Week three check-in time!
This week has gone by with much more ease than the previous one. Which is not to say that it is easy. It’s still definitely work. But I’ve managed to put some systems into place that have been helpful in making it not feel so much like a struggle.
The main change-up that I did for my workflow is implementing a modified Pomodoro Technique to break down how I was writing. This was something that was suggested under the “Week Three Tips” section of No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty as a way to put in some 6,000 word days to make up for any word deficit that was accumulated by the end of week two. Instead of doing that, I worked the system into my usual writing routine.
The system consists of a two-hour chunk of writing, repeated as many times as I want during the day. But always at least one two-hour chunk. It’s broken up into three 30-minute writing sessions separated by 10-minute breaks. The 30-minute timer I set, I treat as a hard cut-off. Even if I’m in the middle of a paragraph, even if it’s the middle of a sentence. During the downtime, I get my butt out of the chair and walk around or stretch or make tea or whatever. I try to stay off the internet, letting my brain ruminate (either consciously or subconsciously) on what I just wrote. At the end of 10 minutes, I’m usually itching to get back into the chair and finish the scene.
Just breaking down the work into these segments has increased my productivity tremendously. In a two-hour chunk, I can usually get a good 3000 or so words in; when I was writing for two hours straight, I usually got around 2000, maybe a handful more. Something about that discrete, short block of time, something about just adding that little bit of pressure really seems to work for me. Structure is helpful in the constant battle against entropy.
Plus, I now have a defined time period during which I cannot check my word count, which has minimized that distraction. And because 30 minutes just feels like so little time (even though you can do a lot in 30 minutes), I feel like I can’t be doing anything else while the timer is running.
After a two-hour block of time, I take a walk or I read or I do Inkvember. Just something unrelated.
So yeah, I’m not at all worried about hitting the 50,000 word mark with NaNoWriMo anymore. I’m nearly there anyway. But of course, that’s not actually the point of NaNo. The point is to write the first draft of a novel from start to finish in the month. So even though I’ll hit the mark, I won’t be quite finished with the story yet. I have reached some of the climactic bits, so I know I’m getting close. And I’m confident I’ll be there by the end of November.
That part is extremely gratifying. It confirms to me that this is something that I can do, something that I can accomplish. It silences the jerkbrain/brain weasels part of my head that says things like “You’ve never done that before, so of course it’s impossible for you to do it.” Which is nonsense, I know. But when you’re in the throes of self-doubt and insecurity, even nonsense has the ring of truth about it.
At the same time, I also know that this first draft is a steaming hot mess pile of words that are only vaguely in the shape of a story. That part is not very satisfying. And I’m learning a lot of things about what I do and do not know how to write. Example – I’m terrible (for now) at writing scene transitions. I don’t understand how people do it. When it’s done well, it’s something you don’t even notice, so I didn’t really notice before. When it’s done poorly (as it is by me, for now), it is clumsy and boring and totally destroys any forward momentum that you’ve built.
Once upon a time, knowing that would have been enough for me to throw up my hands and exclaim, “Well if I can’t be perfect at this immediately, then what is the point?” But I’ve given up that luxury. Mostly because it’s a terrible way to look at things, and because I actually like working on writing and figuring out how words and then paragraphs and then scenes and then novels are put together. What knowing that shortcoming tells me now is that I need to go back and read some of the books where I know this is done well and make notes on how they do it.
Attitude-wise, I’ve been just reminding myself that this is a first draft. And you remember the rule about first drafts, right? (Yep. No talking.) So this pile is never going to see the light of day. That fact has been helping with the slog-feeling of last week as well.
I’m quite ready to step away from this project for a while, so I’m heartened that the finish line is in sight now. I’m actually pretty excited for the prospect of rewriting, though I’m trying not to get too ahead of myself.
The home stretch is here, my newly friends. We’ve almost made it.
Day 21 word count: 47,562