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This time last year I attempted NaNoWriMo despite being exhausted from attending two conventions in a row whilst suffering from a heavy cold. Needless to say I failed to finish – and I’ve been struggling to get my writing mojo back ever since.

With November looming once more I briefly considered giving NaNoWriMo a try, but I’ve done even less preparation than I did last year, which for me is a recipe for disaster. Also, given that I haven’t written a single sentence of fiction in months, attempting 1,667 words a day from a standing start is totally setting myself up for failure.

Thus, I have decided to use the NaNo vibe to set myself a target of planning a novel in November, which I will then write over the course of the winter. Here are my goals:

  1. To have a complete outline by November 30th
  2. To start writing the novel on December 1st, initially with a minimum target of 50 words per day.
  3. To increase the daily minimum until I’m writing at a productive rate

Now, 50 words might sound ridiculously low. Certainly it’s way too low to get a novel finished in a reasonable amount of time. The point is, it’s a minimum. If I feel like writing more, great! In fact I suspect that once I get going, my daily average is going to be way above that. I’ll probably not hit NaNoWriMo levels, except maybe on weekends, but that’s OK as long as I’m making solid progress.

I’m deliberately setting the bar really, really low to begin with so that I can’t wriggle out of writing every day. Fifty words is almost nothing. A simple three-sentence paragraph is almost enough to hit that target. (<- 38 words) No, the 50-word minimum is precisely calculated to be low enough not to seem an unassailable target even when I’m really tired, but long enough to add substance to the story.

Before I wind up, I’d like to thank Peter Newman for running a “Getting Unstuck” workshop at BristolCon, which helped shake some of these ideas loose. I only signed up at the last minute, since as a pro I don’t usually have much interest in writing workshops, but I find I’m really missing being in a regular writers’ group and being able to talk craft issues with my peers. Sure I chat with writer friends at conventions, but we usually only talk about our works-in-progress in vague terms – we’re socialising, not engaging in critique.

So, that’s my plan for Winter 2014/15. I aim to post about my progress periodically – probably at least weekly, to keep myself on track. If all goes to plan, I’ll have a first draft completed next spring!


Jacey Bedford

You would probably really benefit from attending Milford in 2015. It’s a great battery recharger. You get to spend a whole week talking writing (your own and other people’s) with fourteen other professional SF writers at various stages in their careers. The surroundings are goregous (and peaceful) and if you do the reading beforhand there’s also pleanty of writing time in the mornings. I love it.

Jeff Coleman

50 words per day isn’t ridiculous; I think you’ve set a good goal. Sometimes, it’s a struggle just to get those few words down on paper, especially when you’ve gotten out of the writing habit. Building momentum starts with tiny steps. Good luck!