How to focus on writing your first draft?

There are hundreds of suggestions on the internet about how to finally sit down and focus on writing that article, or novel that you’ve been meaning to for ages:

Plan to put aside time and when that moment arrives, start with a meditation.
Develop a writing schedule and stick to it!
Switch off your phone, radio, tv – all possible distractions.

I tried all of those.  I also organised my gardening business so that I freed up two days a week to get started on novel number two, but I just couldn’t get into it.  I would spend those two days faffing around looking on the internet, half-heartedly trying to market Spaghetti Head, novel number one, and catching up with my home garden – anything to avoid writing the first draft.

Drastic action was needed, and so this November for the first time since 2006 I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  The challenge is to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November.  NaNoWriMo originated as a motivator to get people putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard, and this year 163,000 people (roughly) have participated. 

I organised my gardens into two days a week with an extra day being added if needed every other week.  On the days I worked as a gardener I would make myself sit down for two hours in the evening and write.  On the days I wasn’t gardening I sat down at 9am, warmed up my keyboard by looking at crap on the internet like knitted dresses and short haircuts for women over 50 and then opened my document ‘Nano18’ at around 10am.  I’d go for a walk at around 3pm and knock off at around 6pm depending on how it was going - if I was in the flow then I’d carry on into the evening.

The challenge finished on November 30th – and I have written 70,191 words!  I’m ecstatic! That is more than enough to craft into a book.  It is a very rough first draft and all I have done is type everything I want to say into a document in total random order – but I will now go back to it and work on it, edit it, re-write it and polish it until it becomes the best I’ve written yet.

I cannot recommend doing NaNoWriMo enough for anyone who is a massive procrastinator – it provides the perfect deadline for focussing. You have a year to prepare for NaNoWriMo2019. What are you waiting for?

By Sarah Tyley