ROWing into a New Schedule

Hi everyone!

Everything goes better with a schedule of some form. Over the past several months this is the aspect of writing that I’ve struggled with the most. Finding a way to balance out the various segments of life in order to find a productivity sweet spot that wouldn’t have my wife following me around with a noose.

And, I believe, that I’ve finally found one that works. Although this first week was a bit up and down, the refining is getting down to finer points and my wife is happy with things. And yes, I will be sharing my techniques, tips, and such in the coming weeks.

One of the key shifts I made was a decision on how best to use my NaNoWriMo time this year. Which is, to first draft the first three novella’s in this series in a contiguous manner as a single work. Target word count for November: 90k.

Last year, I came into NaNo with what I thought was a well-prepared outline, a good idea of my main character and lots of drive to succeed.

Well, I succeeded in completing NaNo but the story was not one I would ever show. To anyone. Ever. However, I am not one to waste an idea, so I saved the concept and have reworked it over the past year into something far better. Lessons learned and applied.

I see many people fret back and forth, agonizing over NaNo and whether to participate or not. My advice – unless your schedule is unforgiving – Do It!

Here is why I say this.

NaNoWriMo challenges participants to write 50k words in 30 days. That is 1667 words a day. Last year, heading into the challenge, my best writing day was barely above 1k. However, by pushing myself through NaNo 2011 I learned that 1667 is doable in about an hour or so, if one suspends their inner editor. After all, what we are writing is a first draft. A vomit draft. So why waste effort on perfection (a pipe dream) when we could just take a deep breath and write.

After NaNo, I did not have a story I wanted to take further as it was. But, I had experience on how the one I had written had failed and focused on revamping the concept. This was not where NaNo’s influence ended, however.

I thought, if I can do 50k in 30 days, what can I do in a few months, or a year. If one types 2740 words a day they will come out with just over 1 million words in a year. No, I didn’t do this.

What I did was write 2740 a day from Jan to March – approximately 278k words. I wrote off of prompts I created for myself, free wrote on subjects, characters, places, etc. Every day.

The result is the above mentioned revamp, the novella series I’m currently working on and about 25 other stories that can be enlarged into shorts, novella’s and novels. Granted, half of what I wrote (or two-thirds) was garbage that will languish in a folder on my system for all eternity. But that “waste” doesn’t matter given the pile of usable material that came to life through the project.

And here is my point: While NaNo may seem like a major challenge, that, my friends, is all in the mind. If one takes the time to participate, they will benefit, regardless of whether that first NaNo draft is a best seller or just a pile of words.

If you are still on the fence about NaNo, throw your hat into the ring and take the challenge. Regardless of “winning” or final word count, if you take the time to attempt this endeavor you will learn a great deal about yourself and writing that will allow you to maximize your potential far beyond the end NaNo.

If you decide to participate, or already are signed up, I’d love to buddy with you. Either leave your NaNo user name in the comments or look me up at: Gene Lempp on NaNo.

Okay, enough on that.

Over this week, I spent 2 four hour blocks researching subjects for “Ben” (code name for the novella series). I also spent 2 days working on refining the treatment for the first novella. Two days I was out with a torn shoulder muscle (over-extended while painting, but all better now) and one day where I was consumed by calls and kidtivities. Still, getting my writing block on four out of seven days is an improvement and I’m thrilled with it.

For the coming week: I finally got a copy of the pic for my new Gravatar/Icon from my daughters camera, so the plan is to roll that out this week. I’ll be plotting an Act a day throughout this week, which should net me two novellas (note that I already have the world build and characters completed so this isn’t as daunting as it sounds). Oh, and I’ll be compiling a production schedule with deadlines (because I seem to be motivated by those better than just winging it).

That is all for this week.

Except for: Designing from Bones will be returning (yes, regularly, finally) on Wednesday and I hope you’ll join me *smile*

Be sure to get out and encourage your fellow ROWers. The path is always easier with a friend by your side.

Peaceful Journeys.

