Habits and other muse-ings
First things first, I “won” NaNoWriMo again this year! Now as I mentioned in my last post, “winning” simply means writing 50,000 words in the month of November. The only trophy I “won” was of the virtual kind, along with a nicely chilled glass of white when I hit 50,001 words.
In case you’ve never tried to do it, 50k in a month is NOT EASY. Especially when your muse takes an unexpected vacation in the first week, or refuses to do what you’ve asked of her. Add in that thing called LIFE, and there were days where I wasn’t sure I was going to hit the goal.
But I did, and in the process, finished my next book.
(Insert a whoop of joy here and a dance that looked a little like this…)
The difference this time, though, is that I had a solid plot outlined and 40k written BEFORE November 1st. That helped. Not only with reaching my goal to get the book finished during NaNo, but also to create a story that was more second draft quality than first draft.
Because as we all know, first drafts SUCK. Usually when I read through my first draft this is my reaction:
This time, though, I plotted in a way I never have before. I used this handy dandy word processing (magical) writing tool called Scrivener, which has completely changed how I write. I worked with a few of my critique partners chapter by chapter, versus having them read the book after a first draft was done. And I wrote EVERY SINGLE DAY.
There’s a lot of controversy out there about the whole ‘write ever day’ habit. But after reading Stephen King’s On Writing, I knew it was a habit I wanted to get into. If you’re a writer and haven’t read On Writing, go do so. Now. Along with great tips, like read and write every single day, you get a glimpse into the trials SK went through in becoming the incredibly successful author he is today. It really changed how I view my writing process.
However, there are plenty of writers who disagree with the daily writing habit thing. But for me, it’s like working a muscle, and if I keep “active” daily my writing muscles don’t atrophy. Words flow more easily, my mind stays close to the plot and characters, and most of all, the BOOK GETS WRITTEN MORE QUICKLY (at least in my experience).
My first book, my “practice” book, took more than six years to write. (Note: I did NOT write every day, and at that time I didn’t even have a kid yet!) And let me tell you, it’s obvious in the story. For the last two books I wrote them mostly between the hours of 5am and 7 am, and managed to get a finished draft done within five months each time. I would never have done that without the daily habit of writing each morning. Along with (copious amounts of) coffee, it’s become a daily ritual I look forward to … most mornings, anyway. There were some, let me tell you, that looked a lot like this…
Regardless of whether you write every day or not, are a “pantser” (little to no plotting, write as you go) or a “plotter” (the exact opposite of a pantser), drink coffee or tea while you write, feel most inspired before the sun comes up or long after it has gone down, or take one month or six years to finish a book, you have a process. Which means you likely don’t need any advice, unless you’re looking for a change.
Really, the only advice I give when someone asks “HOW” to finish a book is this:
DO NOT STOP WRITING UNTIL IT’S DONE.
That’s really it, isn’t it?