Last month, I wrote 150,000 words while participating in Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I promised an overview post. Here it is…albeit a little later than originally planned.
WHY write that much?
I’ve heard some writers talk about writing a lot in a short period of time, and always wanted to do that myself. Having recently gone full-time as an author, Camp NaNo seemed like the perfect time to give it a go.
I definitely got it out of my system and have no desire to write that much again in the foreseeable future!
What was my writing schedule?
- 6-7k words Monday through Friday
- 3k words on Sundays
- Saturdays off!
All this while homeschooling my two kids during the week. I also published a book that month.
What was my writing process?
First book of the month. Using my outline, I wrote story beats the night before. That way, I had the outline and the beats to get me going and keep me on track.
Second book. No outline. I thought I would have time, but as it turns out, I didn’t.
I wake up at 4am to write. I started doing this when I was working full time because I knew that if I wanted to make writing into a career, I needed to treat it like one first. So, I carved out the time to write when I had it. Turns out that’s still my best writing time, even as a full time author. And I am not a natural early-riser. I used to complain about 11am classes in college.
When I came to a natural break, I would stop and stretch or walk around. Even a few minutes helps to clear my mind.
At the end of the writing day, I leave myself at a place that I can easily pick up the next day. I never, ever leave myself at the beginning of a chapter. The worst place to start the day (even with an outline) is a blank page. Only when you start the story!
I write as fast as I can, not stopping to edit anything. I run spell check later and make story changes when I read the entire draft as a whole. If I have a question about something, I make a note of it, so I can fix it later. I just let my mind and fingers tell the story…any mistakes can be fixed at another time.
Staying in the writing flow is too important. Don’t distract yourself with editing – that’s an entirely different part of the brain. That goes for research, too, though I am guilty of Googling minor details.
As I write, I listen to music. I particularly like gaming music (designed to increase focus and concentration) and some movie soundtracks. (Feel free to check out my playlist.)
What were my big takeaways?
1. Outlining, plotting, and story beats are KEY for faster writing. You may think I’m a born-plotter, but that isn’t the case. I’m a born pantser. If I had my way, I wouldn’t think about a book before I started, except to start with one main idea. I would let myself discover everything through writing.
I did that with my first novel, and suffice it to say, it took me the longest to write out of all my works. It’s also the one I’ve spent the most time editing, re-writing, and re-editing.
Over time, I started outlining more, bit by bit. In the beginning, I would write out a bare-bones outline. It had 10-12 major points I wanted to hit. Sometimes I knew the way it would end, others, not so much.
I used Libbie Hawker’s book, Take Off Your Pants, to outline the first book I wrote last month. Wow! That made all the difference! Seriously, though I did deviate somewhat from it, I wrote that book so fast and had a blast doing it.
The second book I wrote didn’t end up getting outlined, as already mentioned. That made writing the book so much more difficult. I haven’t yet read that draft…but I’m sure it’s going to have more issues than the first one I wrote.
2. Breaks are important. When I used to write for 90 minutes before work, I didn’t take writing breaks. Every moment spent writing was cherished. Now that I have more time for writing, and can even fit it into my daytime routine if necessary, I’ve discovered the necessity of breaks.
In Write Better, Faster, Monica Leonnelle discusses the pomodoro method. She writes for a certain amount of time and then takes a timed break. I gave this a try last month when writing faster. (Well, kind of. I took breaks when it seemed natural, not by a timer.) I found that stretching or running in place helped my writing productivity the most.
3. Fast writing DOESN’T mean lower quality. Okay, I already knew that, but this proved it. I’ve never written anywhere near this much in such a short period of time. I’ve already read the first book I wrote last month and was impressed with the quality of my first draft.
It’s already with beta readers, and I really didn’t have to make many changes before sending it off. It had typos galore, but spell check fixed those. No big deal – that goes with the territory of fast typing with me. (And if you’re wondering, the beta feedback that I’ve already gotten back has been quite positive, so that also confirms that my quality didn’t suffer.)
4. Writing a book is only the first step in the entire process of publishing a novel.
To produce a book out we need:
- Story beats
- Reading the first draft
- Self editing before sending to beta readers or critique partners
- Taking breaks
- Studying the craft
- Reading books in and out of your genre
- Spending time with other authors (online or off)
- Going over beta / critique / editor feedback
- Writing the blurb
- Taking part in the cover creation process (I like DIY Book Covers, but also hire out)
- Formatting (or hiring out) for paperback
- Publishing (uploading to retailers)
…writing a book takes a LOT more than just writing.
This is why I don’t recommend writing 150k every month. But it’s a good experience to try!
Thanks for reading. I hope you got something out of it!