Write well. Write often. Edit wisely.
Many of you are likely familiar with NaNoWriMo—the National Novel Writing Month event that takes place every November. The yearly NaNo challenge is to write 50,000 words of a novel during the 30 days of November. That averages to approximately 1667 words per day.
The NaNoWriMo folks provide plenty of resources and encouragement. Their goal? To get writers writing. To keep writers committed to a goal and on track.
You don’t have to complete a full novel in 30 days to “win” NaNo. You just need to write 50,000 words.
For some that seems like an impossible goal. Yet many have met the goal. You could be one of them this year.
If you’ve been on the fence, let me encourage you to come down on the side of joining NaNo. If because of other commitments you know that you can’t commit to 50,000 words for the month, why not make up a goal of your own?
– Set your own word count, one that better suits your schedule while at the same time pushes you to work
– Commit to beginning a novel
– Commit to getting back to a project you abandoned
– Commit to rewriting that first draft that you set aside some time ago
– Commit to outlining a novel
– Commit to writing a short story or novella
– Commit to trying a new genre, just as you’ve been promising to do
NaNo is a great goad for writers because it gives them links to a community of writers all pulling to accomplish the same goal. The NaNo organization also provides tips for writing, for getting through blocks and discouragement. The NaNo people even help writers get together with others in their area for write-ins.
NaNo is fun.
NaNo is a true challenge.
NaNo helps impose structure, at least loosely, for those who work better with a deadline or solid goal.
For those who do commit to NaNo—or some version of it—this year, allow me to share some tips and encouragement.
~ You probably will miss your goal on one or more days—that’s okay. Make up the word count on another day. You can do it. You can write more than 2,000 words a day. I know you can.
~ Don’t edit yourself as you write—this is a first draft. Let it be messy and wordy and confusing and incomplete. A first draft is allowed to be a wild and woolly mess.
~ Don’t worry about punctuation, grammar, or format. Those are unimportant details as you’re creating. If you find yourself spending time looking up rules for comma use, you’re not using your time to write.
~ The same warning goes for research. This isn’t the time to research, this is the time to write. You can check facts later. Or start your fact checking now, before November 1. Use your limited writing time in November to write.
~ Write scenes out of order if the idea and words are there. Write notes if you don’t have a full scene. Write out dialogue.
~ Write something. Describe the setting, the characters, the story world. Write flashbacks if you can’t think of events in the current story line. Write a single scene from the viewpoint of multiple characters. (You never know where such an exercise might lead—even to a new viewpoint character or a new protagonist.)
~ Use any method you can to put the words down. Once you begin writing, begin framing your world and its characters, it’s likely that scenes and events will come to you and words will start flowing.
~ Write the most emotional and dramatic scenes.
~ Write what comes easiest to you first. If that means the opening or ending scenes, the climax, the dark moment, or wildly emotional dialogue scenes, begin there.
~ Write more than 1667 words per day when you can.
~ Work on a project that excites you. Work on a story that challenges you.
~ Try a different method of writing in order to simply try something different. Shake up your 20-year-old writing patterns.
~ Work on two projects at the same time. There’s no rule that says you’re limited to a single novel.
~ If you’re planning a series, use NaNo to write scenes that overlap between books. This way you’ll be sure not to make mistakes from one book to the next.
~ Enlist a partner to help you. This can be a support person who kicks your butt or feeds you ice cream when you need a boost, or your partner can be a fellow writer who could use your encouragement at the same time you need his or hers.
~ Refuse to give up on day 10. Or day 13. Or day 22. It’s only 30 days—surely you can commit to working on your craft in some capacity for 30 days?
~ Even if life intrudes and your NaNo schedule is interrupted, return to it when you can. Don’t let a pause derail you. NaNo might officially be 50,000 words in 30 days; unofficially, make it about committing to writing a chunk of a novel, trying something you’ve never done before.
~ Visit us here for encouragement or to share your successes.
~ Don’t evaluate your project midmonth. Much of it won’t be great, but some of it will be awesome. That’s true of nearly every first draft, so you’ll be right on track. Make the month about writing the story, not analyzing it.
~ Allow yourself to write freely and creatively. Allow yourself to try something odd or unusual or merely new to you.
~ Turn your internal censors off. Let your imagination wander unfettered.
~ Write while you’re waiting in line. Write in the bathtub. Write during lunch. Write instead of watching TV for three hours at night.
~ Create a writing niche for yourself—dining room table, back porch, library, coffee house. But don’t get so locked into a space that you can’t write anywhere else when you can’t get to that space.
~ Thank those who help you by stepping in while you turn your attention inward to your fictional world.
~ Expect a good and positive experience. Make writing a good activity in your life.
I wish you great success with all your writing projects and I encourage you to challenge yourself this November. I’m in agreement with you that you’ll accomplish something worthwhile, something that you can be proud of.
You don’t have to wait for November and NaNo to set goals for yourself. But there’s nothing wrong with jumping in with others and having some fun while writing.
Here’s to accomplishing your writing goals for the remainder of 2015. I’m lifting my frosted mug of root beer high in your honor.