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About Gene Lempp

Gene Lempp is a writer blending elements of alternate history, the paranormal, fantasy, science fiction and horror for dark and delicious fun. He unearths stories by digging into history, archeology, myth and fable in his Designing from Bones blog series. β€œOnly the moment is eternal and in a moment, everything will change,” sums the heart of his philosophy. You can find Gene at his Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, WANATribe, Google+, Pinterest and StumbleUpon.
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17 Responses to ROWing into a New Schedule

  1. Okay, you’ve talked me into it! I revived my NaNo account that’s been dormant since ’09, the only time I’ve done NaNo (and yes, I won). What’s great about this sort of challenge is it shows us what we’re capable if we really work at it. I never finished the book I started then, but still plan to – just been distracted by publishing stuff I had that was closer to finished. You have some ambitious plans, but I have no doubt you’ll nail ’em. Have a great week, and see you on NaNo!

  2. Marcia says:

    Your thoughts on NaNo are encouraging and I had thought about doing it this year. My book is going to need some hefty revisions so, I know I won’t have time to plot the second book and write during NaNo. I’ve been thinking about doing my own NaNo for the second book in January. I guess I can take the principles of NaNo and use them any time it works form me, right? πŸ™‚ I wish you luck with it!
    Sounds like your schedule is coming together. It’s an elusive thing, isn’t it? Life seems to sabotage your efforts, but I suppose we have to figure on that when making a schedule. Deadlines definitely work for me, too.
    Yay! for your new picture and Yay!! for DfB coming back regularly! One of the things about you that I need to emulate is your patience and diligence in taking things step by step for however long it takes. You seem to do things in an order that makes sense for you, crossing one item at a time off your list until you are where you want to be in your larger scheme. Patience is not my strong suit and Procrastination is the devil in me. πŸ™‚ But always working at it!
    Have a fabulous week, my friend!

  3. Katy Bennett says:

    best of luck with nano, sounds like you’ve got everything under control as always

  4. “However, I am not one to waste an idea, so I saved the concept and have reworked it over the past year into something far better. ” << That's what I do too! I'm always recycling old ideas into new ones πŸ˜‰
    Awesome progress, Gene, and ambitious plan for November, which I'm sure you'll accomplish! Go you!

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Jennette: *cheering* Yay! Glad to have you along and NaNo will be a great experience regardless of the outcome (some saying about: “we only fail when we fail to try.” or something like that). Have a fantastic week πŸ™‚

      Marcia: “I’ve been thinking about doing my own NaNo in January…” Exactly. This is one of the things I learned doing NaNo last year. You don’t need a special contest to decide to challenge yourself to write x amount in x days. Or plot x. Or edit x. It’s just algebra (wink). Life is indeed tricky, but, since this is only math, we can adapt our x’s to whatever is required. And this is where deadlines come into play. Because it is easy to decide that every little thing should take precedence over writing. But a deadline, trumps a host of small nothings. By the way, yes I do have a few lists, some in my head and some written to guide my course, just like the captain of any good ship. Have a fantastic week, my friend πŸ™‚

      Katy: Thanks!

      Juliana: Exactly – Puzzlers. We can’t get rid of the piece, eventually it will fit somewhere. Most of my story ideas are culminations of dozens of little ideas, concepts – it takes time to turn a lump of metal into a finely-polished blade. Just keep folding in the ideas and one day the metal will hold true. Thanks for the support πŸ˜€

  5. I am super excited about doing NaNo…last year was a bust for me due to life circumstances at the time, and I think it just makes me that much more excited about getting back to it for 2012. I know it always kickstarts my writing all over again, which is a great feeling. I’m looking for that productivity sweet spot, too, since I have a very creatively demanding job that often taps my writer tank dry by the end of the day, but things seem to be balancing out of their own accord and I am feeling good about starting to accomplish more. Best of luck to you this week and in the coming month! πŸ™‚

  6. I stopped doing NaNo specifically because the November timeframe has been horrible for years. I’ve either been working retail (Which anyone should know becomes its own special hell during November and December) or in School (Finals, research projects, more homework) during that time. Throw on a tight knit family, and life just doesn’t accept much more around that time.

    So I’m just teaching myself to write on full time schedule and let it be.

