NaNo Prep: How to Manage Your Time and Write More

Let’s have full disclosure before I get any further: time is an illusion, the last day of NaNo doubly so. You can prepare your time in advance, and still end up needing to go full-speed on the last day. My November 2017 experience goes as follows: on target for days 1-3, and then behind until day 30. I won, but only after squeezing out over 6000 words on the last day.

It’s that experience I want to write about here. All the planning in the world to have time to write doesn’t count for shit the moment day 1 rolls around and something comes up out of the blue. For me, it’s conventions. And a birthday. And I don’t even know what. I didn’t write for ten days out of thirty because of (a) other commitments and (b) laziness.

Basic Time Management

  1. Before the month starts, block off the days you know you’ll get nothing done. (Days, weekends, weeks…) Don’t kid yourself that on the day you’ve arranged to meet three different people you’re going to have time and energy to write afterwards.
  2. When that’s done, block off times in the day that you can write. If you think you can write 1667 words in an hour, give yourself two hours to write and aim to stick to your hourly goal.
  3. Give yourself more time in the month to write than you think you need. Something is going to come up, or you’ll write less than you thought you would. It happens.

My Trick

Let’s be real: I can do everything above and still not have enough time if I stuck to just writing at my computer like I grew up doing. Here’s how I finished my 50K in only 20 days in November:

Learn to write anywhere.

If that means bringing your computer with you everywhere, do that. But what about the bus? What about the few minutes in the office before the working day, when you can’t just whip out your laptop and start writing?

This isn’t just about the mentality of writing in public, which is a whole thing in itself. This is about learning to write through devices you wouldn’t normally be comfortable with. The majority of my November novel was written using my phone. I started with a Bluetooth keyboard, but the set up was taking too much time. So I ditched it.

I wrote almost exclusively using the touchscreen keyboard on my smart phone.

Google Docs was a Godsend. Mobile writing is so much easier when you can just close an app and it’s saved. (I would recommend downloading your files every night or two, though, onto a separate device, for safety.) It also meant being able to jump from my phone to my laptop seamlessly.

On the last day of NaNo 2017, I wrote on my phone on the journey to and from work, and on my lunch break. A total of almost three hours, all counted up. Then I switched to my laptop when I got home. I didn’t miss a meal, I stopped to make tea a couple of times, and managed to finish a few hours before midnight. Because I could write in public, and write on my phone. I couldn’t do that in October, let me tell you.

Going Forward

My April novel is supposedly more conventional than my November novel. For a start, it won’t be in 120+ pieces. But I’m also faced with a few events. I’m losing two weekends straight off the bat, and one evening to a midnight screening. (Avengers Infinity War – worth it!) All things considered, I’m down a about 6/7 days before I even get started. I’m looking at about 42 hours to write 50K, which is doable. I’m also, most likely, underestimating how much time I’ll have each day. But with bus journeys, I’m guaranteed a couple of hours each day I’m in work.

One thing I have to do before I get in NaNoWriMo is clear myself of other deadlines. I can’t manage comics at the same time as I’m trying to write a lot. I can’t busy myself with recording videos on the days I need to write. This might mean recording several videos in one go. It might also mean just not having a video ready.

All I know is, I can plan my time to the minute, and it still won’t work out the way I want it to. That’s life. That’s NaNoWriMo.


About Paul Carroll

Paul Carroll is a writer, born, raised and still living in Dublin. By day he's a student and bookseller, by night he writes fiction and uses social media.
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