National Novel Writing Month is almost upon us. Each November hundreds of thousands of people take on the NaNoWriMo challenge: Write 50,000 words in one month.
This will be my fifth year participating in NaNo, which doesn’t feel quite right. It wasn’t until 2011 that I took the event seriously enough to make myself sit down every day in November and write the 1,667 words that are required to hit that 50K target.
My Twitter and Facebook feeds have been full of people asking if they should join in on NaNo. They’ve always wanted to write a novel, and want to know if NaNo is the way to do it.
The honest answer is maybe.
Every writer’s process is different, so what works for me may not work for you. I’ll share what NaNo does for me, and why I think it’s worth your time, and then it’s your call if it meshes for you.
Explore new ideas. I’m one of those “seat of your pants” writers. I know my characters and I know the beginning, middle and end of the book, but I figure out the events that connect those major plot points while sitting at the keyboard. NaNoWriMo allows me the mental freedom to really explore new ideas.
Daily writing = book! Starting a book is easy. Finishing it is the hard part. The part when we have to keep sitting down at the keyboard when the plot gets complicated or when there are life things going on is difficult. NaNo helps you create the habit of making time every day to sit down and write.
I often equate this to exercise. You know how there are days when you really don’t feel like going to the gym? Maybe work was exhausting. Maybe you have a virtual stack of email to reply to. If you’re trying to see a change from working out, you have to drag yourself to the gym even when you don’t feel like it. That routine matters and it’s how you achieve your goals. Same thing applies to writing. Get used to writing every day, and it becomes easier. Added bonus: Just like the gym, you’ll feel really good about getting your writing done each day.
Learn not to edit. I know that sounds silly (and will look special when you see the next lesson). Often times we can get so caught up in our heads trying to write the perfect bit that we lose sight of the story as a whole. One of the things I taught myself during my first successful NaNo adventure was to stop editing while drafting. If you keep going back and changing things, it’s harder to move forward. Instead I keep a notebook by me and when I realize I need to change something earlier in the book, I just make a note and continue writing like the change has already been made. Then, after the draft is complete I go back and make all the changes detailed out in my notebook.
…but you’re going to need to edit. This isn’t contradictory to my earlier statement. It’s more a reminder that a first draft is just that. Books require editing. You’re going to need to go through you book for content, character, plot, story arcs and the like. You’re going to need to check for grammar and spelling. You’re going to want to kill all those adverbs and slaughter the cliches. In other words, completing the novel is just step one in having a finished book, but it’s a HUGE step. There should be celebrations. Probably with cake or pie, depending on your dessert preference.
Will you be NaNoing this year? Is your goal the standard 50K words, or will you modify the goal for your purposes? I’m planning to start a new, and hopefully fun, YA thriller project during this year’s NaNoWriMo. My goal will be to hit the standard 50K mark, though I expect the novel to run about 90K when completed. It’s a great way to start.
If you do NaNo this year, add me as a buddy. I’d love to cheer you on!