Saturday, September 10, 2011

Procrastination, or: Why Do Today What You Could Put Off 'Til November?

Wouldya lookit that -- I seem to have developed a nonfiction-book-type title system for my blog posts.  Or maybe it's more like the titles of upcoming episodes from the old "Rocky and Bullwinkle" show.  Anyway, I like it.  Let's see how long I can keep it up.

I don't technically have to write a new post 'til tomorrow.  But I have some uninterrupted time tonight, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

Why, yes, I do believe I have put off starting the actual post long enough....

This topic came to me as I was looking over threads on the Fiction Writers Guild discussion board on LinkedIn.  Somebody posed the question:  How do you motivate yourself to write regularly?  I have not commented in that thread -- mostly because I'm really, really bad about writing regularly.

Writers are supposed to write a little bit every day, or every week.  Practice makes perfect, and all that.  But -- as embarrassing as it is to admit -- I don't do it.  Oh, I write every day, or nearly every day.  I post a lot at Kevin's Watch, which is a discussion board for fans of fantasy author Stephen R. Donaldson.  I check in at Ahira's Hangar, the Watch's sister site, once or twice a week.  Lately I've been posting a fair amount at the Fiction Writers Guild board.   And now I write a piece here every week.  But none of that is fiction; it's all pretty much just shooting off at the mouth.  So even though I'm writing every day, it kind of doesn't count.

It occurs to me as I sit here, mulling this over, that to get myself to write fiction, I need to be under the gun.  I kept up fine with workshops in grad school: when it was my turn to hand in a story, I churned one out on time.  And twice now, I've participated in NaNoWriMo, and both times I got a book out of it.

"What's NaNoWriMo?" you ask.  I am happy to tell you about it.  NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month.  It happens every November.  The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  If you do it, you get a certificate to hang on your wall -- but more importantly, you get the first draft of your novella, or a substantial start on a longer work.

I am planning to do NaNo again this year, now that I have nothing left in the editing stage.  My 2008 NaNo novel was The Maidens' War; in 2009, it was SwanSong.  I skipped NaNo last year because I had so much work left to do on SwanSong.  But this year, the decks have been cleared.  I'm doing the preliminary research and planning for the new book now.  I'm hoping it will be the first in a series.

All of which is quite the wordy way of saying that I'm still not really writing any fiction right now.  Yes!  I'm putting it off 'til November!

Anyway, the key with NaNo, it occurs to me tonight, is not so much that it sets me a goal, but that it sets me a deadline.  It's not the 50,000 words -- it's the 50,000 words in a month.  It's the 1,667 words in a day, the 11,700 words in a week.  It's the deadline that makes NaNo work for me.

This is good news, because as I said, I'm hoping to make this book the first in a series, and I'd like to get on track to turn out two books in the series per year. (This is part of my fiendish plan to get more titles into publication quickly.  I've heard that if someone stumbles across your stuff and likes it, they may go back and buy a bunch of your titles at once.  This is supposedly how indie authors who are making lots of money at it are doing it -- they have a strong backlist.)  Two books a year is not as murderous a pace as it sounds.  Yes, it took me two years to polish and publish each of the first two novels, but that's because I let the manuscripts sit for months at a time in between rounds of editing.  I finished SwanSong when I did only because I wanted it off my plate before I started working on the next book.  In other words, I was under a deadline.  If I knew I wanted to start drafting Book Two in, say, May 2012, then I'd better not start the first draft of Book One during NaNo, finish it after the holidays, and then let it gather virtual dust for three months.

Anyway, I am going to try putting myself on the six-month plan this year.  We'll see how it goes.
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