It’s the season of National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. For those unaware of this annual event, it’s a collective endeavor in which thousands of people who have been wanting to write a novel sit down and attempt to write one in one month flat. You can check out the details here.
The basics: you need to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s a LOT of words. As an author I usually write 1000 words five days a week. More if I’m under deadline and less if I’m in the middle of other events in my life. In order to write 50K in 30 days you’re looking at 1,666 words each day. This year the NaNoWriMo organization expects 600,000 people to participate from 646 different regions.
I love the contest, mostly because it gives me motivation to get going on whatever it is I’m writing, but also because I love the idea of thousands of people working to write every day. A shared camaraderie with the rest of those who love to write as much as I do. In honor of the contest, I’d like to share a couple of tips:
1. Create a writing routine and try to stick with it.
If you need to write before work, arrange to rise earlier and start. If after work, make a resolution that you won’t go anywhere/turn on the tv/ clean your house (this last is my favorite way to procrastinate) or do anything else until your words are written.
2. Try to do this everyday.
It’s easier to break this down into pieces, before you slide into that “uh oh, I bailed yesterday so today I need to write 3332 words”. That slippery slope is all too daunting. Soon you’ll fall farther and farther behind.
3. Don’t censor yourself.
Just write. Don’t let that “this is awful/why am I doing this/what the heck am I trying to say here?” hold you back. At this stage you don’t care. You can always revise but you can’t revise until you get the bones down. So turn off the inner critic and move forward.
4. Save everything.
If you write a section that you absolutely must delete from your work in progress, save the deletion in a separate “excerpts” file. Most writers have some form of this. Words are precious and you never know when something you deleted may show up, albeit revised, in a later chapter or even a later story.
5. Keep research to a minimum but feel free to use it to come “unstuck.”
I research a lot of my novels, but when I’m at the active writing stage I only allow myself a half an hour or so, Otherwise I will end up using research to procrastinate. But, if you get stuck there is nothing better than spending a little time researching. It’s weird, but when I do this I find that I get inspired once again and can dive back in.
6. Enjoy it!
There’s something about writing that seems to be good for the soul. And what could be better than that?
Good tips, Jamie! I've done NaNo unofficially for the last three years, more as inspiration, because I'm usually at the tail end of a book and on deadline. But it really helps me to stay motivated knowing that so many others out there are participating. Like you, I'm a 1k a day girl on average. Some days more, some less. On these days when it's less, I always think no big deal, I'll just double up tomorrow. Right… You are correct about that. What a slippery slope that turns out to be!
Great tip list, Jamie! I’ve not officially participated in NaNoWriMo, but it always seems to line up with a heavy writing season for me. Your last tip is a pitfall for me—I’ll use “research” to avoid writing and before you know it I’ve lost an hour.
Yes, I hear you re: that lost hour!
Those are great tips, Jamie. I haven't joined that contest, but I do remember some years ago when my editor accepted the next novel in a series and said, "OK, we like this – when can I have the full manuscript?" Problem was — I had yet to write the words "Chapter One" — so had to really hunker down. But still – I took two months to write that one (at least she didn't edit anything major in it). Question: once someone has written this book-in-one-month….that's just the draft and not a "finished product" – right?