Most writers have heard of NaNoWriMo, also known as National Novel Writing Month. Every year, hundreds of thousands of brave souls sign up to write a 50,000 word novel (or 50,000 words of a novel) entirely in the month of November.
This is, of course, a huge time commitment. It translates to 1667 words per day, weekends included. For those who have jobs, families, and other interests, this can be very difficult. There's a lot of frantic key pounding.
Basically, setting high targets for yourself is a way to get the words out there. True, they're probably not the greatest words ever written--in fact, they're probably bordering on crap. (See this previous post for more on why first drafts generally suck and why that's okay.) But NaNo can be an awesome kick in the pants if you're the type of writer who fears the scary blank page/screen.
But sometimes November just doesn't work. You might already be in the middle of writing another novel, or querying, or working on revisions (like I was this year). Or maybe there's something else going on in November that makes it a bad time (relatives coming for the holidays, anyone?).
It's great to have the support of all the other NaNo-ers in November, but it's important to remember that anyone can set their own goal to write 50,000 words in a month without having to base it around someone else's schedule.
This month, I've challenged myself to write the 50,000 words I need to finish the first draft of my new YA manuscript. Since I was already 20,000 words in, this manuscript wouldn't work with the official NaNoWriMo rules--but guess what? This is my own thing, so I make the rules.
And the great thing is that I'm not the only one. I've connected with a group of people on Twitter who are all planning to finish something in January, whether that's a first draft, research, querying, or revisions. Posting goals and checking in is a great way to stay motivated. Come check it out at the hashtag #TheJanPlan if you're interested!
One thing I knew I wanted was some sort of graph to track my progress toward my word count goal. I found this great website (generously offered for free, but he welcomes donations to help defray hosting costs): http://writetrack.davidsgale.com/.
This site lets you set your word count goal first, and then you enter your daily totals to track your progress on a graph like this one:
There's even an option to note certain days you know you won't be able to get much done. The program will then redistribute the words to the other days so you have an accurate target of the daily progress you need to meet your goal.
The plan is to have a completed draft by February 1st, ready to be set aside for a few weeks and then revised. Wish me luck!