Monday, November 23, 2009

Writing During The Holidays

This week is Thanksgiving, something I’m sure none of you have forgotten. As women, we are usually the ones responsible for the planning and plotting that goes into holidays, even if they aren’t being held at our house. The same is true at our home—I do the planning, my hubby does the inviting (usually without telling me until the last minute). But it all works out in the end. In the past few years, we’ve ended up with a house full of family and friends who eat, talk, laugh, and play games all day. Something I enjoy with a heart full of gratitude.

But all this partying makes it tough to get any writing done. First there is the cleaning, then purchasing supplies, then cooking… the list can extend to infinity sometimes (or at least feel like it). Since I’m also in the middle of NaNoWriMo, all this extra party planning can really cramp my writing style. I’m sure even you non-writers find time short during this busy season. So what’s a wanna-be author to do?

Here are a few tips:

1. Up your NaNo word count.

I know this sounds counter-productive, but for those of you trying to write during the month of November (NaNo or Not) do your best to up the amount of words you pull out on the days you do write. For success in NaNo, the goal for each day is 1667. But I always make my goal 2000. This way, I can manage a few days off during the month without guilt or getting really behind. So push yourself to do more, and enjoy your reward later.

2. Take it One Small Step at a Time

It can be overwhelming to sit down and face a 2000 word goal, but how about 500 words? Oftentimes, I don’t write my whole goal in one sitting. I do a large portion of it in the morning, when the house is quiet and empty. Then I do the rest in much smaller chunks. Thirty minutes while the kids do homework or clean their rooms. 30 minutes while the hubby watches a television show. Just 30 more minute before bedtime, then I can sleep. You’d be surprised how much easier it is to tackle any large project in smaller steps.

3. Be Prepared

For plotters, this is much easier. But it is also doable for pantsters too. Before putting down your pen for the day, take a few moments to write out the first few sentences of your next scene. Make sure your notes on the coming pages are complete and you have a decent map for where you are heading. This will make jumping into the next session much easier (no staring at a blank page wondering what the heck you were thinking to have them break into the warehouse so soon…) and your writing will flow more quickly from the start.

I find a To Do list essential for big projects and my writing is no different. This way, I can see how much time I have, then jump into whatever task I have time for, without worrying I’ll forget what else needs to be done.

4. Utilize the Buddy System

Find a writing friend who needs to accomplish as much as you do at this time. Vow to keep each other accountable. Daily emails require you to send in those totals, even if the sum is 0 (and embarrassing enough to force your hands to the keyboard). Set up times for write ins (getting together for the sole purpose of writing—bookstores are great for this).

And don’t forget a reward. Plan an outing to get your nails painted or a massage when all the hard work is done. A night out to dinner with some girlfriends. Or form an accountability group where everyone pitches in $10, and the top three performers during the holiday season get to split the pot for After Christmas shopping! This will give you a tangible reward, other than the relief you’ll feel when you see all those words on the page.

My hope is that you’ll be able to be as productive as I hope to be this holiday season. We’re all busy. I know that. But you can still manage something (this is me giving ME a peptalk here). So tell me your best advice for getting writing (and other holiday tasks) done during this busy time.


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Christine said...

Angel, I used to take a big chunk of time of from Thanksgiving till the New Year, but last year, due to the GH entry, I changed that habit. I decided to write every day for one hour (I wasn't counting words because I was in revision and that includes cutting words). I managed to stick to that goal except for a few days. Usually I only did one hour, but sometimes I had more time and managed more hours. This increased my productivity, and when I sat down to work at it a lot harder, well, the book was totally in my grasp. I finished before the end of the month and was ready to start a new book by February. I am a firm believer in at least looking at the MS once a day just to keep the people talking in my head.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Problem Child said...

Between Thankgiving -- which I'm totally unprepared for -- and a bunch of other stuff (including child off of school), I don't think I'll push myself to make much progress this week.

But next week...

Instigator said...

I'm pushing myself this week and next so that I can take most of Dec off. I'll still be working here and there on a couple of projects but not as single-mindedly as I might have. If I miss a day - or five - I'm not going to beat myself up over it.


Playground Monitor said...

I've pushed to get ahead on my word count so I can slack off a bit at Thanksgiving. I won't have a house full of people and I'm only cooking a small meal.

I agree with Christine that it's hard to keep the people talking in your head if you don't touch base with them at least once a day.

Verification wor = maircula
Is that what I'd become if bitten by Dracula?

Merri said...

I like Christine's approach. Touching base with your characters is vital to keep the story flowing on paper and in your head, and an hour a day during holiday times can still keep things rolling.

I'm entered in the latest Presents/Heat comp so I'm trying to put significant time in on a daily basis. If I follow Christine's formula then maybe I too will have at least a first draft within a month.

Have a lovely Thanksgiving!

Smarty Pants said...

I have fallen flat on my NaNo face and can't blame it on anything, really. Yeah, work has been pretty hectic, cutting into my writing time, but its really more an issue that I've hit chapter 9. For once, 7 was a breeze, but 9 is giving me fits (ie. the sex). I have to really work things out in my head, so I can't just sit down and pound out a couple pages. I think, write a few lines, think, go back and do something, etc. Hopefully if I can get through this chapter, things will pick up again.

Angel said...

Great idea, Christine! Maybe I can try that too. I mostly wrote this post because I needed the reminder. The holidays are already kicking my butt and it isn't even Thanksgiving yet!

PC -- I'm finding my time for this week disappearing by the hour. Not good. And I have to tackle grocery shopping too.

Very funny, PM!

Merri, I entered that too! I'm so glad they don't let the announcement wait for months. The first week of December! Fingers crossed for everybody.

SP -- I'm right there with ya, hon! My WIP is NOT cooperating, at all. And neither am I. :) Oh well, I'm 20000 words closer than I was at the beginning of the month.