In some parts of the world, NaNoWriMo is already over. In others, thousands of writers scramble to reach the finish line—or simply to add as many words to their novels as possible. No matter where you are, one thing is true: tomorrow, NaNoWriMo will be over. And if you want to become a published author, a new challenge will begin: building a consistent writing habit and improving your craft.
Today we'll show how to create a writing schedule that works for you all year. But first, let's tackle one of the most controversial questions in the writing world:
Should you write every day?
One of the most common pieces of writing advice is to write every single day. Some believe a single sentence is enough, while others encourage a high daily goal like 1,000 or 2,000 words.
For a long time, I was one of these writers. I believed working on my books daily for at least one hour per day was the only way to achieve publication. I set ambitious goals, and I believed each failure meeting them derailed my path to success.
Now I believe the focus on writing every day is a disservice to writers. In some cases, it becomes an extension of modern workaholic culture and actively harms us.
The truth is if you want to become a professional author, you must treat writing like a job. You must do it regularly, but you risk burnout without breaks. We take vacations from our real jobs, and I believe we should also do so from our writing. The point of today's exercise is to make a writing habit you'll be able to maintain long-term; that means incorporating breaks.
How to build a consistent writing habit
One thing people who suggest writing daily get right is you must schedule writing time. We've created a four-step process to help you develop your ideal writing schedule:
1. Analyze your NaNoWriMo writing schedule - Take a look at the writing you've done over the last month. What times did you regularly write? How long were you able to write? Were there any difficulties maintaining this time as your writing time? Did you actually miss the activities you used to do during this time?
2. Assess your non-writing time - Do a time audit. What non-writing responsibilities do you have? What non-writing leisure activities do you enjoy enough to keep them in your schedule? Where do you waste time? Take special note of any time you can reclaim for writing.
3. Create your writing schedule - Assign writing to specific times in your calendar. Try to block aside at least half an hour whenever possible, as it usually takes a few minutes to get into the flow of your manuscript. We recommend writing three or more times per week whenever possible to keep the story present in your mind.
4. Tweak your schedule as necessary - Your writing time should be a priority, but it doesn't have to be set in stone. If you notice maintaining your writing schedule is becoming difficult, do another time audit. Adjust your schedule as necessary, even if it means acknowledging you can only write once a week. Any progress is still progress.
Writing a novel for the first time is an amazing accomplishment, but if you want to build a career as an author, the best thing you can get out of NaNoWriMo is a consistent writing habit. So, do your time audit and schedule your writing now, before you've lost your NaNoWriMo motivation.
Dianna Gunn is the author of YA fantasy novella “Keeper of the Dawn” and the Write Plan content writer. She also blogs about creativity, life and books at The Dabbler.
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