This year I took on the NaNoWriMo challenge to write a complete novel in 30 days for the second year in a row. I succeeded, and I'm proud of myself -- but it also made me realise how much time I'm wasting the other 11 months of the year.
Picture by wisemandarine
After last year's NaNoWriMo experience, I wrote a post summarising what I'd learned from the experience. The biggest of those lessons was that scheduling writing time regularly every day was the only way to get it done, and I followed that process again this year. But it was more difficult to manage.
For starters, there was one big block of time already claimed. I had a four-day break scheduled in the middle of the month to help a friend move house, and I knew that I wouldn't get any writing done at all on those four days. So that meant what I wrote on the other 26 days was even more crucial.
Secondly, last year I was still running Lifehacker as one string of a freelance career. This year, it's my main full-time job. So novel writing had to be fitted into the evening. That's not impossible, but it made it harder to do anything socially. But I didn't mind, because the biggest thing I learnt last year was that I love writing fiction, and I want to do it more often. That was what gave me the incentive to schedule the time and get the job done.
So now NaNoWriMo is over for another year. I have a completed novel (you can read the blurb here if you're curious) OK: more realistically, I have a completed first draft, which I should be able to edit in a couple of months. We published a post on editing NaNoWriMo work earlier this week, and I'll follow some of its advice, although I did do quite a bit of editing along the way. (I don't see how people avoid this; you have to cross-reference and check details anyway.)
Beyond having to spend some time thinking about finally polishing up my e-publishing skills and getting one or both novels out the door, I've come to a realisation. If I'm capable of producing a novel draft in 30 days just by setting myself a deadline, I should be capable of getting more done. I've had two non-fiction book projects I've been researching in dribs and drabs all year, but neither is anywhere near as complete than my two novels. I can't blame anyone else for that; it's my fault.
I don't want to turn into a 24/7 workaholic, and taking breaks and having downtime is important. But if two hours a day gets a novel written in a month, I should be able to make those other projects happen faster.
My brother, Gizmodo editor Alex, also did NaNoWriMo this year and last, but has already suggested he will take a break next year. I don't think I will; in fact, I'll stand up now and state that I intend to participate in NaNoWriMo 2012. But I also need to make sure that next November isn't the next time I work on and complete the draft of a book. I need to make time for other projects between then and now. So if it turns out that I haven't come November next year, Lifehacker readers can line up and throw cabbages at me.
Picture by William Warby