NaNo Day Eleven: A Shift in the Beat

So, what happens when you have a day job outside of writing, and a personal life outside of writing, is this: every few days something will come up, something new, something either exciting or scary as shit, which will knock your budding writer off course, and stop you from writing at your favourite time, at your favourite place, and with your favourite music playing softly in the background while the pets keep each other happy by dragging each other across the floor by their tails. (Our dog has some innovative house cleaning ideas.)

What do you do, then?

Well, give it up, right?

Eh. Eh and an eh eh. There’s no giving up in November, not for you, not for me, not for your poor characters stuck at an orgy dinner party who have to figure out which one of the scented, overdressed, highly maintained people murdered your character’s ex lover. (I’m all for spoilers, this November.)

Here are a few things which have helped me, and some things which have helped writer aquaintances, work through those harder times.

Get a tablet with a detachable keyboard. I wouldn’t say it’s a lifesaver for my writing per se—I would’ve lugged around my laptop, if necessary—but two of the most prolific Croatian sci-fi authors are regularly seen with their tablets and their keyboards at the most unlikely of places. (Like, the café at the Istrakon convention in Istria at Sunday morning, when hungover congoers muster for some liquid wake-up medicine.)

Don’t use the delay as an excuse to slow down your wordcount. Not giving up seems to be slowly emerging as the motto of this post, and this NaNo, too. For me, even though it hurts my funny little ego every time, giving up comes way too easy. But I don’t like the taste of it this year, so I’m writing even when I’d have a pretty good excuse not to be. Like, tired. Hungover. Ahead of the suggested daily wordcount. Whatever. I know there will come a day I won’t be able to write even a single word—for whatever reason, least of all catching a killer cold which seems to be looming over the horizon with the weather these days—and I’m good with doing my best to boost the numbers right now, while I’m still able to.

Write first, have fun later. This sounds like shit—and I feel a little bit like a smallish pile of steaming poo writing it, too, or maybe it’s a monday thing—but there’s a time for fun and rest, and then there’s a time for writing. There’s another word for this—you might have heard about it, it starts with p and end with riorities, and it helps to know where you stand.

Find (yet) another time for writing. I might be a morning person, but I wouldn’t have dreamt of writing before 7 AM until I realized it’s a great way to get some words in every day, just before I go out with the dog, in order to forestall new, shiny, exciting excuses why I don’t have time to write today. Weird scheduling works—as long as you’re ready to reschedule the moment it stops.

Write scene fragments if you don’t have time for scenes. The one biggest issue I’ve had this year with writing is that I really like to be able to concentrate on whatever text I’m working on at a given moment, and for me, most of the time, that means having blocks of several hours at a time (a minimum of three) to dive into the copy. But, this November, I’ve found that writing fragments ahead in the plot—if only a couple sentences here, a couple there—helps with keeping up with the wordcount, even if I have a shorter time slot at a given time. YMMV.

Don’t take yourself too seriously—and don’t do it with the novel, either. I mean, just look at the idea above—that I need three full hours of uninterrupted, well rested writing, to get something done. We learn—and we write. If you’re having issues with a scene, change it. If you’re having trouble going back into a character, ditch them. If you’re not having fun, the reader won’t, either, and placing your novel on a pedestal can very well hurt it more than it could ever help.

After all, it’s just words.

 

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Photo by Ken Hawkins.