on NaNoWriMo, BIC, and Stealing time


Hey all. Sorry this post is going up a few hours late–I totally forgot the new schedule had me on today until I checked the site and there was no post. *shame*

Anyway, I wanted to start out by giving a shout out to all of you who introduced yourselves yesterday. It was awesome hearing from so many, and learning more about you and what you write. If you haven’t stopped by Faith’s post from yesterday, I’d encourage you to go de-lurk and introduce yourself! Now on to the subject of this post:

Today is the tenth of November, which means thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of people around the world are currently applying butt-in-chair (BIC) and hands-on-keyboard for NaNoWriMo. I saw many of you mention that you are participating in the event, but for those who are unfamiliar, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and is a yearly challenge to write 50k words during the month of November. To achieve that word count, participants have to write 1,667 words a day, every day.

For some, that number may look excessively daunting, for others, much less so. And 50k words  total? It does seem an arbitrary number and clearly not a complete novel unless you’re writing category romance or possibly YA.  But that’s not the important part. If you’ve visited Magical Words before, you’ve surely heard us mention BIC before. Whatever your thoughts on NaNo, it is an event that encourages thousands of novelists to do just that–and watch the words build quickly. Just ten days in, those keeping exactly to the schedule will cross 16k words today. That’s roughly 1/6 of a 100k word novel that didn’t even exist ten days ago. Bravo!

Now, with all my talk about NaNo, you are probably assuming I’m participating. I’m actually not–my deadlines just didn’t line up properly to allow me to join this year. But, I have participated in the event in the past, and to give credit where credit is due, I can honestly say if I hadn’t participated in NaNoWriMo back in 2005, it is possible that I wouldn’t be published today.

“Why?” You might ask. Did I not write before one magical November in 2005? Oh, I did. By that point I’d been working on “novels” for twelve years–and I had a graveyard full of 10-20k word beginnings that never went anywhere to prove it. No, what NaNo did for me was prove that practicing BIC every day got the story on the page. Also, because I was working on it every day, the book kept my interest and didn’t putter out when I walked away from it for a month or two. (There’s that “write fast” thing Magical Worders are always talking about.)

But there was one more lesson I learned that year. One more thing that NaNo and its arbitrary word count and time limit taught me: to steal time for my writing. I WAS NOT going to lose that challenge, but let’s face it, life is busy–always. I’d always treated writing like I needed several hours of time blocked out to write if I was going to get anything done. Life doesn’t always give us blocks of time. But there are the five minutes while the oven preheats, I could jot down a couple lines then. Lunch hour? Oh yeah, I could pack a lunch and pound out some words during that time. Waiting for a meeting/class/etc to start? Another couple lines. By the end of the night, when I had what previously seemed too short a time to possibly get 1667 words (because six years ago, that was huge for me) I found that the little bits I’d jotted down during the day had already made a huge dent in my word count–if not put me over the daily goal!

It doesn’t take an outside challenge to practice things like BIC and stealing time (though joining in can be a lot of fun. Just remember there are also 11 other months of the year writers need to be writing.) If your life seems too busy to get any writing done, look for those minutes you can steal. They might be in the car while waiting to pick up the kids, while dinner is cooking,  or between classes, but whenever you find them,  you can put them to good use. And an added bonus? Utilizing the sporadic minutes of downtime throughout the day keeps your story close to the surface and ideas percolating!

So, looking at your own life. Do you see any free moments you can steal?

Happy writing everyone!


18 comments to on NaNoWriMo, BIC, and Stealing time

  • I would like to add to this. I’m the co-ML for the Columbia, SC region and my one piece of advice is that writers doing nano get involved with their local regions. Columbia does pre-nano meetups starting in October and continues with write-ins through the month of November Over the course of the last 4 years, I have watched many people succeed with nano because of the community support Nothing like a little peer pressure or a friend who understands who can help you bounce around ideas. I ‘won’ nano in 2007 because I knew that I had people who would hold me accountable.

