Writing Fiction Habits: What NaNoWriMo Is Good For.
The lasting benefit to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is creating habits for writing fiction.
Because fiction is way more profitable that non-fiction.
As covered earlier, there are
two three habits you need to develop to succeed as a writer;
The Three R’s:
NaNoWriMo can be used to get the first one into your life in a solid way. Reading primes the pump, Writing is the necessary output, and promotion results in stuff that sells.
The core of this post is to work up how you can get daily writing in as a habit. In general, it really doesn’t matter how much you write as long as you write daily. Eventually, you’ll get there.
NaNoWriMo sets you on the line of writing toward something.
The point is not really a novel, but how you develop a repeating pattern (habit) that allows you to achieve that goal. 50K words is 1670 words per day. Or 12,500 words per week.
I like the idea in general of producing 2K or 2.5K words per day, as that is the average chapter length of modern stories. And the idea that follows this is in concentrating on short stories, preferably serials, which then build up into longer collections or longer works.
So the “novel” you’re building is more a collection than an entire work. You may not be done writing all the chapters or stories that make up this world. That’s fine. Or you make one and plus completed works out of all you wrote. I’ve come down on the side of Dean Wesley Smith, whose mantra is that the story knows what length it’s supposed to be. To me, that means that I’m just the transcriber and editor. I just have to translate the muses impulses into readable English. The inspiration will take care of the beautiful phrases.
The second point to concern yourself with is that you are using NaNoWriMo to build your writing habit. So this takes into account all the non-fiction prose you crank out during this same time. It’s really not fair to yourself or your muses to only count fiction work when you get inspired to riff off a piece about writing or publishing or anything else. So when you are cranking out wordage which is more a world-discovery piece, then that counts to. All your text counts. Even over long broadcasts to your mail list.
The point is improving your writing habits, not improving a particular type of writing and doing only that.
Going through Dorothea Brande’s “Becoming A Writer”, she had a great deal to say about developing the writing habit by simply writing first thing in the am before anything else. And writing at arbitrary times. Both of these improve your ability to gather your inspiration when you have time to write. (See this course featuring her audio book, soon to be published and available on Audible and everywhere – look for the Midwest Journal Press version. Meanwhile, go through the course as a way to really study this one. Right now, it’s free.)
Other books, such as Rachel Aaron’s “From 2K to 10K” has points about keeping track of when, where, and how much you write. She found that certain coffee shops were more productive. That just takes tracking your metrics for weeks and months to narrow down to your best production process.
Why you need to produce daily is to get up to a pulp speed that will generate enough published works to produce a regular income. The broad hint here is that one novel a year will probably never produce a workable income for you. Meaning writing will only ever be a hobby. Even at 80K, 12 months is a little over 7K per month or 1700 words per week, not even 300 words a day.
We’ve gone over the idea of splitting up 80K into eight 10K short stories. That would be four 2500 word chapters, which aligns to the current three-act model (with the second act being twice as long as the others.)
10K words a week would produce an 80K novel in a month and a half, or 8 novels a year.
The seven-point system Dan Wells promoted could really be built into simply writing your story in seven parts, one per day. If each of those parts were about 2K words, then you’d have 14K words in a week, and then 56K words for a month.
The true pulp speed is about 1M words per year, which is 3K per day. So you’d have to build up to that.
A real breakthrough down this line is concentrate on 2 published works per week. That would include editing, covers and descriptions, which take time. Using my 3-proof method, you’d push it through your own edits, line editing, and out-loud editing (which would include recording and editing that audio into an audiobook.) Then publishing all possible versions of the book that week, or over two weeks.
That allows you to get ahead on your writing and so even out your production. I’ve got more blog posts to produce in the above areas, but they all contribute to your regular production of words which then wind up as published works.
Even if you only produce four chapters of your next book, and publish twice a week under the existing cover and description, your audience in hearing from you and keeps expecting new work from you. Newer readers who discover you can “binge” on your earlier works and bring themselves up to date.
Writing short and publishing long is the secret sauce to “feeding the beast” on your own terms. (That’s a preview of an upcoming book in this area.)
So NaNoWriMo can be a stepping stone to developing a real career as a writer.
Some steps you can do:
- Look over your production for this month. See what you did when and under what conditions.
- Figure out your best production conditions which are sustainable. (All-night marathons are probably not viable.)
- Start over and work these into your regular schedule. Keep track of these metrics for when, where, how much as well.
- Review your production weekly and monthly to see how you achieved your goals (or not.)
- Get the most workable patterns in as a habit.
Underlying this, is that you have to have fun at what you are doing, really enjoying it all.
That’s really the key takeaway from this.
Imagine a job where you set your own schedule and loved every second of it.
It all starts with setting up your regular writing schedule. NaNoWri every Mo. (You develop a habit for monthly writing which provides you with daily word output and something to publish.)
I’ll go over the general strategy of how to “feed the beast” on your own terms in a later article.
The key point now is to get your habits forming.
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Also published on Medium.