Well, I started out with the best of intentions, but November was just that; NO-vember. This was actually the first year that I have participated in NaNoWriMo where I did not reach my goal. A lot got done this month, yet nothing at all and very, very little actual writing. Most of the month was taken up by the one-turned-three week project that was the forced re-carpeting of our condo. Followed promptly by several separate invasions of 6 legged critters of the black ant persuasion – which in the 18 years of being in this house has only happened 6 times before and on much smaller scale, which has eaten up most of the days in-between. (We still haven’t figured out why they decided, now that the place is the best it’s looked in the last 6 years, that NOW was the time. No rain, not terribly cold or hot. No logical reason.) Still what writing (and writing related tasks) that did get done had significant impact and I feel that if priority had been given to NaNoWriMo (as in the past) and had I had the support to make that happen there was the potential for this to be the most productive NaNoWriMo EVER for me. But that did not happen and thus the subject of this post. So why?

    Now in most cases writing is a very personal endeavor and requires minimal external involvement, if you don’t count drawing inspiration, research, and collaboration. For the physical act of writing all you need is yourself, and something to write on/with. Right? — Well actually it requires a lot more than that, doesn’t it? Especially if you aren’t a hermit living in a self sustainable living space. For the purpose of this post we are going to instead assume that you are at the very least not independently wealthy – thus much of what you need in order to survive depends in part on you – and you have family, friends and relationships to maintain.

    So what does it take to accomplish the task of sitting down to write? The answers are far from finite. But at the basic level you need: yourself, desire (an idea, the passage of knowledge, a grade, immortality; whatever has gotten you to write), and tools of the trade. Let us first take a look at the last of that list. This particular subject is covered extensively in this blog, and please feel free to look under the Tools tag to find articles pertaining to them. For now, though, let’s just make it a short list of the basic things;

  • Writing Utensil
  • Repository for words
  • Writing Surface
  • Writing Space
  • Reference Books
  • Sustenance
    Seems simple enough. But there is much more that goes into writing, and one of those essentials is time. When you have a job, a family, and friends it requires prioritizing, support, and planning to get that time. I got to thinking a lot about this during NaNoWriMo this year. In the past I could stay up, shut away in my space for 74 hours drinking tea and grazing on crackers, cheese and tuna and just write strait through an inspired moment until all the creative juices had run dry. Interrupting the flow only for refills, and potty breaks. Now-a-days though, there are responsibilities and even when those are all done there are distractions everywhere. With 5 people in a house (four of them adults) you’d think getting a few hours to write each day would be easy. But not true, there is always something to be done or someone needing your attention – ironically this isn’t as much from the toddler as you’d assume even though like most munchkins her timing is impeccable  Where I could write a 20,000 word short story, or 120 page script in 74 hours now I can’t get to 3,000 words in 30 days. That, my friends, is horrific, not only productively but detrimental for the creative mind.
    How can not being creative be detrimental? Well beyond the whole “if you don’t use it you lose it” mind set, it becomes a kind of atrophy as well. In my two decades of writing and being a crafty-sort-person I have learned that the more creative ideas that aren’t let out the more difficult it is to get any out. It’s not like storing nuts for winter, it’s more like glue that’s been in the bottle too long that keeps getting cracks of air but not mixed, thick and hard. And where somethings are better that way – not true for being creative. You must give to get in this case.
    So what can you do not to find yourself in that position? Well, first you need to set realistic goals and prioritize, and your friends and family must understand, respect and support you in this. Now I am far from saying writing must be your very top priority over everything else, but if you are planning on making something of your writing it should be pretty far up there on your list. And by having their support I don’t mean just them saying; “Yes I understand” they must actively engage in the process. Be that picking up the slack, not interrupting you during time set aside for writing, etc. Because let me tell you if this does not happen what will happen is that you will spend all day sitting at your computer not getting very far, and everyone will suffer, you and them. This is especially true if you have children. Make lists outlining what tools you need (this includes things like silence, music, someone else to cook dinner, or whatever it is) to accomplish your goals. Make them and actively work to accomplish them. Sometimes life will get in your way and sometimes you’ll have to adjust your goals, but don’t get discouraged if you are trying your hardest. You will succeed, you just have to keep at it and communicate with those around you about your needs.
    There are easy ways to figure out how much you “need” to write to accomplish your goals with these simple tools. First you’ll want to find out how fast you type (I’m assuming that you have access to a computer if you are reading this blog) – you can’t really time how fast you write by hand but you can over time keep logs of what time you started writing and how many pages you wrote in that time if you want to attempt that. For me writing by hand is rarely about achieving goals these days and are more about letting the ideas flow, or if I have no access to an electronic writing device. You can use this site that gives a typing test. You can also get typing certifications from this site as well. You are more than welcome to use my formula it’s very easy to set up in an Office Excel sheet or a Spreadsheet in Google Drive.
  • Words Per Minute; (WPM)
  • Manuscript Length; typically 100,000 (This can be substituted with whatever length you need it to be)
  • Hours to Full Manuscript; Sum=(ML/WPM)/60
  • Days to Manuscript; Sum=((ML/WPM)/60)/Daily hours set aside for writing
You can take it a step farther if you have more information. For instance I also include:
  • Outline Length; Typically for me 50,000 – mostly because I ‘ask’ myself questions as I write my outline so that I don’t land with plot holes. Also you can assume some scenes you can outline in one sentience “Jan goes to the grocery store.” Others may be several paragraphs detailing battles and such. If you can picture the full scene at the moment it’s best to write it down right then in as much detail as you can. There’s no rule that your outline can’t include large chunks that will be for the most part just transplanted into the final manuscript with minimal editing.
  • Hours to Full Outline; Sum=(OL/WPM)/60
  • Days to Outline; Sum=((OL/WPM)/60)/Daily hours set aside for writing
This is just for those of us who have OCD and love knowing the numbers. I use these numbers to account for editing and rewriting.
  • Story Detail Length; Sum=(ML-OL)/WPM
  • Hours to Full Detail; Sum=((ML-OL)/WPM)/60
  • Days to Detail; Sum=(((ML-OL)/WPM)/60)/Daily hours set aside for writing
This next part is mostly for those who know they are creating a series or universe or have several ideas for different stories and want to look at long term goals.
  • Story Title Total; How many titles do you have in your head or planned?
  • Story Word Total; Sum=STT*(ML+OL+SDL)
  • Hours to Completion; Sum=(STT*(ML+OL+SDL))/WPM
  • Days to Completion; Sum=(((STT*(ML+OL+SDL))/WPM)/Daily hours set aside for writing
And you thought you’d never use algebra in real life …
  • Days Per Story; Sum=DtM+DtO+DtD
  • Total Days; Sum=(DtM+DtO+DtD)*STT
  • Total Years; Sum=((DtM+DtO+DtD)*STT)/365 … (or how ever many days out of the year you plan to write)
The easiest way to accomplish the above equations is using instead of the letter abbreviation the assigned cell code for the appropriate value. I typically put the value’s name in the first column and the actual numeric value in the second. Thus updating the numbers is much simpler. Currently with typing at 40 WPM (dyslexia and all), and 99 titles if I wrote two hours every day it would take me nearly 13 years to complete my opus. 

    Well that is all for now. Please feel free to share your tips on how you prioritize and get support. 🙂