In two weeks NaNoWriMo 2014 will start. Are you excited yet? I am!
In my last post I talked about where to find ideas and gave some ideas on how to outline and plan stories. This time I’d like to share some things about words and word counts. And don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom for links to NaNoWriMo word planners of different types.
With two weeks left it might seem early to start thinking about your writing schedule but it can take a lot of stress off your back and it can help you make sure that you will finish NaNoWriMo. There are a few things to think about when you decide on how to do NaNoWriMo:
– Time each day that you can write
– Writing speed
– The amount of words you can write in a day
– Your enthusiasm curve for stories
Many people might try to write 1667 (50,000 words divided by 30 days) each day for the whole month, but as people who have tried this before have found out, there are high and low points during the month and some days you’ve got more energy or time to write. Here are some ways to figure out what your best writing schedule might be.
Time each day that you can write
Some people can only write an hour or two a day, others can write more than seven hours a day during the week. The amount of time you can spend per day will influence how you can schedule your weeks. If you have more time during the weekend you can choose to write more words then, or the other way around. Think about this before you start NaNoWriMo, as a good planning goes a long way.
How many words can you write in an hour? Half an hour? Do you know your writing speed? And I’m not talking your typing speed. Typing speed doesn’t take in account the brain capacity you need for coming up with the words and sentences to spin your story. This is important as typing out what you hear or typing something over from another page is a lot faster as you don’t have to come up with the sentences and story, so during NaNo your brain is doing double duty. If you already know your writing speed, great. If you don’t you can easily test it.
I like to do writing sprints. Sprints are something that I learned during my second attempt at NaNoWriMo. The concept is easy. During a set time you only focus on writing and try to write for a consistent speed. The best thing is to find your writing speed and your best time. To do this you can try different times with a break in between.
I usually choose to write 10 minutes and then a 10 minute break or 20 minutes and then a 10 minute break. You can stretch the writing time to 30, 40 or even 50 minutes. But my best time is 20 minutes with a 10 minute break, which gives me 40 writing minutes per hour and 20 minutes break per hour. I can keep this schedule for a few hours at a time.
You can find two posts about this topic on my old blog: My trick to writing insane amounts a day and stay sane and My Sprint Sheet.
Why is this important? Well, someone who can write 1000 words per hour only needs under 2 hours to do 1667 words, but someone who can only do 500 words per hour needs 4 hours.
Depending on the time you have in a day you can theorise how many words you would be able to write on that day.
But, there is one limit to this.
The amount of words you can write in a day
At some point your brain will go bleeeeehhhh. Not very charming but the sound is much like a car that has run out of fuel. And largely, that is also the problem. Your brain will be done for the day and rather than going forward it is usually best to just stop for the day.
My maximum word count for the day is around 6000 words.
This is not something you might know just yet, but that is not important. What is important is that you don’t over-plan yourself. If you’ve never written more than 2000 words in a day, don’t expect to catch up with 10,000 words in a day. Your brain will be exhausted long before that. And exhausted brains make mistakes and don’t work as well as active brains.
Plan your time, don’t exhaust your brain unnecessary when you’re doing a marathon writing challenge like NaNoWriMo. Exhausting your brain with too many words and then having to recover multiple days is not as effective as writing less in a single day but being able to do this consistently.
Your enthusiasm curve for stories
A term you will run across on many NaNoWriMo places is the “Two Week Slump”, it’s a term for the hurdle that is two weeks into the challenge. At that time your original enthusiasm will be gone, you will not be as far into the project that you can see the end yet and you’ll get distracted by other things. During my second year of NaNoWriMo (2011) the new Rift expansion came out right in the middle of NaNo, which you can totally see in my statistics.
This is quite common, but there are also ways to evade this problem like the “reverse NaNo”. It’s called reverse basically because of the statistic you see above. With reverse NaNo you write more at the beginning but less when you near the end of the month. This gives you a lot of leeway during the harder times of the month (at two weeks and at the end). Because you write the hardest when you’re still excited, you can keep up the enthusiasm longer.
Soooo, with these four elements in mind, let’s take a look at the different ways you can divide your word count. I’ve also added Excel sheets (to track it digitally) and PDF sheets (to print and track manually).
On all the sheets you can only fill out the blue parts (the title of the project at the top and the bar with the total word count of your project), all the other parts are locked and will change automatically. This is to make sure that everything keeps working as planned. If you want to unlock the sheet to change it fully, the password is in the top right corner of the page.
This is the simple form of dividing 50,000 by 30. In this way your target is to write 1667 words per day, every day. That is as simple and hard as it sounds.
This is my personal favourite way to write as it builds some leeway in your writing early on. It pushes you to your limits early on so that you have a calmer end of the month. The first day you write 3346 words and on day 30 you write 1 word.
These two methods are combined in my own sheet because I like the double tracking of regular and reverse. I only have an Excel sheet version, as the pdf wouldn’t look nice.
Low weekdays & high weekends
If you don’t have a lot of times during the week but more time during the weekends, try this word count planner. It challenges you to write 1000 words during weekdays but 3000 words in the weekend. You can change this to a different amount, but as above, don’t try to plan to write too much on one day, as it won’t be good for you in the longer run.
If your weekends are too full but you can write during the week, this might be your best planner. This one plans that you write 2500 words per day for every day of the week. Yes, you have to be consistent during the week to keep this up, but on the other hand, you can write during the weekends, even if you don’t have any words planned. Any words during the weekend will give you some ease during the week.
If you want to take a look at all the downloads in one easy screen, here in the link to the whole folder: NaNoWriMo Files
Don’t worry about deciding all of this right now, most of all, be realistic about your writing. It is better to plan less and then write more than to plan more and write less, during marathon challenges like NaNoWriMo it’s better to be prepared for the worst than plan for the best.
P.S. If you’d like to share your own tips and tricks on this blog, sign up through this form and I’ll get in touch with you soon. It’s great fun.
P.P.S. Here are the links to all the different word planners again: Regular NaNoWriMo ( Excel sheet | PDF ), Reverse NaNoWriMo ( Excel sheet | PDF ) (Regular + Reverse excel sheet), Low weekdays & High weekends ( Excel Sheet | PDF ) and Weekdays Only ( Excel sheet | PDF ).