Writing: The Necessity of Striking While the Iron is Hot

I’ll admit it: last year, I cheated a bit on NaNo. I had a great idea for a historical romance (The Flames of Prague) and I was ready to write it a few days before November. So I did. (I did write far more than 50,000 words in 30 days, so in that respect, I didn’t cheat to win.)

The same thing happened this year. I had a great idea for a new story and I was all gung-ho to write it… about two weeks before NaNo started. Now,  some people say that waiting builds excitement and you’ll be more likely to stay committed once you start. I’ve even heard people say that if you want to start exercising and dieting, you should set a future date to do it, rather than do it right now. Planning for a goal is supposed to imbue it with importance, whereas if you decided to start on a whim, you’re just as likely to decide to quit on whim.

That’s a wonderful idea in theory. And maybe it works for some people. But it does not work for me.

I put off my new story for so long, I no longer have the interest to really start it. I’ve met my word goals so far, but I’m all out of steam.

I have a tendency to work on things in chunks; I can only concentrate on one thing at a time. Since I couldn’t write on my new dystopian story, I didn’t want to think about it, for fear I might get a good idea and then lose it (that commonly happens to me). So I found other things to think about–namely my Acceptance trilogy. And now, that’s all I have on my mind, and I’m worried if I don’t get those ideas down on paper, I might lose them. But if I succumb to writing on other books, I’ll never get this one picked back up (at least not in time to finish NaNo).

Which just proves something I already knew (and need to take to heart more often): I must always strike while the iron is hot. Because once it’s cooled, there’s no telling when I may get it hot again.

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2 comments on “Writing: The Necessity of Striking While the Iron is Hot

  1. Wallace says:

    I see your predicament and I see nothing wrong with starting early on your novel. You’re suppose to write 50k words this month on your NaNo book, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write more. Ten or twenty thousand words in October to start off, then the 50k for November, topped off by a few thousand in December if it needs tweaks or revision.

    I think the whole idea is to encourage one to write a novel, or, more precisely, a novelette since I don’t consider 50k words a novel. Translated into paperback form, 50k words is only about 145 pages. That’s easily publishable as an eBook, but no physical book publisher would publish that, except maybe as a children or young adult book.

    I imagine that an author who is already writing a novel, or even a series of short stories, would not be expected to stop work on their existing projects on October 31st and take up writing a new novel just for the month of November. At best they might schedule their time so that they would be freed up around the first of November and ready to start a new novel. If it starts on October 28th or November 3rd is not really important, what is important is the actual writing of the novel. Likewise, there would be no problem finishing up on November 28th or December 3rd either, though I can’t see how someone could actually write an entire novel in just 30 days. Maybe they could write 50k words toward a novel, but then write the rest of it in December. Certainly, either way, they would have to do a lot of revisions and rewrites after November was over since few people can crank out a completely plotted and executed novel in one straightforward draft.

    I have the same problem as you about ideas that pop into my head about some neat plot point or even just a bit of clever dialog. Sometimes I sit down and write it out as a stand alone fragment, other times I just write down an outline, or even just key words to remind me of the idea. I find if I don’t write them down immediately, I soon forget them and only remember that they were good, but none of the details. Sort of like a very pleasant dream that you recall fondly, but not in any detail.

    One other thing I might point out about NaNo, you can actually work on more than just one story this month, you don’t have to stop everything else. As an example, I think you mentioned that, in order to finish NaNo, you need to write about 1666 words a day. Depending on your writing speed, you could knock that out in an hour or two. That then frees up the rest of your day for other writing projects. Sort of like the journalist who writes for a magazine or newspaper and has to produce a column every day for the company’s web site. They write their column in some strictly allocated time each day, and then spend the rest working on their novel. You could spend, say, two hours in the evening writing for NaNo, then spend any free time in the morning or evening working on Acceptance. That way you could finish NaNo and still put all those good ideas into Acceptance. You might not have time to do anything else, but at least you’d finish both of what you want to work on.

  2. I understand completely. I like to act upon an idea before it cools off. And obviously, I can’t do more than one thing at a time, because I dropped all things blog to write this week. I decided to give myself a break break tonight and try to catch up.

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