Scribbling During the Holidays: One Writer’s Experience

I am a masochist. Really, I must be. It is the only way I can think of that I voluntarily decided to relive one of the most stressful periods of my life, and relive it in a shorter time period over the holidays, which are stressful enough without willingly dumping more on your plate.

It started with National Novel Writing Month 2006. I joined it on a whim at the request of a friend of mine. She didn’t want to go through it alone, and I had just come up with a new fantasy novel I’d been fleshing out the background for, so I went for it. The object of the game, although I’m sure many of you have heard of it, is to write 50,000 words during the month of November.

Now, I’d already done the “50,000 words in a set amount of time” thing once (my Writing the Novel class), and it resulted in the most stressful semester of my college career. I had sworn I’d never do it again.

Yet here I was, a year later, starting a new novel for NaNoWriMo. And although I did hit 50,000 words for that month, I still hadn’t finished the novel. So, I kept going. I ended up writing draft one of a fantasy novel (a hefty [for me, anyway] 400 pages) starting November 1, 2006 and ending January 14, 2007. More than a hundred thousand words on paper, in less than three months, and I did it all over the holidays.

Yes, I’m crazy.

While I don’t know if I’d repeat the experience, I did find a couple of tricks that made it easier for me, a chronic procrastinator, to finish a draft over the holiday season.

The best one? I didn’t even try to get my writing done at home. It was all too easy for my mom to call me into the kitchen to ask me to help her with just one little thing (which became two things, then three, then…well, you get the picture). Or, there would be any number of family members and friends there for whatever holiday preparation we had going on at the time.

Instead, the moment I got off work, I drove either 30 minutes to the closest bookstore with a cafe or 5 minutes to the only coffee shop in town. (The bookstore was usually reserved for the weekends.) When I was there, it was easy to put on headphones, listen to some music, and worry about nothing else but my writing for an hour or two. There weren’t any extra family members running around and expecting me to be social, and if Mom needed me to run an errand, she could call and leave me a voicemail.

Even when I didn’t feel like writing, I made myself go to the coffee shop. Inevitably, just being there would start the words, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, but I could usually get about 500-1000 down before my time was up.

I also never tried to get any writing done on the actual holidays. There was just too much stuff going on, and as much as I love my novel and my characters, I really wanted to spend the holidays with my family and friends.

Anyway, that was my experience with it. Has anybody else tried writing over the holidays? How did it work for you? Has anybody had to deal with an actual book deadline during the holiday season?

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2 thoughts on “Scribbling During the Holidays: One Writer’s Experience

  1. Aha! That is very smart, for you to go to a bookstore cafe! Good for you, Michelle. That is the only way to get writing accomplished during the holidays and other times as well! I bet it made you feel good to get that much writing done. And 400 pages is a lot! Every time I write a book, which is usually around 100k, it is exhausting but exhilarating, too. :)

  2. 400 pages in three months is a lot, but then 50000 words in a month. That flitted through my head and out again when I ended up in Houston for a week. I didn’t make the word count. Holidays and all the obligations I put on myself also interfere but I may try Nano again next year. I’m nuts too.

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