I’m delighted to welcome back to the blog fellow writer Jocelyn Koehler. Because she’s a professional writer—and very dedicated to her work—she cranks out an amazing number of words every single day. Read what she says about the never-ending #NaNo journey! Enjoy, Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach
If you’re reading this post, you’re likely about halfway through your NaNoWriMo novel. How’s it going? How do you like the pace, the commitment? Does it make you think you want to do this for a living? Do you really want to be a professional writer? Remember, if you don’t write, you have nothing to sell, so you don’t get paid. Getting those 1500-2000 words per day onto the page sounds a little less fun, doesn’t it? A little more…grueling.
Full disclosure: I’m a professional writer. A while ago, your gracious hostess Rochelle asked me if I planned on doing NaNo this year. My flip response was that I live NaNo (ooh, that makes me so tough, doesn’t it?). So it would be cheating if I said I was doing NaNo this time, because it’s no change from my daily schedule. However, the question got me thinking. Rochelle suggested that I talk a bit about what it’s like to essentially do NaNoWriMo every day. So here are three things that I can tell you….
First thing: I just lied to you about writing every day. Writing everyday is insane. “Write every day” is common advice for aspiring authors. And for a reason. Professional writers don’t get the luxury of waiting until a magical unicorn pops down from the clouds with the full text of a novel speared onto its horn. We have to write every single word. But we need to pace ourselves. So “write every day” really just means “write regularly”. Find a schedule you can work with and stick to it. Develop the habit. Personally, I aim for 2000 words a day, with one day off per week (not always the same day). I don’t always hit my goals, but that’s still a lot of words per year. You don’t have to hit NaNo levels of output every day to rack up mad points. Write a mere 300 words a day, and you’ll have the rough draft of a 100,000 word novel each year. A novel every year is amazing!
Another thing: Aim low. NaNo can be daunting if you think that in thirty days you must produce a perfectly publishable novel. Trust me, it won’t be done. It won’t even be close. Writing a draft is tough, but it’s only one part of the process. Rewriting is just as challenging, and it will take longer. So don’t expect a gem at the end of the month. This is a long game. Keeping your vision realistic will pay off in the end. I can keep writing because I know the work I do doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be done. The perfecting and polishing will happen later on, and I have to respect that reality. All writers do.
Last thing: Know when to quit. Sometimes this just means you hit my word count for the day. But other times, a writer needs to stop writing for mental health. Seriously. When you do something like NaNoWriMo, and push a huge amount of creative energy through your brain in a short time, you’ll get tired. Your well of creativity will dry up. So when that happens, don’t berate yourself. You need fuel to keep going. Read a new book. Take a walk. Talk to a child. Fill your mind with new ideas, and you’ll soon be writing again. That’s true for all writers, especially long-term writers.
So if you hear that “real” writers don’t do NaNoWriMo, that’s wrong. We do. We might just call it “working”. Whether this is your first NaNo or your tenth, you can always learn something. And you don’t have to have the goal of being a “professional” writer. If you’ve got a story to tell, just tell it. Keep writing, WriMos!
Your turn: Hey writers, how do you sustain a lifetime of #NaNoWriMo-ing?
About the author. Jocelyn Koehler writes science fiction and fantasy, as well as romance under a pen name. She is a full-time independent author. Jocelyn’s short work has appeared in magazines such as Crossed Genres, Modern Day Fairytales, and The Grimm Report. Her longer fiction is published by Hammer & Birch and is available through Amazon and other retailers. Her taste in movies is appalling.