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Sunday, October 28, 2012

NaNoWriMo + Beyond Tip

Many things have led up to this post. I recently roughed out my author business plan for five years, 2013-2018. That prompted me to do my author production schedule for 2013. Even though I freelance as a copy editor to pay the bills, I remain an author at the core. NaNo feeds my desire to create stories and sets aside November every year for that purpose (although NaNo has other times to write, like for their screenplays, for camp, etc.).

And every time I cross over the magical 50K mark, I hope to make it a seasonal activity, even by myself, aside from NaNo programs. That hasn't happened yet in my daily life, but I'm holding fast to the notion nonetheless.

Then earlier today I was reading Philip Humbert's article--on how success is built on routine baby steps--in his current newsletter (to sign up to receive same, go here: http://www.philiphumbert.com/Goodies.htm). And for some reason I was reminded of David Bach's advice. 

You all are probably familiar with David Bach and his automatic millionaire process. I'm going by memory here, so if you have his book, check that to confirm. But basically, we sign up at our bank or brokerage firm to have 10 percent (or 1 percent or 50 percent or whatever your choice) taken out of our gross (not net) salary each and every payday.

That's it.

So I was wondering how I could automate my writing process.

After all, NaNo proves we can write a first draft of a 50K WC novel in one month. Yet I know I cannot sustain that activity all twelve months of the year. Even if I were a full-time novelist, as an Indie author, I still need time to find covers/hire a designer, final edit, format, upload, etc.

What are my options then? In line with all of the above, plus the sage advice to write one page a day and you have a 365-page novel at the end of each year, I've come up with some math.

Like for automatic savings/investments, if you choose to set aside 1 percent of your day to writing that equates to 0.24 or roughly 15 minutes. If you select 10 percent, that means 2.4 hours. Or you could pick something in between or higher, as your other activities allow.

Could it be that simple? I think so. The tortoise and the hare teach us the value of slow and steady. It may not be glamorous, but it gets the job done. FLYLady.net teaches us that 15 minutes in the morning, another 15 at night, plus a 15-minute daily chore in the zone for the week can keep us from marathon cleaning and yet maintain a company-ready house, too.

Let's look to some of our well-known authors.

Nora Roberts is my unknowing mentor and benchmark, so I go to her first. She routinely puts out six or seven new books each year and has done so for decades. I have yet to estimate how many pages are necessary for that kind of output, but it would have to exceed the daily NaNo average of 1,667 WC or 6.75 pages as I would guess most of Nora's books each year are mainstream, longer than the category length of a NaNo creation.

I've read Nora works on vacations; she works daily; her first drafts are fairly clean and she adds in some description in a second draft with maybe a third and final run-through. So she doesn't spend much time revising her writing.

Barbara Cartland wrote 723 titles in her lifetime, which I saw somewhere amounted to two weeks per book with each dictated to an assistant, who I guess typed up her words. I would presume, at that production rate, Barbara's books had to be of the shorter variety with revisions done only when she read the typed document daily or whenever.

David Farland related in a recent Kick Me newsletter that his best writing day ever was at an airport awaiting his flight when he created 65 pages--wow!

Theresa Ragan says she writes 5 pages daily and is very happy for those days when she produces 10.

My best ever was when I created 7K WC (or 28 double-spaced pages) for each of three days in a row; 21K WC total (or 84 pages total) in three days is awesome and I wish I could just repeat that, but it hasn't happened yet. And I know better than to expect that of myself daily.

Whether you wish to count hours or pages or scenes or chapters, think about setting a daily goal. I know it is harder when day jobs collide with writing aspirations, but maybe have a default of 1 page/day for those crazy, out-of-control periods.

If you are going with chapters, maybe start with 20 chapters for a category and 35-40 for a mainstream. For a saga with 700 pages or more, you might need upward of 70 chapters. But for now, for a quick example, let's work with 20 chapters, averaging 4 scenes per chapter or 80 scenes total. If you wrote one scene a day over 80 days, you'd have your first draft done in less than three months.

The trick is to do it FIRST thing in the morning. Like David Bach would say about "pay yourself first," I translate that for us authors to be "write for yourself first."

For me, I need to focus on getting more fiction released. I'm not that into marketing, but I don't have to be if the maxim holds true that your best marketing plan ever is getting more books out. Focus on your topmost goal and don't let go. Remember that multitasking dilutes the output.

Also take note that this is a very individual determination. Not all of us can maintain Nora's output, or Barbara's prolific activity. Each of us needs to determine our own best level, where we happily maintain quality and quantity both. IMO, it is quality over quantity if I must choose only one.

Anyway, all this has got me thinking. While I may not have the right answer for me yet, I've got plenty to consider.

Keep at it, everyone!

Denise Barker, author + blogger + copy editor

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