Monday, October 24, 2016

Planning for NaNoWriMo

My first weekly planner spread (yes, I know it is upside down)
This sticker kit came from Malrina Collections on Etsy.
Hello, my name is Heather and I have a planner addiction.  Colorful pens. Stickers. Covers.  Yes, please.  I blame Hildie McQueen (the welcome speaker for Southern Magic's Readers' Luncheon this weekend) for my recent obsession.  Her Instagram feed tempted me with beautiful weekly planner layouts, so I started following her YouTube channel. Lord knows I needed to get organized when it came to my writing, and she made it look fun.

Writing is hard work. Organizing writing time and goals often left me feeling overwhelmed and discouraged.  As a result, I avoided writing. Binging on Netflix, using the excuse I was "refilling the well," impeded my productivity.  I needed to find a way to organize my time so that I enjoyed writing again.

Enter the world of planning.  If you aren't a planner, this is a great time to try it out.  National Write a Novel Month, and planning are custom made for each other.  You don't have to buy a fancy planner or stickers to try this out.  A notebook or monthly calendar you can print using any number of free templates is a great place to start.

Step one:  Make a plan.  Write down (yes, I said write - put literal pen to paper) your goal for NaNoWriMo:  complete a first draft of approximately 50,000 words.  I know this is obvious, but there is something about the physical act of articulating your goal and memorializing in writing that makes you own it.  This simple act will plant the nagging seeds of obligation that will propel you toward completion.

Step two:  Set your daily goals.  Examine your writing time.  Be realistic.  Mark off Thanksgiving.  I don't care how good your intentions are.  A turkey coma will take you down.  Don't include that day.  Are you a Cubs or Indians fan?  Mark off the World Series game days.  You won't write those days. Same for the Iron Bowl and Black Friday.  You will only feel guilty and discouraged if you plan on writing on days you know there will be a conflict.  Now divide your goal (50,000 words) by your available writing days.  This is your daily word count goal.  For me, my daily goal is 2,000 words.  That is a lot, but not insurmountable.

Some of my favorite writing stickers. 
Step three:  Put those daily goals in writing, and make them look attractive.  Remember the nagging seeds of obligation?  Spread them across your calendar so that words can grow through the month.  (This is the time that I discourage the inevitable comments below about how I am fertilizing those words).  Write down your daily word goal on each writing day on your calendar.  This is where my "planner" addiction takes over.  Use colorful ink. Draw smiley faces. Dig out the foil stars teachers used to put on papers. There are a ton of great stickers you can get for word count goals if you want to make your calendar looks fancy.  My favorites are the writing kit add-on's (but you can buy just the writing kits) by Malrina Collections on Etsy.  These writing kits have awesome motivational stickers (like "Finish the Book!"), daily word count stickers, weekly word count stickers, and other cool writing event stickers.  Decorating your plan is like a mini-reward for the dedication you've already shown by making a commitment to your writing time. You certainly won't want to waste the time you've invested in this plan by not writing.

Step four:  WRITE.  Butt in chair. Hands on keys. Go forth and create.  Everyone always says to try out different times each day to see what works best for you.  However, my advice is to start NaNoWriMo off by writing first thing in the morning.  Set your alarm for at least an hour and a half before your normal waking time.  Try writing at that time.  Yes, you will be tired. Yes, you will need coffee.  Yes, your brain may not yet be stringing together coherent thoughts.  Nonetheless, try morning writing.  This way you knock out your goal (or part of it) first thing.  No looming "I need to write" dragging you into a funk.  Instead, you have the peppy "I've gotten words in" song adding bounce to your step throughout the day.  If you don't get your word count in during the morning, you have the rest of the day to finish the goal (or even get ahead).  If after a week of morning writing you can't take it anymore, try other times.  However, much like exercise, I've found that if I don't take care of writing first thing, life gets in the way, and by the evening, I am mentally spent and totally unmotivated. And thus begins the downward spiral with no words on paper and me having watched four seasons of some British sitcom recently added to Amazon Prime.

Step five:  Chart your progress.  As your write, document your word count on your planner/calendar. Do this every time you write. The sense of accomplishment will give you confidence in your writing.  As you watch your progress, you won't want to waste or lose the time you've invested, so you'll keep writing.  (This also works with me with respect to dieting - if I've eaten well for a week or more, I don't want to undo all my hard work with a junk food binge).  Documenting the investment of your time where you can see it every day will be one your best writing tools.

Step six:  Celebrate with a reward.  Of course a finished first draft is its own reward.  But who are we kidding? To quote Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle, "Treat yourself!" You've put together a plan and followed it. Have a special treat as your reward. Ice cream. A massage. Shopping. Binging on Netflix (you may be sensing a pattern in what I like to do).  Find something decadent that is just for you and enjoy.        

At the end of the month, if you enjoy planning, think about expanding your plan into the upcoming months.  There are tons of ways to plan.  Personal planners. Monthly planners.  Bullet journals. Calendars on your refrigerator.  Play with them all to find what works for you.

While I am still in search of planner peace, I'm using two planners to manage my life.  I am using an Erin Condren planner (to get yours, use this link for $10 off your order) for writing and "personal" matters (exercise, social events, etc.).  I'm using an Emily Ley Simplified Planner for my daily appointments and "to-do's."  This system is working well for me.  The Erin Condren is a "desk planner" I leave on my home desk (or as I call it, my writing laboratory - I do that so I can laugh maniacally when it is time to write).  I check this planner daily and update my writing progress.  Each week, I manage my goals.  The stickers and aesthetics of this system make planning my writing fun and a "treat" each day.  The other planner goes with me everywhere so that I can keep up with where I need to be and what I have to do.  Yes, I know I could do this on my phone, but my lack of grace (and inability to type on my phone - if you've ever received a text from me, you understand) makes me less likely to keep up with my calendar and lists electronically.

The other thing I've done, is to own and publish my goals.  After attending the Digging Out of Distraction workshop at Georgia Romance Writers' 2016 Moonlight and Magnolias Conference, I realized I need to see my goals daily so that I did not avoid them.  I've framed my goals for this last quarter of the year and placed them next to my computer.  I face my goals each day.  This way, I can't run from them.  I embrace them.  This has been a HUGE help.  Not only do I see them, but so does my husband.  The embarrassment of not meeting goals he knows I have set for myself is my fail-safe.   Never underestimate the power of public accountability.  That is why I am posting those goals here as well.

So here is my challenge to you. I challenge you to plan for NaNoWriMo. I challenge you to publish your goal publicly in the comments below.  Let's all check back December 1 and see how we've done.  Throughout the journey, post your tips, suggestions and requests for help. Let's plan together to have a finished first draft by the end of November.



Aidee Ladnier said...

BICHOK is the only way to go. I'll be right there with you come November. Finished novel, here I come!

Heather said...

Aidee - you are the woman. I have no idea how you balance all you do. Would love to hear your secrets.

Chris Bailey said...

You are awesome.

Heather said...

Miss you, Chris!