  • My time to write anymore is typically when our daughter goes to school. She’s in kindergarten now and goes a half day, so I’m usually hitting it pretty hard from around 1pm to 4pm and then from 4:15 to whenever my wife gets home and I have to stop to make dinner. If I’m behind, I can work when everyone goes to bed, like I did last night till 3am…

    Occasionally, I’ll wake up ready to write and can get a couple hours in there as well, but I can’t always count on that one, depending on the amount of sleep I got, how much I ache, or how quick I get the morning internet reading done.

    Time for chores? Err…what are those? I hit ’em when I can, alas…or when I get tired of seeing the house a mess…or when people come over. Where’s that durn cloning ray when I need it?

  • Vikki, great point! Accountability and support can definitely help a person reach their goals.

    Daniel, sounds like you’re making the most of your time! As to cloning, I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that if I cloned myself, both versions would deprioritize chores. LOL. I’d like to say I’d then get twice as much writing done, but we’d probably have the same ideas and I’d just have duplicate, not double. ^_^

  • I realized after I posted that I was preaching to the choir. 🙂

  • What I learned from my first NaNo is that my competitive nature is my biggest asset. I compete against personal goals, the timer and, when we have them, regional wars. I find a goal will get me a few more words on the page.

    I’ve written first drafts outside of November and I miss the community but I still get the first draft out in about 28 days. This year I set myself a goal of getting a 10k day in and I did it -YAY.

    I realized this year that I was not working on my writing fast enough and set up a plan to get seven books or more on my amazon and smashwords author pages by May 2012. It’s working, but I had a little panic when I realized I couldn’t time it to do a new draft in November. I did a little tweaking and the timelines now have me finishing the first draft of one book and starting another. Hmmm, is that a sign of addiction, reorganizing yourself around an activity? 🙂

    My advice to writers who haven’t tried NaNo is try. Even if you don’t hit 50K, you will learn things about your writing process that you could spend years working out. And, you’ll learn to stop agonizing over every word in your first draft. Slap it on the page and fix it in revision is the way to put out multiple books in a year.

  • Well, I’m what, about a day and a half behind, but still, I’m pretty happy as I’m slowly catching up. You’d think a vacation would be full of writing opportunities, but I was in NOLA and, well…I’d prefer not to endanger my political career by giving too many details.

    It’s my first NaNo, but I’m realizing it’s not unachievable. I’m actually turning out about 1k words an hour which is pretty nifty. Two years ago, I could never have done that, but practice and advice from forums like this have really streamlined my process. And 50k words of practice will do me good.
    If only they had a National Novel Revision Month. That’s where I really need to up my game.

    The only hard question I have for myself. Why am I reading and commenting here when I should be writing. Silly Roxie.

  • Martin

    Life is busy. I think you win the understatement of the year. I have a new son, and a new situation to tread through. The holidays have started in earnest now. I’ll not be participating in NaNoWriMo, because I’m writing short stories at the moment. That’s probably because I can’t seem to settle on a unified, long form story yet, but I’m stealing time to put BIC none-the-less.

    I’m setting a different goal for myself. I’m trying to write a short story a week this month. That will put me in at around 25-30k words this month. Not quite the 50k that the NaNoWriMo-ers are doing, but close enough for me, seeing as I have written seriously since High School. (Some 10+ years ago, leaving how much ‘+’ out of it)

    Hopefully someone will enjoy them, even if none get published. By next year, I’ll be ready to participate.

  • To Roxanne’s comment … why don’t we have a NaNoRevMo right here? … maybe January, after everyone has had time to rest – and get through winter solstice, however they celebrate it – and get those final chapter drafted if the MS goes past the 50,000 words.

  • I am not NaNoing. I am, as I believe Misty called it, FiMyDaNoing (Finish My Damn Novel). Er…or rather I will be when I finish the grading and get done with the dentist this afternoon. (Broke a tooth. Sigh.) I find that the thing I have to steal is away – as in away from people who want to talk to me. I’m not good at writing when I’m constantly interrupted and I’m not good at telling people to get the heck away from me, especially when they are people I like or people I feel obligated to help. So I make myself pack up my laptop and hide in plain sight at Barnes and Noble. Starbucks has too high a chance that my students will walk by and talk to me.

