Introductory Note: Karen Wiesner started a series of blogs this week to help us make it successfully through NaNoWriMo (and beyond, really). The first blog was on Tuesday, called Planning for NaNoWriMo: Building an Outline. It really is a companion piece to this one so make sure you check it out here. We’ve put these two blogs close together so you can maximize your outlining time before November. Karen’s blog will return every Tuesday in November. Happy outlining everyone!
A Guest Blog from Karen Wiesner
Take a look at my Work in Progress listing for the past few years here:
How did I do it? By alternating between the distinct stages of completing a book (which I’ll discuss more in Week 4 of NaNoWriMo) and allowing myself to come into each of those stages completely fresh and eager to complete another step. I love that I’m never doing the same thing in terms of outlining, writing and revising, nor am I always working on the same project. I’m always fresh, always enthusiastic, always eager to add another layer to complete a project that I know will be solid and ready to be sent to editors when the stages are finally done.
How long does it take to do all of these things? Well, as you might imagine considering all the deadlines I’m working under, I have to be extremely disciplined. Most people think that I must work 24 hours a day based on my productivity. That’s the really amazing part of this whole method. I don’t. I don’t have to. Working in stages allows me to take off every weekend and most of the summer. In total, when it comes to projects (outlining, writing and revising), I usually work 2-4 hours a day, 5 days a week, to accomplish what I need to.
For each project, once a story has been brewing for a considerable amount of time and I’ve amassed the necessary research, I start with an extremely detailed outline. The outline can take anywhere from a day to week to work out, depending on the complexity of the book (and that’s only for a fairly long one; a novella may take only a day or two).
As soon as I’ve let the outline sit for as long as I possibly can, I can begin writing. To write a full novel at 2 scenes a day, 5 days a week, I need about a month—generally much less (3 weeks is my norm). Novellas obviously only take a week or so.
Revision requires under a week because there’s very little left to do once I get to this point. I worked out all the kinks in the outline, wrote based on an outline that can really qualify as a first draft, and the only thing left is smoothing the whole thing out.
In this way, I alternate my time between books in various stages of completion, and I can write at least 5 novels and quite a few novellas per year. My WIP page really shows you how well this works and how I’m able to juggle all of these stages for multiple projects—and progress steadily. Best of all, with this system, I can always be working at least a year ahead of releases. That’s especially helpful if a story doesn’t come as easily as I’d like.
Even if you had only 1-2 hours per day to work, especially during your NaNoWriMo challenge month, if you’re working with a solid, scene-by-scene outline, you’ll always be progressing. You will never sit down at your computer and not have a clue what to write. Your outline contains every single scene of your novel, and you can start writing immediately each day. Conceivably, you could finish a novel from outline to revised final draft in 1-2 months. That makes it more than possible for you to write many novels per year and, if you’re published, maybe even get a year ahead of your releases. Talk about never-ending momentum!