Writing about Writing: Sustainability

In November 2014 I wrote on my personal journal: “I wish anyone doing NaNoWriMo the best of luck! I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll probably never do NaNo.” How things have changed. It’s important then to record your thoughts and your plans, to be able to chart your progress and see how far you’ve come.

Post-NaNo I’ve allowed myself to slow down and take a breather. I can’t let the rest of the novel go for too long but I did need to reassess. One of the things I’ve been thinking about is the sustainability of 50k in 30 days.

Before November I made preparations for NaNo. I made some notes for the novel. I queued a lot of Tumblr posts at my professional tumblr. I unfollowed some rss feeds to keep my Feedly more manageable. I knew I wouldn’t have as much time to commit to other writing projects or hobbies.

During November I didn’t post a single finished piece to my fiction only blog. I did manage to write most of my draft yuletide fic as well as some meta, allowing myself to dip into other things when I was not behind on my wordcount. I posted photographs I’d been meaning to share because that was a break from writing but something I could post to my non-fic blogs. I bribed myself through NaNo with fanfic reading and Facebook games and so on, allowing myself fun once I’d met or exceeded my daily word count. I wrote without stopping to do research or name new minor characters, knowing I’d have to fix these things later.

I not only wrote 50k towards my NaNo novel, but 15k of miscellaneous other words. I completed my Get Your Words Out yearly target of 150k. It was a productive month.

However I don’t think that level of activity is sustainable to me in that form for more than one month.

It doesn’t, for one thing, allow for editing. You can spend hours reading your work and correcting punctuation, rewriting sentences for flow, replacing words that you use too often. This will barely increase your word count. In fact your overall word count may decrease as you tighten up paragraphs.

I think the NaNo website suggests 1 hour of editing = 1k of words. That seems reasonable to me.

If I write a short poem or a drabble for my fiction blog, and find a picture at a site like morguefile, edit the picture, post the image and text, cross-post and promote the post at all my social media sites, and finally gather up all those links for later reference, well, that’s about an hour of work for maybe 100 words. Word count is not the be all and end all.

If I were to take 45-50k as a target for the month I’d need that to include editing time, time spent on social media networking, and so forth. A month spent mainly on one project gets a lot of words done, but that’s not all there is to writing and blogging.

Still, NaNo was a valuable exercise that proved what I am capable of. I found the times of day at which I write best. I found I write for about 90 minutes at a time before flagging and needing to step away. I found that 90 minutes is plenty of time to get 1-1.6k words written.

I’m now planning how to proceed, how best to use my time.
Do I add those rss feeds back in or, as I missed them very little, just bookmark the sites and check in on them monthly?
Get Your Words Out sign-ups for next year will be opening soon. I spent a lot of time this year complaining how behind I was and how I wouldn’t catch up, only to reach my target in November. Do I commit to the next level, 200k in the year, to allow for me probably wanting to participate in NaNo again next year? Go higher and push myself more? Probably not; I get disheartened if I feel like I’m failing myself..
What does productivity look like to me? Wordcount plus blog posts plus other writerly activities and hobbies (including fanfiction and original fiction reading) that keep me inspired and connected to others? How can I keep track of all that? I still have things to think about.

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