Another topic from my days as a regional ML for National Novel Writing Month. It was specifically geared towards helping people in November, but the concepts apply to year-round writing as well. Time management is the same, whatever time of year.

Myths abound regarding writers and the writing craft. I wish to squash two myths that pertain specifically to Nano.

Myth #1: You have to write fast to do Nano.

Myth #2: You need a lot of time to write a novel.

The second one might be true if you consider two hours a day a lot of time. The first is just flat untrue, no matter how you twist it.

Here’s how managing your time during November can work.

Figure out how many words you can write in fifteen minutes. If fifteen minutes scares you, shoot for ten minutes. The specific amount of time doesn’t matter. Sit down, set a timer, and write. When the timer goes off, look back at how much you’ve done. Do this five or six times to get a feel for what you can do. In fifteen minutes, I tend to write 250 words on average, sometimes more and sometimes less.

That is, I type about 1000 words an hour, which is less than 17 words a minute. Yup, I type slow on purpose. Two reasons—this pace gives me time to think about “what happens next,” and I don’t want carpal tunnel problems.

So if you’re a slow poke like me, you can get the minimum 1,667 words/day in about two hours or less. (50,000 words divided by 30 days is about 1,667 words/day.)

How do you find two hours a day for a whole month? Carve 10 to 15 minutes segments out of your day. For example, I plan to make better use of my mornings in November, something I’ve struggled with in the past. I want to write for a half hour every morning, so that’ll be two fifteen minute sessions with a short break in between, and I’ll average 500 words. That leaves another 1200 words to be done in the evening, or another four to six 15 minute minutes sessions. Totally do-able.

The key is make this work for you. Maybe you’re a weekend warrior type (nothing wrong with that). Looking at the calendar, there’s 8 weekend days this November. That means you’ll need 6,250 words/day. That’s not insurmountable, but it will take a bigger time commitment. If this were me, I’d need six hours to write that much, and I’d spread those six hours throughout the day, because I can’t sit for that long without getting bored.

What if you snuck in a half hour a night every weekday? Well, 500 words a night adds up to 2,500 words in a business week, which you can deduct from your weekend warrior marathon. Do this every night, and you’ll have 11,000 words. Now on your Saturdays and Sundays, you’ll need 4,875 words a day. (Unless my math is off.)

A trickle of words adds up fast.

No matter how busy you are, you have the time to write a novel in a month. Figure out what you can do, and then carve out the appropriate amount of time in your day. If you have ten minutes, then write for ten minutes. Write while standing in line, in the doctor’s office, at lunch break, anywhere. You committed to Nano because you wanted a creative challenge. Challenge yourself to make the time every day even when you don’t feel like writing.

You don’t need all day. You certainly don’t need to be a fast typist. You just have to make the time for your novel.

Have fun.

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