  • Razziecat

    I’m not normally competitive or big on “personal challenges.” But I really wanted to get this book (or most of it) written. I’m finding that NaNo helps me focus, gives me a daily goal that I can hit (& I’m used to deadlines), and keeps my interest in the story high. I’m learning to appreciate the detailed outline I wrote, because I’m not floundering at any point wondering, “where do I go from here?” I’m learning things about my characters that I didn’t even suspect. I blitzed last Saturday and got ahead of the word count, then fell a little behind due to not feeling well (but I’m better now!) The only problem is the lack of time. Writing at work is just not possible due to the constant interaction with customers & co-workers, so I only have evenings & weekends to go at it. But I’m not discouraged. I’m really glad I decided to try this. Now, back to my book!

  • Sarah, that’s what I called it. *smile* Although I actually stole the acronym from Laura Anne Gilman, but I don’t think she minds.

    Okay, back to FiMying. Words wait for no woman.

  • bonesweetbone

    This is my first year doing NaNo, too. I signed up last year, but then every major assignment/paper I had was due in November, which made things a little too daunting. I’m already further ahead than I expected, of course I have a lot more free time this year. I finished my first draft of my first novel this October because I was going to do NaNo this year come hell or high water, too.

    As for stealing time… Waiting for a friend earlier got me 1000 words today. Much more productive than staring at a wall and twiddling my thumbs.

  • I couldn’t agree more. I’m a miniboss this year (assistant to the MLs, hosting about 5 write-ins this month, most in my basement and one at a pub, which is normally Perry’s responsibility but she’s otherwise occupied) and I love our amazing Vancouver community. It’s trained me to write with other people present. And as I’m fond of saying these days, there’s no sound like silence and sixteen people typing. And the focus and productivity that can magically arise from that.

  • Unicorn

    Thanks for the post, Kalayna. I’m definitely considering NaNoWriMo for next year.
    Widdershins, Roxanne – I could also be a candidate for NaNoRevMo… provided it’s online of course.

  • Count me as a NaNoRevMo fan. I have been revising like mad for two months now — Thieftaker I, Thieftaker II, a couple of short stories. Lots of Rev — no so much Wri. And now I have copyedits….

  • Rhonda

    There is a NaNoEdMo (editing month) in March. http://www.nanoedmo.net/

    I’ve done it in the past, it’s a good kick in the butt to get that editing in full swing.

  • Perryw, a healthy competitive nature can be an awesome motivator–especially during NaNo when everyone is posting their daily wordcounts and there are comparative graphs and such.

    Roxanne, people don’t think about the need to ‘practice’ writing (learn craft? sure. Practice, not so much) but I think you hit on something big when you said that two years ago you wouldn’t have been able to regularly hit 1k an hour but now you can. Congrats on trying NaNo for the first time. I’ll be cheering for you. ^_^

    Martin, a short story a week sounds like a great goal. Best of luck to you with it!

    Widdershins, Well, I was going to comment about NaNoEdMo here, but someone else already mentioned it. That said, if the MW community wants to organize a special editing month, I think it would be a lot of fun! (Okay, well, fun an revisions don’t always go together, but it could be very productive.)

    Sarah, I’m also FiMyDaNoing (at this point with daily word count goals that scare even me. lol) Sorry about the broken tooth–ouch! B&N is a great places to write! These days my out of the house escape tends to be Panaras, but in years past I think I’ve written the equivalent of two novels at my local Barnes and Nobel.

  • Razziecat, I’m glad to hear NaNo is working for you! Yes, back to the book. Good for you!

    Bonesweetbone, congrats on writing “the end” for the first time! Sounds like NaNo served as a double motivator for you.

    Laura, my first NaNo I had the weirdest reluctance to write with other people around. I guess that was because I’d never done it before and my writing had always been a rather secret hobby. But once I got over that, you’re right, there is some kind of magic to writing with a group. I’m not sure if that’s because all the combined creativity in the air acts as “muse crack” or if we stay focused better because there are other people to notice (or be disturbed by) any distractions we might otherwise indulge in. ^_^

    Unicorn, you’re welcome. Definitely consider it if you think it would be a good challenge for you!

    Rhonda, thanks for the link!