In 2007, I decided that it was time to get back into writing. I’d written novels throughout high school and college, roughly one every 18 months. But when I graduated from college, I found it was hard to keep writing. I didn’t have a desk in my first apartment, I was still adjusting to the realities of working, and I was still struggling as a writer, too.

I was such an English major. I wrote books modeled off the literature I read. Those books, as a result, have some real problems. Now, I don’t want to bash them. They took a lot of work and I still like some of them very much–well, at least the characters and the general plot. But they generally suffer from too much of a conscious effort to imitate my influences.

It took National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2007 to get me to write something different.

The idea of writing a book in a month was really appealing after five years of drought. 1,600 words a day gets you to 50,000 words–about the barest minimum number to qualify as a novel and a “win” during NaNoWriMo.

It was a good enough reason as any to get back into the swing of things. But I also knew that if I was going to write a book in a month, I would need to write something different than literary fiction. I would need genre to get me through. Something to pick me up as a writer and make my fly through the story.

I chose a plot about a detective hunting a serial killer. I already had a detective I’d thought of for a book idea–The Marinara Murders. So I decided it would be a good way to get to know the character better.

I didn’t win. I finished my 50,000 words in February rather than by November 30, but it got me back into writing.

I haven’t done a NaNoWriMo fully since then. But I still tend to think in 1,600-word increments when I chart my word-count. I know that–even if I write my 1,600 words over three weeks or three months–that it only takes 30 increments to get there. (Well, The Lead Cloak was 100,000 words, so it’s more like 60 increments for my sci-fi books.)

But it helps me to break down an immense project into manageable chunks.

Right now, my work-in-progress is already 38,000 words long, so I’m not starting with a blank canvas. I don’t know what my plans are for November. Should I aim for 14,000 words to reach 50,000? Or should I aim for 88,000 words–and complete a full 50,000 in one month. I don’t know.

But the only way I’m going to get there is to take it one 1,600-word segment at a time.