Pacing yourself to write a book in 30 days

Yesterday I posted the 9-block pacing/plotting device I’m using to write my novel, Idle Hands, in 30 days during National Novel Writing Month between November 1 – November 30.  Here it is again as a reminder:


Today I’m going to discuss the notes on the outside of the box, and in many of the corners of the boxes. For instances, you will notice above the top-left box it says 3.5 Days, 7000 words, 10 pages (if you can read my handwriting).  I wrote that same thing over all three top boxes. And then in the remaining boxes I wrote simply 7,000 words.

My goal is for each “block” to have approximately 7,000 words.  By writing this word-goal on each block of my visual outline, I am constantly reminded of (and motivated by) this word count goal.  For me, writing 7,000 words seems much more achievable than writing 50,000, so by dividing my novel into 9 “bite-size” chunks, the task of writing an entire book in 30 days doesn’t seem so astronomical.  It will also help keep me focused, and on pace, to complete all 9 blocks in 30 days.

That is why I also wrote “3.5 Days” in every box (where I had room).  This tells me that I should spend no more than 4 days on the characters and plot within each block.  I am well aware that writing a novel in 30 days will (if I’m lucky) only present me with a first draft, and one which will require a fair amount of revision and editing.  But, why not make that first draft as complete, compelling, and well-paced as possible?  If I’m 4-5 days in and still on Block #1, this “calendar” will remind me to skip to Block #2. Sure, I may have to go back and fill in some blanks (so to speak) during my 2nd draft, but that’s okay. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to get 50,000 words of a book down on paper, so you have a huge first step toward a complete 1st draft of a book. Sounds easy, right?

So all I have to do is write 10 pages (at 8.5 x 11) every 3.5 days, which is approximately 7000 words. And if I do that consistently, in 31.5 days I’ll have a 90 page book of about 60,000-65,000 words.

That’s good news!  That’s 10,000-15,000 MORE words than I need to write to “win” NaNoWriMo. It’s especially good news since November only has 30 days, not 31.5.  I’ll need to be sure I’m a little ahead of the average.

The “STATS” screen on the NaNoWriMo site suggests a daily goal of 1,667 words (more on that tomorrow).  I’m shooting for a daily goal of 2,000 words.  I’m doing this for two reasons. 1) 50,000 words is short for an adult novel so I want my first draft to be longer, and 2) If I start with a higher word count average at the beginning, I’ll have a little more latitude toward the end of the month when I might be burned out (and when Thanksgiving happens; I doubt I’ll want to write when I’m full of tryptophan).

So if I have to write 2,000 words a day, how much time do I need to devote to this adventure?  Well, I have a job and a family, and I will need to eat and sleep, so let’s begin by removing time from each of those requirements in a day to find out how much time I have left.  For most of us, we work 8-10 hours a day.  If there are 24 hours to begin with, removing 8 leaves us with 16 hours. Let’s say during the course of November we’re going to sleep only 6 hours a day (might be less than the national average, but those average people aren’t writing a book in a month, now, are they?).

So that leaves us with 10 hours in a day.  Does 5 hours sound fair for rush hour, eating, family, exercise, and all the daily minutiae we all take part in?  For November, it’ll have to be.  And that leaves 5 hours to write.  Each day.

Composing 2000 words in 5 hours equates to an average words/per hour typing rate of 400.  That equates to a words/minute average typing rate of 6.6, rounded to 7.

ANYBODY can type 7 words a minute, even if you’re a glutton for punishment and planning on texting your novel into a mobile phone or using one of those virtual keyboards on your iPad.

By determining your words-per-minute typing speed, you can see how close you are to this 7 words-per-minute requirement to spend 5 hours a day typing your book.  This link takes you to a words-per-minute typing test:

I just found that link on the internet, and I just took the test myself:


So by determining your typing speed, and the amount of time it will take you to write your daily goal of 1667-2000 (or more if you’re inclined), that tells you how many hours each day on average you need to commit to working on your book during NaNoWriMo in order to complete 50,000 words in 30 days.

And that’s what those “November 1, November 2, November 3….” words are all about in each box of my 9-block outline.  That gives me something to check-off, or scratch out… It gives me a daily exercise to complete so I can feel as if I have accomplished a milestone for that day.  Once I reach my word count milestone on November 1, you can bet I will be scratching that “Nov 1” line from my outline… Call it catharsis. Call it motivational. Call it what you will. Find what works for you, and incorporate it into your daily routine during November…

Start your engines… it’s about to begin…