National Novel Writing Month 2016: Plan of Attack

In the course of going through my older blog posts and stats in order to write this post, I realized that I have only tackled National Novel Writing Month twice. I wasn’t working in November 2013 so my inaugural challenge went very smoothly. My brain was fried, but I won.

I didn’t tackle NaNo in 2014 because I was working full time and just couldn’t manage it; I had completely forgotten that. Last year, I was working 24 hours a week with a full day off in the middle of the work week. It was hard, but I won. Not as easily as in 2013, but who cares? Victory is victory.

This year, I’m terrified. I currently work 30 hours a week with no extra day off. I only work 5 hours Tuesdays and Thursdays but I have other tasks for those afternoons and mornings, respectively. I also have FOUR social engagements on days off, though I’m trying to get out of two of them. I do have a week of vacation that I planned for NaNo, like I did in 2015, but the month is still scaring me.

I’m going to backtrack a little for those who don’t know what NaNo is. During the month of November, the National Novel Writing Month, I am challenging myself to write 52 084 new words of fiction. Along with a horde of other people who are as masochistic as me. Traditionally, people write 50 000 words or a book over NaNo. I usually finish and start a project. Or two. Or write a bunch of short stories if I get stuck. And I’m trying to beat my number from last year.

In 2015 I discussed my prep plan here since I had never done NaNo around a day job before. Now that seems like old hat. Still, I am once again challenging myself not to cry. I’ve written up my Plan of Attack and it’s got me a little nauseas. Slightly hopeless. I’ve never worked so much, or made so many commitments, and tried to accomplish NaNo.

As is the case all year long, I do not and cannot write every single day. I do not have the stamina. Plus, life gets in the way. My work does not care that I have a word count goal, I need to be mentally present and functional while there. Not to mention I need to get up on time, so no late writing sessions for me. Furthermore, my cats do not care about anything I do that does not involve them. They’re patient with me most of the time but I can’t park myself in front of my computer indefinitely whenever I’m home. There would be furry rioting!

The truth is, it’s hard to manage NaNo around the basic necessities of life: eating, sleeping, cleaning up after yourself, taking care of dependents (animals and children), and leaving your work space for sanity reasons. It’s worth it in the end though when you see what you’re capable of accomplishing in a single month.

Life is life, hence my Plan of Attack factors in preventatives and surprises so that when November 30th rolls around I’m not sitting at my desk blankly wondering where 10 000 words are going to come from. I actually hope to be done by the 27th.

Math, though I detest it, is my main weapon. Here’s my breakdown, the Plan of Attack:

Over the course of November I have 14 full days of writing (weekends + vacation days). On those days I need to write a minimum of 3 000 words.

I also have 4 Tuesday afternoons/evenings (minus my vacation Tuesday). On those days I need to write a minimum of 2 521 words (and still fit in my workout, oy).

3 000 x 14 = 42 000

2 521 x 4 = 10 084

42 000 + 10 084 = 52 084

The math makes it look completely doable. As long as I hit my minimal targets I am home free. I also have “bonus” days factored into my tracking calendar so that I can stay ahead of the game.

However, and this is the part I completely forgot about until now, I know that I need to start big and end not quite as big. That means I need to have higher word counts earlier in the month so that when I start to feel weighed down I will be ahead and still able to hit a my target. Now I have to redo my tracking sheet. Darn it.

Finally, I work everything out into 30 minute segments. In 30 minutes I can anywhere from 500 to 1000 words depending on how the story is shaping up. I always say 500 when I’m breaking my time down because aiming low, knowing you can exceed it, is a great feeling. And telling yourself, “just another 30 minutes” does not sound nearly as bad to the writing mind as “just another 600 words.” You simply go until the timer makes noise. That’s all you can do, all you have to do.

NaNo is all about the mental game and discipline. I’m competitive. I want to win. Having a segmented plan from the get go seriously helps me win when I am too brain fried from writing to figure things out in the midst of it all.

I’ve got both blogs scheduled to the first Friday in December because I can’t have any other writing requirements taking away from my focus. Plus, I know exactly which writing projects I’m tackling and have outlines to follow in order to mitigate time wasted on such things. I have also let everyone in my immediate circle know that I am participating so they know not to be upset if I avoid them or (other) plans in November.

I’ve never lost NaNo following my segmented plan. It’s hard, but it works.

I have a lot riding on National Novel Writing Month 2016. I’ve discussed it repeatedly on Anxiety Ink. I need to win this month because I need to know that I can create while working. I’ve failed myself this year and I need November to turn my spirits around.

Wish me luck! And I wish you the best of luck if you’re taking up the challenge. And if you do try my Plan of Attack, let me know how it goes.

The actual Plan:


National Novel Writing Month: Completed

Way back in August I discussed National Novel Writing Month and my three month plan leading up to November. I had all these grandiose ideas to be well-prepped and roaring to go come the 1st.

Yeah, that kind of flew out the window. I had great intentions, but life happened, as it does.

However, I did manage some minor planning at the end of October –I do recall having a mini-panic attack on the 31st because there was far more I needed to know than I had anticipated– and made myself dive into my WIP (going forward called RA1) despite my anxiety.

You know what? It absolutely paid off. On November 27th I validated and came out with 52,803 words. What’s more, I finished RA1 and got well into its sequel RA2.

I (re)learned a lot about myself over the course of the month, mainly that when I set my mind to something I can tackle it as long as I set myself up for success. I need a plan, targets, and a goal to keep me going otherwise I flounder in indecision. But if I have those three things I can really accomplish anything. I’d forgotten I was so stubborn, and I’m elated I rediscovered that about myself. I needed the morale boost.

This was my plan of attack and the outcome.

This was my plan of attack and the outcome.

I (re)learned a ton about writing in general too, I covered that on Anxiety Ink though.

I’m still flying high on the tails of my success and honestly I never want to come down. But it’s been 9 days since I even opened the RA2 file on my computer and I’m terrified that might become the trend again. It’s one thing to tell everyone you’re participating in NaNo over November so you’re going to be largely unavailable and distracted. It’s not feasible over the rest of the year, and not only because attaining 50,000 words is too much for me to tackle on top of work and other life responsibilities.NaNo Win Selfie

I need to find a happy medium. I’m nervous but I do well with targets and I know I can hack it if I really set my sights on it.

I got more out of National Novel Writing Month than I ever anticipated. I can’t wait to try again next year and to keep my fiction writing momentum going until that time comes around. As awesome as it was to validate, get my hooray from the website, and print out my winner’s certificate, the big picture win for my fiction means the world to me.

I completed a freaking manuscript!! Yes it has holes and needs hours of editing but my story has a beginning, middle, and end!