Two weeks ago today, I finished my fourteenth book. As always, I tweeted about it to celebrate, and as always, I received an outpouring of support and congratulations from my fellow writers. (Writers really are an amazing support network.) People were telling me how many books they'd written and how long their longest ones were and generally just sharing the love of word counts like only authors can.
@LouCadle took it even further.
So that's exactly what I'm going to do :)
To start with, all I did was fall in love with writing. There's such freedom in writing because you love it and for no other reason. I wrote my first novel because I wanted to write it, and that was all. I didn't know if I was going to tell anybody or write anything else or anything. I just wrote. And I took this with me into the trilogy I decided to write straight after I'd finished it. (I like a challenge). So my love of writing gave me my first novel, a trilogy, and the very first draft of what is now ZA. And I wrote all five of them in just over three years.
But I just wrote and wrote and wrote. Every spare hour I had was spent on my laptop. I'd come home from school, do my homework, and write until I went to bed. And that was how I kept up the pace. I think the number of hours I put in while I was still a beginner was vital to my continued pace many years later.
And then I discovered National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is a hundred percent the reason I've written so many books. Six (and a full re-write) out of fourteen were written during the month of November (and finished off in December). Writing a book in a month was the key to keeping up the pace I had at school.
By the time I'd left school, I'd found myself in an easy rhythm of writing a book in the spring and a book for NaNoWriMo. And now I'm into that groove, there's no way I'm letting myself get out of it.
It also helps that I'm strict. I don't give myself a break. If I'm writing a book, I make myself write 2,000 words a day every day. (I did give myself a Christmas break though!) No excuses. Now that I'm so busy, this is vital. Otherwise, I'd put it off and off and off and it'd take over a year to get one written. I didn't always have this rule though, I used to pay no attention to word counts and just write into the night, but if you've already been sitting at a computer all day and you just want to collapse on the sofa and not have to think, you need a goal to reach!
I began this goal setting gradually a few books into my writing career. I started off just writing a little each day, then at some point I made myself write 1,000 words a day, and now I'm up to 2,000.
I'm not this strict when I'm not in the middle of a book though. When I'm not writing something, I make myself write 1,000 words a week of something or other, or a few somethings or other. This makes it easier to jump into a novel once I've started it. If I didn't write anything for a few months, I'd be stiff and timid to begin with. After all, the first chapter is always the most difficult.
My two books a year isn't always easy. When I include full re-writes (I wrote the whole novel again from scratch), I've written 16 books in 8 1/2 years, so I'm only a book behind keeping up with my target. I'm not sure when I'm supposed to catch up, but here's hoping!
I don't give myself these goals to give myself a hard time, I do it to motivate myself. What works for me might not work for you. I need strong, tough goals to keep me going. But the downside to that is that they're not always possible. But I've been thrilled to find that most of the time, I've made it!
So I guess I managed to write 14 books in 8 1/2 years because of a determination, NaNoWriMo, and a love of writing.
However, the fact that I just can't stop trumps them all.