By Rob Hart
Here’s the thing about setting goals: I can’t help you.
Really though, no one can. There’s no magic formula. No one-size-fits-all approach.
Quick story: For years I saw people talk about how they would write and write and write and write, and then go in and carve down to get their final draft. A 100,000 word first-pass might end up at 70,000 words when it was finished.
That’s not how I work. I tend to go in low—my first pass might be 50,000 and I’ll end up at 75,000. For me, it made more sense to put up the scaffolding and the drywall, then go in to install the crown molding and lay on the paint.
And I thought there was something wrong with my process. This was a real and serious concern for me. If everyone else did it one way, and I did it another, did it mean my final product was inferior?
Then, in an interview with Chelsea Cain, a fantastic writer whom I adore, she introduced me to the world of underwriting. Her process was very similar to mine—structure, then detail. Suddenly I realized I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t broken. I was an underwriter and I was okay.
And this is the problem with writing advice. Just because something works for me doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you.
Same with setting goals. I can tell you to do 500 words every morning before you go to work, or to set an egg timer for an hour and let those fingers fly, or sit down and don’t get up until you write 10,000 words in one long, screaming binge.
But maybe none of that is going to work for you.
Part of NaNoWriMo is discovering your process. Finding out what comes naturally to you. And more than that, not getting hung up on whether something is working for you.
If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Move on and find out what does.
You know how everyone says you must absolutely write every single day? I can’t do that. I’ve tried. My schedule is too much of a mess. I have a nine-month old daughter. She doesn’t give a damn about my word count goals. She just wants to play with blocks.
I binge-write when I have time. For my second novel, City of Rose, I wrote 20,000 words in a quiet weekend, with days on either end of that where I wrote nothing. Maybe not the popular way to do it, but it works for me, and it hasn’t stopped me from hitting a deadline yet.
The details of your process don’t matter. All that matters is that you have one, and you’re getting words on the page. If that means trying a dozen different things until you find something that fits—do it. Get words on the page.
Because you’ve got nothing until you’ve got words on the page.
Once you’ve got those, you can take them anywhere. Cut down. Build up. Whatever the story needs. Whatever you need to make it work.
Rob Hart is the class director at LitReactor, as well as the associate publisher for MysteriousPress.com, where he handles both editorial and marketing content. Previously, he worked as a political reporter, the communications director for a politician, and a commissioner for the city of New York. He’s the author of The Last Safe Place: A Zombie Novella, and his short stories have appeared in publications like Shotgun Honey, Thuglit, Crime Factory, and Needle: A Magazine of Noir. His debut novel, New Yorked, is available now from Polis Books. The sequel, City of Rose, will be released in early 2016.