I think my friends must be fed up with me talking about the November challenge to write so many thousand words of a new book in thirty days… Those who are writers understand that I don’t just do it to get a sense of achievement, but it’s because it gives me something else.
- It makes me concentrate on writing and not faffing
- it makes me feel guilty if I don’t write and just fiddle around checking emails or looking at breaking news
- it gets me back into the swing of writing in a sustained way over a period of time – I mean hours, not days
- it justifies sitting here and losing myself for a coupe of hours (or more) in another world, the fictional world I’m creating
- it improves my writing muscles – which are in my head, not my fingers
- it gives me a great lump of writing when I’ve finished which I can work on
- it usually obliges me to finish what I’ve started – finish the story not the month’s word count
- and yes, I do get a sense of achievement
The penultimate point I make isn’t quite true – of the five previous November challenges, only three of them actually have become books; one may be finished at a later date, one was an unsuccessful attempt at autobiographical writing which I am now plundering for other books. It won’t ever be finished but the ideas will not be wasted.
This year, for the first time, however, I feel I have actually learned something which I hope will make me work harder and possibly better in the future. I have at last recognised that setting myself a target does enable me to keep my writing nose to the keyboard (a weird image but I know what I mean!) I usually let inspiration and doggedness keep me writing which actually is quite hard. It’s much harder than completing the November challenge!
The National Novel Writing Month which sets the challenge and has lots of useful and helpful devices to encourage and spur on, has other useful and helpful devices to use at other times. These include a goal tracker; you set your own goal in terms of words to be written and date to complete. You could set a goal of a hundred words a day which doesn’t seem much but think how many you’d write in a year! And a hundred extra in leap years! You could set yourself a total to be achieved by a certain date – again it could be a small achievable goal, or as ambitious as you think you might be able to cope with. For example, if you were going to a remote place on holiday, it might not be unreasonable to aim for two thousand words a day – a fortnight’s holiday would set you well on your way with your project.
I have set myself a three-month target – I started yesterday and so I finish on March 4th. There is Christmas, New year, a birthday, St Valentine’s Day and a literary festival coming up so I’ve set myself a reasonable and sensible goal in terms of words. I hope I succeed… but even if I don’t get to the number of words I want, I’m sure it will help me to keep on track with my writing.