Pushing 50,000 words through in a month ain’t easy, even for experienced writers.
But that’s the challenge of National Novel Writing Month, held every November. The word national, I suspect, is a misnomer – it’s a world event.
The thing is that professionals get hit by that sort of pressure anyway. Editors define the scale of work by word count, and authors have to meet it (a) in stupidly short time-frames, (b) without compromising structure and quality.
My method involves project management – which I’ve discussed before but it’s worth describing again.
- Deconstruction. Break the work into process. For me that involves multiple steps, including (a) planning, (b) initial drafting, (c) structural editing, (d) style editing, and (e) finalising. More on that soon. If the book has photos, as non-fiction usually does, tasks also include selection, ordering, rights confirmation, and organising so the publisher can make sense of where they go in the text. Non-fiction also demands a tremendous amount of research which, itself, has to be broken down into sequence. Having a plan for content produces research efficiencies, because you don’t end up researching dead ends.
- Identify dependencies. Which part of the process comes first? If I am doing a structural revision, there’s no point putting time into polishing the style just yet – I might throw the text away and write something else.
- Make a timeline, reflecting those dependencies and noting time-critical points. Technically this is a Gant chart. I do this with pen and paper, it doesn’t need fancy software (it takes me longer to wrestle with software than it does to draw something only I have to read).
- Populate the time-line. Check it – if necessary revise.
- Do the work. This is like saying ‘now go build the Eiffel tower’, but you know what I mean… 🙂
And sure, writing’s meant to be fun – and the other half of the trick is not to let that kill the enjoyment of writing – the pleasure of the creative process. I don’t see that as either-or; it’s part of the deal too.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015