First draft tip #2: Break it up

When I tell people I'm doing National Novel Month, they usually ask "How much do you have to write?"

I say "50,000 words in thirty days."

At which point everyone I'm talking to looks at me like this.

 Are you NUTS?

There are usually comments along the lines of "That's a lot!", or "How do you do THAT?"

No matter if you're writing a novel in a month or a year, the answer to that question is always the same.

One word at a time.

Earlier this year I did a post on the math of 500 words a day. But even 250 words a day will get you  90,000 words a year, a solid length for any novel. This year for NaNo, I'm not even thinking about it in words, but in hours.

I write one hour at a time. When I need to clock in more words than my daily 1,600, I write for an hour in the morning, an hour before lunch, and an hour in the evening.

If you don't want to break it up into words-per-day or time blocks, try breaking it up into scenes. Write a scene or a transition or a section of dialogue a day. The trick is to make the idea of WRITING A BOOK less scary.

Writing is an art yes, but it's also a skill, like fine woodcarving or playing the violin. It can be learned and improved with practice, one day, one hour, one word at a time. (Of course, since it's a learned skill, you also have to be willing to suck for a while. But that's a different post.)

How about you? How do you break up your projects into doable chunks?


  1. I don't have the time to attempt nano again, but I'm waking up earlier to free up my day for writing. One word at a time for me. Some days it's 250, others it 2k. I Guess I'm a scene by scene writer. Seems to work for me. Happy writing.

  2. Since I downloaded the Scrivener Beta for Windows, I've found that I usually work in scenes. So, I'll write one scene and then have a break, and then write another. It seems to be working well.

  3. Great idea to break it down into hours. For me with work, family, and a house to take care of, I usually get in an half hour before work, maybe another half hour at lunch if I'm lucky, and a few hours on the weekend. So I'm not even thinking of NaNo. I know when my daughter is in college--not much more than 4 years from now--I'll have more time to write. And that's okay for now.

  4. When I'm in the thick of writing a manuscript, or editing one, I usually work by chapter. It's almost like working on an outline of the book, building it chapter by chapter. But usually I can't move on to the next chapter until the current one is done.

  5. Simon- That sounds like a great system! Sounds like it's working for you. :)

    Jade- I've heard really good things about Scrivner. I keep thinking I should get it, but I need a computer first. *grin*

    Natalie- Sometimes breaking it up like that can actually be more productive than trying to write in long stretches. It's awesome that you manage to put it into your busy day.

    Joanne- I know what you mean. I'm a linear writer too, everything just seems to flow better that way. Then I go back and add scenes in if I need them. :)

  6. What a great idea, I'll be taking your suggestions on board for sure. I'm revising at the moment, but I'm stuck on rewriting the start of my book, so I might just try doing it scene at a time :)



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