Megan Norris Jones
This is the last week of Write by Midnight. My record this month hasn’t been perfect, but, despite numerous family obligations and unexpected responsibilities, I have managed to get up early most mornings and write. I really think I’ve established a habit. Hooray!
But an extra thirty minutes a day, while extremely helpful, won’t get my novel polished and published any time soon. So, as the month comes to a close, I’ve been considering ways to maximize my scarce writing time.
One method I’ve been experimenting with is “mental writing” while I’m engaged in other necessary tasks that require my body but not my mind. You know the ones I mean: washing dishes, folding clothes, walking the dog. I often end a writing session with a problem that I must solve in order to continue. Rather than use my precious writing time to stare at my computer screen and try to figure out what I need to write next, I use my mental writing time to work through the problem so that when I sit down at my computer again, I can dedicate the time to actual writing.
The time I spend outside or exercising seems to be the most effective, and there’s a long tradition of writers using long walks to work through narrative issues, but any time I can squeeze in some extra thought about my own story is helpful. As a result, even if I’m not writing for longer stretches, the time I do spend writing is more efficient.
How do you maximize your own writing time?
We’ve all heard the advice “write every day,” and it’s the base goal of the Write by Midnight challenge: to establish a daily writing habit. But one thing I’ve seen in the first three weeks of WBM is that I am a yo-yo writer.
One day my production is great—600 words plus at a rate of better than 450 words/hour, and I easily surpass my 500 word/day goal. But then the next day’s word count is dismal. (I mean really dismal, like 35 words in two hours.) Then it’s back up to OK the following day. A graph of production looks like a schizophrenic EKG. Continue reading
We’re halfway through Write by Midnight. Are you halfway to reaching your monthly writing goals? If so, congratulations! Give yourself a reward and keep it up!
If not, there’s still plenty of time to up your output. Creating a new habit can be tough, and you should expect a bit of floundering in the beginning. Reasses your process and schedule to find what’s working and what’s not, and use that information to adjust for the second half of Write by Midnight.
And don’t forget to reward yourself for the successes you have had. If you’re writing more now than you were before Feb. 1, that’s progress. If your average daily word count has gone up in the last two weeks, that’s progress.
Writing a novel is a long-haul game; celebrate every success you have—especially all of the little ones.
Megan Norris Jones
Write by Midnight is designed to help us all establish a daily writing routine, and I’ve really appreciated the structure and accountability it’s given me so far. Last week I bragged about my perfect track record for getting up and writing every morning. This week I have to confess that I missed a couple of days. But I’m back at my desk again, hammering out words.
It’s easy to track my progress when I’m drafting a story, but now that I’m revising, it’s more difficult to know if I’ve made any headway or not. How can I measure? I’m still working at the macro level where I’m fixing my plot and character arc. I haven’t made it down to the scene-by-scene sharpening the words level, so I don’t think number of scenes revised is a good measurement. Maybe I should count the number of minutes spent staring at the screen? The number of epiphanies about what my problem actually is and how I should fix it? And does it still count if today’s epiphany turns out to be a stupid idea tomorrow?
During the past two weeks, I probably made the most significant progress in the book not while grimly staring at my computer screen but while mulling over a plot problem as I dried my hair. Maybe it was the white noise. Maybe the absence of pressure. Or maybe I had just been thinking about this one problem long enough and in enough different settings that an answer finally emerged. Now it’s time to sit back down at my desk and try out this solution I’ve discovered. I’m praying it stays firmly in the realm of epiphany.
How do you know if you’re making any progress during revision?
We are now one week into the Write by Midnight writing challenge. How is it going so far? Are you meeting your goals? Take a minute today to review your writing log and see what’s working and what isn’t.
Maybe you haven’t met your daily goal yet. If not, it’s time to readjust either your goal or your strategy—or both! The important thing is that you keep writing until you figure out what works best for you. Our goal is to create a sustainable writing routine, so don’t be afraid of a little experimentation.
If you are meeting your daily goals, good job! Keep it up, and by the end of the month, you will have a new writing habit to propel you through a successful year.