tips.
1) Turn off your Internet while writing. This is as simple as shutting off your wireless radio or unplugging the ethernet cable. If all else fails, just disconnect all the wires that even resemble phone lines in the house. You can always reconnect them later.
2) Give yourself deadlines. You don’t want to rush your work out in to the world before it is your time, but, if possible, I would suggest having a third party involved in these deadlines to give a greater sense of urgency. For example, tell your friend that you will have a draft ready for them to read by <<insert random future month here>> and now you have something to look forward to. On the days where you are feeling less motivated it will be harder to admit to your friend that you are (willingly) behind than if you only have a responsibility to yourself.
3) Set a certain time everyday. This is harder for certain people, me included. I have not been able to find a set daily time yet and don’t know how long until I will. But I know that I have time set aside for other daily activities in my life and those are carried out quite well (more or less).
4) If you’re editing, maybe try ‘procrastinating’ with new writing. For some of us, the editing process can be a ‘not-so-appealing’ undertaking. When you feel yourself about to slip, try writing something new instead of turning on the TV. Technically, you are still shying away from the current task, but at least you are doing something productive as a writer. Another option is to read.
5) Write as soon as you wake up (or as close to it as you can). This applies more for the working crowd. If you write after work, you may be more likely to end the night with slobber on your computer screen rather than words. It’ll be better to go to sleep earlier and wake-up earlier so that you can write. Besides, there’s less to distract you at 5 in the morning.
That’s about all I got. Now, if you excuse me, I heard that there’s a video of a monkey skydiving while painting the Mona Lisa on YouTube. I’m all on it….and then it’s writing time!