It’s that time of year again—blustery days, icy mornings, and colorful leaves drifting through the air. Oh—and novel writing time.
As October is blowing into November, writers everywhere are battening down the hatches and preparing to hunker down and pound madly away at their keyboards for thirty days in hopes of reaching 50,000 words. Maybe you’re part of that crew. If so, I’ve got valuable information for you.
I Failed NaNo…Sort Of
When I say that I failed NaNo, I mean that I didn’t reach the illustrious 50k. I attribute this failure primarily to my lack of an outline, which caused me to lose all sense of direction in the middle of Act Two.
I do not, however, consider my entire NaNo experience to be a failure. On the contrary, the things I learned about time management and productivity are some of my biggest writing successes to date. I may have run short of 50k, but during NaNo, my productivity was through the roof—and if you stick around, I’ll share my secrets.
Time Management Hacks
We all know the value of time management—especially those of us who, in addition to writing, work day jobs, have families, or are in school. Juggling all these aspects of your life can be a real chore, but I want to put a few tricks up your sleeve.
HACK #1: ENFORCE STRICT LIMITATIONS ON YOUR INTERNET TIME
The internet is both the biggest blessing and the biggest curse facing writers in the 21st Century. On the one hand, we have limitless access to valuable tools and information; on the other, we’re constantly teetering on the brink of a bottomless rabbit hole.
If you do nothing else this November, do this. Limit your internet time. A lot. I’ve found this to be the single most valuable hack for saving time and getting productive with my writing. Despite not finishing NaNo, I consistently wrote upwards of 2-3k per day when I focused on limiting my time online, particularly on social media.
I’d suggest limiting your social media time to an hour or two per day. It will change your writing life.
HACK #2: TRY TO KEEP YOUR WRITING SCHEDULE AS CONSISTENT AS POSSIBLE
During NaNo, I kept my writing hours between 9 and 11am with little variation. If I had time and felt like it, I might write more in the evening after work, but keeping a consistent base schedule worked wonders for my productivity. As William Faulkner said, “I only write when I’m inspired. Fortunately, I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.”
Maybe you’re a night owl. That’s fine—write from 10 to midnight. Whatever suits you and fits most comfortably inside your schedule, do that, and try to keep it as consistent as possible. After all, building habits is an incredibly powerful way to boost productivity.
HACK #3: SCHEDULE OTHER IMPORTANT TASKS AND DON’T PROCRASTINATE
When considering your November schedule, it’s easy to think only of your writing and disregard everything else. You’ll fit that stuff in around the cracks, right? Actually, that method may end up doing more harm than good when it comes to maintaining focus—especially if you’re a busy person.
During my NaNo sprint, I was working full time as an editor. My schedule was flexible, but I still had weekly deadlines to meet which had nothing to do with my own project. With things like school, errands, and working from home, scheduling can be just as important as with your writing time.
If you have an assignment due at midnight Sunday, schedule time during the week to knock it out. That way, you’re free to focus on your writing rather than stressing over the deadline. If you have errands, block out an afternoon to take care of them.
Procrastinating chores and other responsibilities can severely harm your creative flow by causing chaos and stress in your outside life. And even though things may not always run according to plan, having one is helpful.
HACK #4: MAP OUT YOUR GOALS AHEAD OF TIME
If you want to stay on track to finish NaNo in 30 days, you need to write exactly 1,667 words per day. That, my friend, is the magic number, and it takes the average person, typing at 50-65 WPM, roughly twenty minutes.
Of course, you’re probably not writing non-stop, with no pauses whatsoever, for twenty minutes. So let’s make it an hour and a half for good measure. That gives you time to write as well as think about what you’re writing.
Now, most writers probably type a bit faster than 65 WPM, so it stands to reason that, if you wanted, you could write more. I type at roughly 100 WPM myself, so I set a goal of 2,200 per two-hour session, putting me on track to hit 50k in just 22 days.
I did this to give myself a buffer since I anticipated the middle of the month to drag—which it did. I knew I might not hit my goal every day, and I wanted some margin. I also wanted the freedom to take a day off to spend with my husband—no work, no chores, not even writing—without falling behind in my word count.
Regardless of what goals you choose to set for yourself and why, it’s important to take them into account ahead of time so you know how much time to block out per session.
- Are you ready for NaNo? What are your goals?
- Do you have any time-saving hacks you’d like to share?
- What time of day do you like to write? When are you most productive?