Wednesday's Writing Rhetoric: Do It On Purpose

So.. with NaNoWriMo being nearly half over.. it might be a good time to discuss just how you accomplish your goal of actually writing a novel.

With some new writers, (Mostly myself), NaNoWriMo may be enough to get you started down the path to finishing that novel that's been bouncing around in your head for years.. but once the excitement of NaNo wears off, after about 10 days, (at least it was 10 days for me), it can become harder to keep the momentum going, and you find your word count becoming a little more stagnant than you'd like.

So.. how do you keep it going?

There's always BICHOK.. (Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard).. but catchy acronyms won't actually help you when it's crunch time.  (Again, speaking for myself).. so what will?  Well, after looking around the web, and reading notes I took at LTUE and LDStorymakers last year, I've come upon a list of things you can do to help yourself keep going.

  1. WRITING TIME:  Have a specific time of the day when you write. For some it's at night after the kids are in bed, for others's it's during Junior's naptime.. for some it's bright and early in the morning.  I've found that for me, I need to get it done first thing in the fact BEFORE my usual wake-up time.  I'm used to getting up around 6:45-7am or so, or at least I have been. But I've recently found that I am fresher, and more in tune with my story if I get up earlier, around 5am, get in a quick 20-30 minute cardio session on the treadmill, (or running outside or whatever gets your blood moving), and then getting in a good hour or two to write.  IF you haven't, set a time each day when it's 'your time'.. experiment with different times if you have to.. but find your time, and then claim it.  OWN IT.  Let everyone know that it is 'your time' and close the door.  Stephen King, in his phenomenal 'On Writing' says that you're not a writer until you can close your door.  So do it. Claim your time and close your door. If you don't have a physical door.. then just make it know that from X until X.. you are indisposed.
  2. WRITING PLACE: Some people like to write all over their homes. I've read interviews where Brandon Sanderson says he writes in different rooms of his house, just wherever the mood strikes him.  If that works for you.. all the better. But for me, I need a place, my fortress of solitude.  My Sanctuary.  I have an office, it's a bedroom that nobody was using.  I claimed it as my 'Office'.. put in a cheap-o IKEA $30.00 desk, put my desktop computer in there, along with a corkboard for outlining (scenes on post-it notes on the corkboard), and that's my 'I'm a real writer' area.  When I'm there, and I close the door.. I'm all about writing.  If you dont' have that, find a corner somewhere, or a spot at your kitchen table.. just find somewhere and make it your 'happy place'.  If Stephen King can write in the laundry room using a old fashioned typewriter with a small 1st grader's desk balanced on his knees.. you can find something that will work for you.
  3. WRITING JOURNAL:  You don't have to recap what you wrote, in fact that would be sort of stupid really, "The night was long".. "Today I wrote that the night was long".. waste of time. What I mean is.. keep a log of what time you write, how long you wrote for, the word count, and your feelings.  Did you struggle? Was it too loud? Is there a certain part of the story you need to rethink?  Whatever you're experiencing.. write it down. Doesn't have to be very long or flowery.. it's not for others to read, it's for you to review, to see what works, what didn't, and what you struggled with, so next time you write you can do it better, with more favorable results, or at least less distractions.
  4.  TAKE NOTES:  Sounds like the journal, only here, what I mean is.. take a small notepad with you and have one by your bed. That way, when an idea strikes you, you can jot it down. Doesn't matter if it's ridiculous, or when you wake up you shake your head in embarrassment that the thought of a Nuclear waste altered super squirrel saving the City of New York.. just write it down with enough detail so you'll know what you're talking about. Same when you're out and about. Can't tell you how many times I've been away from home and computer, had a thought strike me, and then when I get home I try to remember what it was and it's gone.  Probably wasn't a best seller idea.. but it was worth thinking about.  So take a notebook with you, and write your ideas down.  It's worth it.
  5. DECIDE: At the end of the day, whether you wrote anything that day, or whether you failed to even open your document, are both your decision. Nobody can do it for you, all the slogans in the world won't matter if you don't make the choice to do it. Success is there for the taking, maybe not JK Rowling level success, but some level of success.. even if it is nothing more than accomplishing your goal of actually writing a beginning, middle, and ending of a book.  You can achieve that goal.. or not. But whatever you do, it will be because of your own, conscious choice.  So, quit reading this and decide to do it.  Dolly Parton may not be known as an American Philosopher  but maybe she should be. She has some of the best, most down home advice I've ever read. My favorite quote of hers is, "Find out who you are, and do it on purpose."  Tell me that's not profound.
So that is my advice on how to keep the momentum. Find a place and a time to write, keep track of your work and ideas as they come.. and then decide who you want to be.. and do it on purpose.