Have you made your Nanowrimo resolutions yet?
If you aren’t familiar with this peculiar acronym or its importance in the writing world, Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s kind of a combination of New Year’s and Lent: you make a resolution and see if you can stick with it for an entire month. For some of us, Nanowrimo is a welcome friend, a way to motivate ourselves to work a little harder on our writing for at least one month. For others, it’s a trial. A time of starting and stopping, frustration, and ultimately giving up. In fact, it’s rather like that diet I’ve been on for the last few months: a lot of good intentions and not very much weight loss.
The first thing to remember is that while the name implies that you will be working on a novel, Nanowrimo can be used to help motivate you to work on any type of writing, from a non-fiction book to a screenplay to poetry. The most important thing is to just write! If that seems overwhelming, here are a few tips to help you get started.
1. Develop Your Vision. Why do you want to write a book? What do you want your book to do for you? There are as many possible answers to these questions as there are books and authors. You may want your book to inspire others, to help you build a business, to build your reputation as a writer, or all of the above. There is no wrong answer, only your answer.
2. Don’t Wait for Inspiration. How often have you said, “I’ll start writing my book when…” You are waiting for that special moment when time, energy and inspiration all come together. It may be when your kids are in school, the week they are in camp, or when you quit your job. But somehow, whenever those moments do arrive, something else fills your time. There are clothes to wash, appointments to make, meetings to attend, and a host of other excuses. But if you are going to finish your book you must schedule regular writing time every week – and then make that time sacred.
3. Write About Your Passion. If you are not passionate about the subject of your book you are not going to want to spend the time needed to write it. Writing is hard work. There are times when you will have to give up evenings or weekends or Saturday afternoons to work on your book. Just because dozens of people have told you that you ought to write a book on a certain subject, doesn’t mean you should. If you don’t love it, find another topic!
4. Set Your Goals. A book is a big project. You can’t finish your book in one afternoon, or even one month. So set some goals for yourself. “At the end of one month I will have completed my outline.” “I will write one chapter per week.” “I will finish my books in six months.” Make sure your goals are realistic – then stick to them.
5. Give Yourself Rewards. Now that you’ve set your goals, reward yourself when you accomplish them. It works for your kids, why shouldn’t it work for you? Set small rewards for small goals – a relaxing cup of tea for finishing 1,000 words, for example. Set larger rewards for larger goals – a night of fun with your favorite video, popcorn and maybe some friends to share it, for completing a chapter. And don’t forget to set a really nice reward for actually finishing your book!
6. Manage Priorities, Not Time. Make a list of your priorities, then divide these tasks into four categories: Urgent and Important, Urgent and Unimportant, Not Urgent and Important, Not Urgent and Unimportant. For example, a ringing phone urgently pleads for your attention, but is often unimportant. The two hours you block twice a week to work on your book are Important but Not Urgent, so it’s easy to let something else slide into that time slot. How much of your time is spent on Urgent but Unimportant activities? Using this quadrant will help you see just how you are using your time.
7. Block Your Time. Now that you know what your most important priorities are, take out your calendar and start blocking in times. Block out the time spent on running errands, attending meetings, taking kids to activities. What time is left? Can you find two or three two-hour periods each week to work on your book? Once you’ve blocked them, make them sacrosanct. Only real emergencies should keep you from working on your book in those time periods.
8. Find the Right Place to Write. Writing takes concentration. You really cannot do your best work in the middle of the family room with the TV blaring and kids running around. Find a quiet corner where you can keep your work organized and easily accessible. Even if you live in a small apartment, make yourself a comfy corner where you can work without distraction.
9. Find an Accountability Partner. An accountability partner is someone who supports/nudges/nags you into completing a difficult project. Accountability partners can be used for everything from weight loss and exercise to writing your book. The relationship works best if each person has the opportunity to be both the nagged and the nagger. If the deal is only one way, it can devolve into something uncomfortably like the relationship between a parent and teenager – and that’s a good way to ruin a friendship. Both people don’t have to be working on the same thing, although that can be helpful. Just make sure that you and your partner have clear rules about the structure and type of nagging that will occur.
10. Why projects fail is failure to start. What’s the number one reason why projects fail? Failure to start. So pick a topic. Pick a time. Pick a place. Pick up a pencil. Pick out a file name for your new document. And write.