I started this weekend about 10k words behind the “par line” for my NaNoWriMo novel. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve considered giving up several times. I am convinced that what I’m writing completely sucks. I have a lot of catching up to do, and some days it’s pretty easy to convince myself that this is a stupid, made up goal and it’s no big deal if I just bail.
But that’s the point of NaNoWriMo — for people like me, who like to write about 25k to 30k of a novel and then bail because “it’s dumb” or because they have a better idea they want to work on instead, to stick with it. The point is that you keep writing anyway because all first drafts are dumb and suck. You keep writing and you finish your shit.
So, I came up with a plan of attack for this weekend. I need to write about 12k words this weekend in order to catch up. That sounds like a lot. You know what doesn’t sound like a lot? 1k words. 1k is easy. Hell, I’ve already written about 180 words, just in this blog post. (Look at me, wasting NaNo word count on blogging…)
I decided I’d treat this like a repeat set in swimming. This weekend’s writing set: 2 x [6 x 1k words]. That means, today I will write 6 x 1k words, taking a break after each 1k to celebrate, make some more tea, eat some chocolate, surf the web, shop for Christmas presents, take a walk, whatever sounds fun. And, if I finish my 6 sets early enough, I’ll reward myself with a movie before bed. Then, tomorrow we do it all again — another 6 x 1k words set with reward breaks in between 1k word “sprints.”
So far, I’ve completed 3 sets. The really cool thing is that each 1k seems to be taking less time to write than the previous 1k. The first “sprint” took me just over an hour and felt like pulling teeth. The next “sprint” took just under an hour, and I felt like I was finally getting warmed up. Set #3 took about 45 minutes. And I now have just over 29k words!
Don’t get me wrong. I still think what I’m writing is not that great. But I know I’m writing the “shitty first draft.” So, I’m forcing myself to be okay with that. To non-writers this probably sounds a bit insane. Why would someone force themselves to keep writing something that they don’t even think is good?
I’ll tell you why. Because, the only way to write something that is good, the only way to write something at all, is to put one word after another onto the screen/page and just keep going until you’re done. Afterwards, you fix it. You make it better. You make it not suck. But until then? You just have to write. There is no shortcut.