And we have a guest!
My friend Scott Rhoades, recently took a month-long sabbatical and wrote the whole time. I asked him to tell you about his experience because he put out a whopping number of words. Here it is:
I recently had four weeks of paid time off from work, and I spent it writing. 30 days of living the writing life. It was wonderful.
I spent the first week on a project I had been querying. In the recent PitchWars, a Middle Grade manuscript I considered finished got an excellent response. However, feedback was unanimous that my book was too short. So I fixed that. I spent a week revising my work in progress to get it ready to start querying. In the last two weeks, I started a new project. Overall, I wrote just under 50,000 words while also spending many hours editing.
In the process, I learned some things that might help those of you who are doing Nano this year.
Follow a Routine
I’m most productive between about 10 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. So, I was in my office (my Schreibwinkel) by about 9:30 every day. I started as early as 7:30 and as late as 10:00, but on all but a few days, I was in my chair before 10:30 and didn’t stop until around 2:00 or 2:30. I worked through my most productive time and stopped when I felt the mojo waning.
Because I wrote at the beginning of my day, every day, I woke up ready to go. Sometimes, my morning dreams were even related to the work I needed to do that day.
My family is used to leaving me alone in my Schreibwinkel. I frequently work from home, so they’ve been trained for years to let me. They know if they leave me alone for a few hours, I’m theirs when I’m done. Most things they need from me can wait.
I like to listen to music when I write, to drown out or disguise background noises like talking, which interferes with my thoughts. Over the years, I’ve learned that putting my music on shuffle instead of listening to favorites works for me because I don’t pay as much attention to the songs.
Because my writing period is fairly long, I took breaks. Some were informally scheduled. For example, there were several days when I wrote from 9 until about 10, then stopped for breakfast.
There were also scheduled breaks. There were days when my writing group scheduled writing sprints where we worked for a specified period, then checked in with each other on Facebook.
Each writer has unique break needs. Some of us can only write for so many minutes without a pause. Some of us need to look away from the screen now and then during an intense scene so we can keep enough distance to write well. And some cannot stop without breaking the spell.
I know when I need a break. My only real rule was that I didn’t allow myself to become distracted by another task. My breaks were no longer than necessary, and my family understood that I might have shown my face, but my time was not theirs yet.
This is what worked for me. My family situation allows me to work this way. I’m not the only caregiver in the house during the day, like a lot of moms (especially) are. And I already have work routines when I’m home.
The result of putting structure around my writing time was that I remained productive, and that I enjoyed my writing time because other stresses are reduced as much as possible during those hours.
NaNo starts this week! And one of the best encouragements they’ve ever sent out was from a woman several years ago who was serving overseas in the army. She’d done NaNo for several years, and she didn’t want to “lose” that particular year. She was out in a desert, with no electricity, no computer, etc. Yet every night she would write out her words by hand. When her commanding officer asked her what the “bleep” she was doing every night, she explained the Novel Writing month to him. She indicated that being SO far away from home, like everyone else, this was one thing she was trying to hang onto. I’m supposing it made her feel as if she were still HER SELF. Probably the only thing that did. When he saw her dedication, and how much it cost her in sleep (and probably anxiety of a different sort), he watched her write away night after night. In the last few days, he asked how it was coming, and whether she thought she could make her 50K. As the deadline drew closer, he came to her one night and presented her with a typed version of everything she’s written so far. Her orders, the next day, were to KEEP WRITING and finish that thing. Others were transcribing her notes for her. Later he was able to announce that, by army vehicle, bus, train, plane and submarine, her words were being carried to the U.S. and all were hoping beyond hope they would arrive and be sent to NaNo headquarters in time. Just before midnight, he got word and announced to all and sundry that her manuscript had been delivered, minutes before the deadline, and she had been declared a NaNo “WINNER,” to which all her buddies gave a resounding “OOO-RAH!” and, for a moment, felt a little bit of “home” again.
So what makes me think I haven’t got time to write EVERY DAY in November ! ! !
I’m going for it !
Lately, there seems to be a push to replace helpless princesses for butt-kicking heroines in movies and books.
My question is, is this really any better?
It’s true, less than 1% of the population will ever have Cinderella’s body, and far fewer than that will marry a legally recognized prince. But how many will be able to have the body of Scarlett Johansson and the ability to fight off dozens of highly trained, armed men without messing up their hair?
Really, aren’t we just replacing one impossible standard for another?
What happened to the Jane Eyres? The women whose virtues were their greatest strength, rather than anything physical? The “superpowers” of these heroines were integrity, compassion, and hope. These are women that every girl can aspire to be, and that every girl can achieve.
And quite honestly, I think the world could use a few more Jane Eyres rather than vigilante superheroes.