Thursday, October 26, 2017

It's Really All About the Words - #NaNoWriMo

Note: This post has 3 entries in the middle of text displaying word count. They were added after writing to show how many words were written at various time intervals. They are in the format of (x min - xxx words).  The purpose for these are included in the post.

This post is a test to see what I can actually do with concentrated, uninterrupted time just typing away and not worrying about editing or word-smithing.

You see, I have jumped into something that is starting to be very intimidating to me and I haven't even started it yet. I signed up for NaNoWriMo 2017. This is the National Novel Writing Month that is held all over the world via internet in November each year. The goal of the month is to sit down and crank out a 50,000-word novel in just 30 days. 30 DAYS. For a whole freaking book.

I know this is a mammoth undertaking because I have been working on a novel for the last year and have only written the first five chapters. Yeah. Five chapters. That's an average of about one chapter every two months.

But...I know that I could be going at a much more acceptable rate if I just sat down and wrote the thing. Everything I've read about writing (yeah...I read about it a lot even if I'm not doing it), says that you just have to sit down and write it. Just get the words out. Worry about editing it later. So, I am practicing (5 min. - 205 words) just writing without having to worry about making sure the words are just the way I want them to be so I can see how many words I can actually produce in a given amount of time.

My time for this post is 30 minutes. Just 30 minutes. I want to see how many words hit the screen if I write without interruption and without sitting to think about just the right way to say something. Just get it up on the screen and I can perfect it later.

So, I have set three times for myself. One is at the 5-minute mark. I already hit that one. You can see the formatting for it above. One is at the 15-minute mark (that one is yet to come) and the last is at the 30-minute mark. For the moment, I am just pasting a symbol into that spot when the alarm goes off so I can go back and look at it later, calculate the word count and see what kind of progress I am making when it is all over. When I am finished, I will edit this post to include the numbers when they actually occurred.

So, here is why I am doing the challenge. I want to be a writer. I really, really, really do. My ultimate goal is to not have to go to work each morning, but sit down at my computer instead. My job would be to write.

I'm not even looking to get rich off of this. I just need to make enough money to be able to rely on my writing for my income. And, of course, I need enough money to be able to pay back my massive student loans also, but that is another story.

However, in order to be a writer, I have to write. Like actually write. Not just think about writing or read about writing or take notes for story ideas. I need to actually write. I have every confidence that I have some good stories in me. And I know that I write well enough that I could do this, but the difficult part is getting those words out of me. I have found that it is very easy to not write.

For one, I am a lifetime procrastinator. Always have been. Thus the word 'lifetime'. It takes a concentrated effort for me to get past it. If I want to get something done, I have to really focus because I am a master at putting things off.

Next, even if I do get started on a project, I move very slowly. Especially with writing. Suddenly, my mind is filled with all the things that need to be done and, for some reason, demand my immediate attention.

I need to fill the ice cube trays.
Did that shirt get ironed?
I still have all those emails I never went through?
I need to call Adam back.

The list is endless. Plus, even if I don't have other things that are demanding my attention, I constantly want to go over everything that I have written. I like my words to be (15 min - 674 words) perfect so they reflect exactly what I want to say. This means that after every paragraph (and sometimes after a sentence), I go back over what I just wrote to tweak it. I have written some of the sentences in my book over 20 times. Making little changes here and there. It never ends.

This is an issue that I have seen addressed in many of the blogs and books that I have read about writing. It's called "silencing your Inner Editor". When writing, it is not the time to edit. It is time to write. Editing can come later.

I know this is true, but I find it rather difficult to do. Which, once again, is what I am trying to do with this post. I am just writing it.

A book will never get written if the author does not write it. If it has not been written then there is nothing to edit. And, as I have learned, editing each chapter as it comes out just brings the entire process to a grinding halt. It moves so slowly. So, if I am going to even come close to finishing the NaNoWriMo challenge that I have entered, I will have to learn to just move forward. The editing can come after the month is over.

One of the excuses (and I know it is just an excuse, not a legitimate reason) I have used since getting to China is the size of our apartment. As I have mentioned in past posts, we live in a very small apartment. Very small. We can't even both fit in the kitchen at the same time.

Because of the close proximity, I feel like I can't get away from my wife.

I love my wife. I don't really want to "get away" from her, but with the close quarters, it is difficult to get into my own head and write. Our proximity to each other is distracting. At least, that is the excuse that I have used.

Lately, I have been trying some different tactics to try to get past this. For instance, I am taking advantage of the little times during the day when I have the house to myself. Sometimes it's just 20 minutes before she gets home. Sometimes, it's when she is in the shower. Occasionally, I will actually get a few hours. Not taking advantage of these moments before was time that I was wasting.

Next, I am experimenting with ways to write even when we are both in the apartment. I have always preferred to write in silence, but have begun to learn that putting in some earphones to listen to soft music is enough to take away most of the distraction of having someone else in the house. It is beginning to work.

My next distraction is the biggest time waster of all. I am an internet addict. I am well aware of this weakness, but it is easier to identify than it is to conquer it. I have to be sure to shut down the internet to my computer before I start writing. I don't need any Facebook or email notifications popping up to let me know that someone just had an amazing lunch at a new restaurant or their kitten did something cute. I know that if I do peek over to Facebook, I will lose the next three hours without even realizing it.

When I decide to write, I need to be able to do it and not be pulled away by these things that really aren't going to matter for anything anyway.

I know that I am reaching the end of the 30-minute goal I had set for myself and am really curious just how many words I have gotten typed. (30 min - 1299 words) I am amazed at how easily the words came.

Ok. Experiment over.

I came in at about 1,300 words for 30 minutes of uninterrupted time dedicated to just getting the words out onto the screen. Not bad.

To complete the NaNoWriMo and hit the 50,000-word target by the end of the month, I need to write an average of 1,667 words each day. That seemed pretty intimidating, but now knowing that I just did 1,300 words in 30 minutes, I have much more confidence that this is actually doable. I just have to discipline myself to sit down and do it.


  1. 1300 words in 30 minutes is great! Good luck with NaNo :-)

  2. I've started 2 books and haven't gotten very far with either and it's been a few years since I've even added anything so I feel you. I'm the same way, just can't get motivated enough to just sit and type. Good luck!

    1. Jeff, that is exactly why I have decided to do this. I sit in bed and think about plot twists. I've developed my characters. I've written notes about directions I want the story to go, but I don't actually write the story.

      If I ever want this thing to get written, I'm going to have to actually write it. That's what the NaNoWriMo is for. It clearly defines the daily goals and you just do it.

  3. I'm so glad you did this experiment. I know you will finish with flying colors, and I'm glad you are finding ways to get around our close quarters. (For months I've been trying to find ways to give you time alone at home, but I kind of stopped when I realized you weren't using that time on your book.)

    1. That's been another motivation. I've felt guilty over you trying to change your schedule and tiptoe around the house just so I can do what I want to do.

  4. Hey, you're still faster than George R. R. Martin. I think he writes 5 chapters about every 10 years.

    I'm with you on Internet addiction. It's now something I do regularly - I want to write, I disconnect from the Internet entirely. Otherwise nothing gets done.

    1. I have to outpace George a hundredfold if I expect to make any money at this. I doubt HBO will decide to make an award-winning series out of my zombie comedy.

    2. Well, just remember that they made an absolutely awful looking teen zombie romance musical into a major motion picture, so crazier things have happened.

    3. It's hard to understand what gets picked up and what doesn't. With some of the crap that's out there, there's no reason my book couldn't be a movie. I doubt it will happen, but that's how it works.


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