Friday, 28 November 2008

Pacing & Deadlines

Last night I reached word 50,000 on this year's NaNoWriMo attempt, somehow blazing through 6000 words over the course of the evening - the closer I got to the 50,000 mark, the harder it was to contemplate putting my laptop away for the night without finishing, even though I knew there was a whole weekend left for uninterrupted writing.

Yet compared to last year (my first NaNo), when I pushed myself like crazy and finished on day 13, I've taken it much more steadily this year. This year I just pottered along, trying to make sure I wrote at least a thousand words each day and catching up at the weekends - which has the advantage that I've reached 50k without getting burned out. (I wrote nothing in the second half of November last year, and very little in December.)

One thing that interests me is how different this is to my usual behaviour around deadlines - which is to wait until the last possible moment, then go crazy. Even for my final year project as an undergraduate, I knew how many words I needed and I knew that I could write 1000 words an hour... yes, this is as bad as it sounds. As hard as I tried, I couldn't concentrate until I knew I was cutting it fine. After a night of solid writing, I was printing it out at 11am - with the deadline for submission looming at 12. Certainly no time for rewriting or editing; thankfully I've always been good at spelling.

Part of the reason I've started serialising my novel online is to give myself a recurring weekly deadline - I'm a couple of chapters ahead of the website schedule, but I'd like it to stay that way! So I know there's a minimum amount I need to write each week.

I'm now starting to think about doing some writing towards my PhD (well, not the actual thesis, but the transfer report). On the one hand, I'm trying to work with my supervisor to make sure that I have smaller chunks with their own deadlines to work towards (to keep my deadline-driven brain in gear), but on the other hand I'm going to learn from my NaNo experiences and (at least try to) take it slow & steady - I have years of study ahead of me, so I can't afford to get burned out.

Last night I raised my glass to finishing ahead of schedule - let's see if that's a habit I can keep :)

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