How To DIY a Dedicated Writing Month

What is DIY?

DIY = Do It Yourself

What is a Dedicated Writing Month?

A Dedicated Writing Month is one designated and devoted to producing a lot of words in a short amount of time, such as one month.

Unless you are a writer living in a cave under the sea or on a celestial body without Internet access, you know today is the first day of NaNo, which is short for NaNoWriMo, which is short for National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is a writerly phenomenon which began in 1999 with 21 San Francisco-based authors going on a sustained writing binge. During National Novel Writing Month, writers start a writing project on November 1 and stop on November 30. The goal is to write 50,000 words in that time period. In 2011, 13 years after NaNoWriMo’s inception, its website could boast of over 250,000 participants; 36,000 writers met the 50,000 word goal; and 25 million words were written by NaNo-ers.

50,000 words in one month translates to about 175 manuscript pages. My author hat is off to anyone who reaches this goal–indeed, to anyone who makes the effort and participates.

But what if you can’t participate? What if you can’t sustain the binge for a month, or you have family coming in for Thanksgiving, or some reason prevents you from participating in the formal NaNo adventure?

If you are on your own but still want to capture some of the November enthusiasm, here’s a  DIY approach. To quote Pirates of the Caribbean, the following are not real rules; they’re more like guidelines:

~10 Rules for a Dedicated Writing Month~

1. Choose a month to focus on your writing. Alert your family, your friends, your writing group, the media…whoever you think may be interested or may disrupt your plans. This is your writing month. Expect the people in your life to respect that.

2. Choose a Work in Progress. If you are a novelist, choose ONE novel to write for the month. If you are a short story artist, work from beginning to end on a short story draft. Then start another one. Ditto for poets.

3. Understand that this month is about production, not polish. The goal is to be prolific with word count and pages. You can go back and revise next month.

4. If you are not a full-time writer, choose a time of day for writing: before work at the dining room table; lunch break at a coffee shop; late at night in your guest room. Select a writing place and go there, same time, every day.

5. Choose an alternative site for writing, in case #4 makes you nuts after a couple of weeks. In November, it’s common to find writers bent over laptops in every coffee shop in every city. If mixing it up saves your sanity, get out of the house.

6. Set a daily goal. That may mean a word goal of 250 (one page) or a scene goal (one scene per day). Although a one page a day goal sounds manageable, stopping in the middle of a scene can be problematic. Interrupting characters in the middle of action makes it harder to pick up the same tone the next day. This is advice based on experience. If you can only make time to write a page, do that. If you can push to write a scene a day, do that. Do what you can do.

7. Write every day….or not. Need Sundays off? Have to cook a big bird on the third Thursday of the month? Do it. Don’t sweat it.

8. Post your progress someplace. The fun of a dedicated writing month is you are doing it alone, with at least a quarter of a million other people doing it alone. Enjoy the camaraderie. Post your word count on Facebook or Twitter. Alert your writing group, and tell them you need cheerleading. Attach a white board to your fridge and update your word count every day. Call your mom. Most of the time, writers toil away in silence. For a month, break the silence. You have 11 other months to secretly obsess over how many words you write. In November, or whichever month you choose to dedicate to pounding out a draft, boast about your daily progress.

9. Remember, this is temporary. If you can’t sustain a daily goal forever, that’s fine. This is a Dedicated Writing Month.

10. Understand, however, that you may be developing a habit. During the month, do your family and friends accept your dedicated time and work it into the daily routine? Does going to your writing place and working for an hour without stopping feel like habit after a week or two? This is good. Don’t stop! There’s no rule that says your writing challenge has to end just because the month does.

Finally, remember the words of Captain Jack Sparrow: The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can’t do.

The really wonderful thing about NaNoWriMo is the enthusiasm. Every November, there’s an electrical charge across The Force from all those authors gearing up to write. Even if you can’t do a formal program, there’s no reason you can’t harness some of that enthusiasm and dedicate a month to your writing.



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