This November, for the very first time, I’m doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Well, “doing” is probably a bit of an overstatement, but I am officially signed up. To date, I’ve written exactly 2,403 words in my current WIP. That equates to less than 300 words a day. No medals for me.
To be honest, I’m a champion procrastinator. Even laundry and pulling weeds sounds exciting when I’m supposed to be typing words into the computer. But is it possible that more than simple procrastination is at work here? What exactly is keeping me from accomplishing my goal of 1,500 words a day? NaNoWriMo has taught me something.
Here are my top five word-count killers:
I can’t stand terrible writing (especially my own), and since just about everybody’s first drafts are crap, this is a problem. A big problem. Refining and polishing words that will never make into the final manuscript is a really effective way to waste time. I’ve come to accept the fact that I will never be a person who can write without ever going back to edit, but perhaps I can limit the temptation. From this day forward, I vow to begin each day’s writing session by quickly revising what I wrote the previous day. And then GOING FORWARD.
I do a lot of research for my novels, and I’ve never developed an efficient way to organize the information. Usually, I print stuff out and stick it in a pile on my desk. Which means when I want to include some of those details in my draft, I have to sort through all those messy piles to find the appropriate document. Another terrible time killer. Here’s my plan: I will circumvent this organizational deficit by typing XXX whenever a name or a fact eludes me. I can fill in the details later.
I love information. Going online to find interesting facts is never a simple thing for me because my attention is easily hijacked by irrelevancies such as the latest news from the royal family or the number of people actually known to have died in the Dartmoor bogs or the restoration of a Victorian child’s dress worn for the wedding of the future Edward VII and Princess Alexandra of Denmark. Research can be a black hole. In fact, I’m now signed up for regular emails from the UK’s Textile Conservation and The Anglophile Magazine. *Sigh* The cure? I haven’t thought of one yet—except perhaps to disable WIFI for blocks of writing time. Which brings me to the next time killer….
4. Social Media
Writers need social media to keep in touch with readers and other writers. We join organizations such as MWA, SinC, CWA, and Guppies. We attend writers’ conferences when we’re able. But for most of us, social media is our window on the world of publishing and books. We need people to find us, and we want to learn about others. How better to do that than Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like? Even those of us who are introverts can put ourselves out there virtually. But that means keeping up. The number of posts I get every day requires hours to go through. Is it worth it? I don’t know, but until someone comes up with a better way, I’m stuck. The only way I can see through the jungle is to limit my social media time to one hour in the morning. If you have a better solution, I’d love to hear it!
5. Lack of a scene plan
This is a serious flaw. Writers know that scenes are little stories. They have a point, a purpose. They also have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They advance the story in some way—or they’re meant to. I’m not only a procrastinator. I’m also impatient—which means I often begin writing a scene without a clear idea of why I’m including it in the book. I tell myself it’s my “pantser” side coming out—panning for gold. Maybe some pantsers can pull this off—and I have discovered some great nuggets this way—but writing without a clear purpose in mind usually results in lots of words eventually moved from the active file to the outtakes file. From now on, I will begin each scene, not necessarily with a full outline but with at least an idea of where that scene is going and what it must accomplish.
Well, those are my top five flaws—word-count killers for sure.
What are yours?
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Author Connie Berry
Connie is the USA Today and Amazon Best-Selling author of the Kate Hamilton Mysteries, set in the UK and featuring an American antiques dealer with a gift for solving crimes. Her debut novel, A Dream of Death, won the IPPY Gold Medal for Mystery and was a finalist for the Agatha Award and the Silver Falchion. Her latest, The Shadow of Memory, was a finalist for the Edgar’s 2023 Lilian Jackson Braun award.
Besides reading and writing mysteries, Connie loves history, foreign travel, cute animals, and all things British. She lives in Ohio and Wisconsin with her husband and adorable Shih Tzu, Emmie.