No, I’m not actually participating in National Novel Writing Month, but I toyed with the idea (again), and in doing so I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations to see how manageable it would be. The results were interesting, so I thought I’d share.
The idea, of course, is to write a 50,000 word (minimum) novel in the 30 days of November. Breaking that out by day, you have 1,667 (rounded up) words per day to complete.
1,667 words per day doesn’t seem all that daunting, but once you sit down and start writing some out you start to realize how many it actually is. So let’s borrow a page from algorithm design in computer science and break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks.
In particular, would spending say, five minutes each hour of your day writing be manageable? Yes? Doesn’t matter which five minutes, just as long as you open your text file or Word document or Google Docs account and write however many words you need for five minutes.
So if five minutes each hour works, let’s figure out how many words you’ll need to write for each brief session. In order to determine that, we need to figure out how many writeable hours you have each day. The number I fell upon was 15: assume you wake up and/or are functional by 7am, and can finish sometime in the 9pm hour. That sounds reasonable, right?
So dividing 1,667 by 15 yields 112 (again, rounded up). That’s how many words you have to write each hour for the 15 workable hours you have each day of November to reach 50,000 words and thus a novel.
Can you write 112 words in five minutes? I’m able to hit that in about two, but of course that isn’t necessarily stringing together meaningful prose, or at least something somewhat resembling a coherent narrative. But even if what you write is dreadful, at least you’re writing something.
Spending five minutes each hour to write 112 words? Seems laughably easy! How couldn’t you find the time?