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Writing Fast, Writing Slow, and My NaNoWriMo Year

Next month is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Update: It’s November 2nd and National Novel Writing Month has begun!

Writers around the world have been working on their works-in-progress (WIPs), so they can then spend 30-days writing their book. Read that sentence again.

Writers around the world have been working on their works-in-progress (WIPs), so

they can then spend 30-days writing their book.

Prior to the 30-day writing challenge, the writers have been preparing their notes so that they can then sit down to write. Some may have spent months leading up to November. Others may simply ‘pants’ it and write stream of conscious, but would you want to read their book after 30-days of writing? When did they proof it? Edit it? Revise it?

November 2020

I had just moved across the country and into my own house. Rented, but close enough. I had an office with a desk. Okay, the desk was a folding table with a plastic picnic tablecloth, but hey, I’m a writer. I make notes on napkins, envelopes, notes app on my iPhone. I got this.

This would be my first NaNoWriMo where I didn’t just talk about it. I had notes, a premise, a plot, characters, and even downloaded some writing and editing software. But I was also working. Writing was my job. I had blog posts, web content, and other people’s books to finish. I let things get in my way, and before I knew it, the month was over.

October 2021

The lessons of NaNoWriMo have stayed with me all year and I’ve applied them to all my projects. Ultimately, it’s be prepared. But there’s more to it than that. They say treat your writing like your job. Except, writing is my job. So, I had to work out how to separate the Ghost from the Writer, if only for a little while. It’s a work-in-progress, but here’s what I’ve got so far.

Don’t just schedule a time to write. Schedule a time to write for a particular project; whether it’s for a client or for yourself. This took me the longest to learn, which is why I’ve listed it here. First.

For my clients, I go down a rabbit hole of research and study to focus only on their needs. Why couldn’t I do this with my writing?

For me. This intense focus would sometimes crystallize into burnout, and by then, I was ready to close the computer and hang up my writing camp for the blissful escape into television or someone else’s story. Yet, always with that little niggle of guilt, that I could write like this author and someone could soon hold my book in their hand.

Set a writing goal. Seems obvious, I know. But also, way too broad. For a list-maker like me, setting a goal often seemed insurmountable.

So, I borrowed from the premise of James Clear’s Atomic Habits of making a 1% change. What, I wondered, was the best goal to set for me so I could feel productive rather than overwhelmed?

Turns out, I write faster than I thought, when I set my mind to it.

For example, I set a goal to write 500-words a day. If you can write 500-words a day, then after 30 days you’ll have written 15,000 words. That’s almost half a book! If your book is to be 40,000 words. Of course, for National Novel Writing Month, the goal is a 50,000 word book. But, hey, you’ve got to start somewhere! It also turns out I’m rather competitive. With myself. Before I knew it, 500-words a day became a thousand, and then one day, I hit a personal best -4,000 words.

Some writers determine to write for a certain number of hours per day. Some choose word count. Others may choose a combination of the two or create something unique to them. We’re imaginative creatures. Use your imagination!

The Clock is Ticking….

My laptop sits on a vintage upcycled writing desk and my typewriter is perched on its metal stand. My cellphone in between them is in airplane mode.I use the typewriter and my grandmother’s egg timer, two of the most analog-friendly devices to remind me to slow down. To think about what I want to say before I write it down.

So, even though the clock is ticking, I’m prepared for what’s next. The rush of words spilling on to paper except this year, there’s a plan in place. This year, I didn’t download any new software but I did deep dive into The Story Grid© developed by Shawn Coyne and Tim Grahl. For a reformed pantser, it makes the outline portion of writing much less scary and offers me a format I can understand and my favorite part? With this strategy, you begin with the most basic of tools – a yellow legal pad. Color me analog happy.


Well, I’m still working on that. Check back here December 1st.

Until then, happy writing!

Bio: Lisa is a freelance writer, ghostwriter, poet and author. She has written about freelance writing, data and analytics, recruitment, business, and finds her happy place in research and biographies with fictional elements. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her husband, Matt, and their two dogs, Della and Gigi.