  7. Julie Glover says:

    Sounds like you’re doing great, Gene! I’d love to hear what you’ve learned because balancing all of the roles I play in life (mom, wife, household manager, writer, etc.) can be such a challenge.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts about this, though: I hear a lot of people saying that the first draft is vomiting words on the page, ignoring your inner editor, and throwing out ideas as fast as possible. I don’t know if I have some big internal editor telling me that my ideas/words stink, but I enjoy taking my time to come up with them. What I mean is that vomiting words isn’t fun for me. Pausing and considering how to word something, anguishing over how to describe a setting well, and taking time in the moment to research a detail IS enjoyable to me. So am I just weird? LOL. Or is this one of those we-just-work-differently writer things? Because I hear this advice a lot, and I’m not sure if I should take it. (Can you tell you’ve got me thinking…hard?)

    Have a great ROW80 week!

  8. John Holton says:

    90K words in 30 days is 3K a day, and you’ve already proven to yourself that you can do almost that many, and three novellas sounds a whole lot more doable than a single 50K word novel, for some reason. Have a good week!

  9. Emily says:

    Wow, your goals for the next few months sound epic, but it sounds like you’ve got the discipline to achieve them! Best of luck with NaNo! I’ve added you to my writing buddies – my user name is spaciireth.

  10. Thanks for sharing your NaNo experiences and insights, Gene. I’m participating this year too. I have outlined a few ideas but I’m still undecided on which one to pick. Added you as NaNo buddy.
    Four productive days sounds awesome, and deadlines are great motivator.

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Jessica: That is awesome that you are coming back to NaNo this year!I’m glad things are balancing out for you so that you can write beyond your work. Have a great week and all the best for NaNo πŸ™‚

      Patrick: I’ve done retail at the holidays and totally sympathize with you and Jess Witkins. Write the way and when that works for you – that is all any of us can do.

      Julie: I think the first thing I learned was to not worry when others are unhappy because I’m doing my job, i.e. writing. I was already planning to talk about my method and such in future blog posts, but your comment adds a new dimension to this. I will say, that I don’t think you are odd, nor do I think that common advice will work for everyone. If you are already productive, why change? Do what works best for you and don’t worry about the crowd no matter how loud they yell πŸ™‚

      John: Yep, but I’m doing it at 3600 a day, which will leave me 5 days off during the month for Thanksgiving and “events of chaos” (need ominous music here). Thanks for the support πŸ™‚

      Emily: Added you as well. It will indeed be epic for all of us-thanks for the support πŸ™‚

      Reetta: Added you as well. Looking forward to some amazing times in NaNo. Have a fantastic week πŸ™‚

  11. Jae says:

    Wish I’d known about NaNoWriMo back in the day. I’d love to participate, but it’s not the right time to write another novel for me yet. I’ve got to focus on polishing up my current one, and of course writing short stories. πŸ˜€

    But I still like hearing about all you NaNo guys. It gives me motivation to keep going to hear about all these people writing hard core in November. Thanks for sharing and glad to meet another Row80er.

  12. Writing challenges are incredibly valuable if you do them write. I’ve never done Nano just because they have rules that don’t fit with professional production. Rigid start and end dates for the project, in particular. I can’t delay project just because it’s not November yet. That’s one of the reasons I do ROW80.

    However, I do heartily recommend such challenges to people who need to kick it in gear. I will often do a faux Nano (which I call “nanowrongmo”) just because the excitement around the event helps a lot.

  13. lynnkelleyauthor says:

    Wow, you have so many good things going on. Go, Gene, go! You’re making amazing progress. Can’t do NaNo caring for a 14-month-old, so that’s not an option. I’ll be cheering for you and all those participating, though!

  14. Diana Beebe says:

    Wow! I wasn’t even on the fence. I already decided that I wouldn’t sign up, and you’ve got me reconsidering it. My challenge is finding an hour or two every day to write. I’ll go off and think about this for a little while. Whatever I decide, I wish you all the best with your goals!

  15. Pingback: 6 NaNoWriMo Tips + #ROW80 and a NEW Twitter Handle | Jenny Hansen's Blog

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