It’s Samhain, Halloween, the end of the year by one calendar. An excellent time to look back and see what is working from the past year, and what isn’t, and what it’s time to be done with. One fun little way to make that concrete is to write down what you’re done with and burn it in a backyard bonfire. We’ll be getting some dry firewood for ours tonight, since all the wood out back is soaked from rain.
A year ago pretty much nothing was working for me, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep writing. Or if I could keep writing, even if I wanted to. I did know what I never wanted to allow again, and that’s valuable to learn. I approach my writing business differently now as a result.
But last year’s “done with it” led to this year’s happy writing, and who knows what the next year will bring? You can’t move into something new if you’re still hanging onto the old. So now’s an excellent time to evaluate a little, to see what’s not working, and write it down and throw it into the fire, and mentally let go of it. New ideas, new work, new opportunities are waiting, just ahead.
It’s also a good time to celebrate everything the year’s brought. What have you harvested?
Here’s the truth about writing and time. People who say they’d write if they had the time are lying. They have the time right now; they have 24 hours in every day, with 60 minutes in every hour. Just like everybody else. What they are choosing to do with that time is not write.
Candace Havens, who teaches Fast Draft (how to write a book in 2 weeks) finds that most students need 2.5 hours to write 20 pages a day. So for a 2 week investment of 2.5 hours a day, you can produce a book. For National Novel Writing Month, you get 4 weeks, so you spread that out to about an hour a day.
Where can that hour come from? Non-essential activities. Sleep. Streamlining activities so they take less time. Start by analyzing how you spend your time now and see where you can shave off 60 minutes to commit to your November goal. (And it’s okay to do this in 5-15 minute increments. If it works best to write 4 times a day, 15 minutes each, you made your goal.)
When I got serious about writing, the first thing I did was look at my time and figure out what could go to make room in my schedule. I started saying no to some people and some activities to free up time. When I had a commute, I worked four long days so I’d have 3 days off to commit to writing. And so on.
The truth is, if you really want to write, you have the time. What you might not have is good time management. Or you might not realize how many things you can say no to or stop doing without your world caving in.
Claiming time is about claiming priorities, and that comes down to your values. If you don’t know what your priorities or values are, write down all the things you think are most important. And then record how much time you spend on them. The two may not match very well, but today is a great time to start changing that. You have 24 hours, each with 60 minutes in it.
Today kid #1’s fever finally broke but per doctor’s orders and school rules, she’s not allowed to go back to school for 24 hours. Which means she’s going to miss her class Halloween party. We knew this yesterday when her fever didn’t break and she cried, and I promised we’d have a party at home to make up for it.
So today we deck the halls for Halloween. I’ll hang the string of pumpkin/ghost lights, let the kids wear costumes and eat pumpkin cookies. They’ll paint their pumpkins, and we’ll all be in the Halloween spirit.
As Oct. ticks down, those getting ready for November’s race to The End of a novel might be having a twinge of, well, not panic, but perhaps an idea that they ought to know WHAT book they’ll be writing. (I still don’t know what I’ll work on in Nov. I’m keeping my options open.)
But if you want to define “write a book” into something a little easier to get a handle on, here are some basic Book Ingredients you might want to line up before Nov. 1. Those of you who took journalism will remember that you have to define Who, What, Where, When, How and Why.
(Who) Characters: who is in your book? You need at least 3: protagonist, antagonist and ally.
(What) The Plot: What do your characters do? What goal are they in pursuit of?
(When) The story’s time period: Present day, historical, alternate history, etc.
(Where) Setting: where does your book take place? Are you familiar with it? Do you need to research the setting?
(How) What do your characters do to try to reach their goals? Do they succeed or fail?
(Why) Why is success important? What will make them keep trying? (3 times is traditional)
Even if you don’t answer all of these questions before you start, leaving How and Why open to possibilities, for instance, just thinking about them can help you get ready to write and successfully complete your book in November.