In September, I had been on a training plan to complete a half marathon in October. I signed up for a 10k here in Tallinn as part of that training. However, I also made a date with a friend to go to the symphony on the same day. I didn’t think it mattered, since races all start in the morning, right? Wrong!
The 10k was supposed to start at 5 PM and the symphony started at 7 PM. I am a slow runner, so the only way I would make both is to go to the symphony in my sweaty running clothes, which was a nonstarter. The half marathon started at 9 AM, though, which was totally doable. The only problem? The longest run I had done so far in my training was about 6 miles. I figured I could finish, but I would probably have to walk a lot of the second half.
Here’s the thing, though. Once you start, there is a lot of positive pressure to keep going. Even if you are near the end of the group of runners, the first aid people and all the volunteers at the water stations are cheering, so you don’t want to let them down. The result? I finished the race, I ran most of it, and my time was only a little off my usual time for a half marathon. Full disclosure: I walk and ride my bike almost everywhere here, so running isn’t all the training I had been doing. My bet is that you’ve been doing some writing training like character sketches and outlines, too.
What does this have to do with writing? Well, sometimes we start a program, like NaNo or a writing group or something and the momentum helps, even if we haven’t put all the work into the preparation that we would like to have. That can be a good thing! Having a draft is the first step to having a book. I wasn’t ready to set a personal record at this half marathon, but I enjoyed the run—it was a beautiful day, the course was lined with lovely people and views and I did finish.
Maybe you don’t have a completed outline for your NaNo manuscript. Maybe, like me, you are going to need to walk a little, which means you won’t get 50,000 words in one month. That’s okay! Set a goal to finish and use the motivation you gain from the positive pressure to power your drafting. You may not actually finish the draft until a few months later. By the time I finished the race, the awards were all given out and the crowds at the finish were pretty thin, but I still got a medal and the chance to keep working on my running. If you finish the manuscript in January, you will still have a draft to revise.
Just in case you need help figuring out what a realistic writing goal is, I made something for you. It is a Choose Your Own Writing Adventure Goal Calculator. Figure out how many words or scenes you need to produce for each writing session to hit a finished draft in a specified amount of time.